The streets were quiet Thanksgiving evening. An empty bus rolled up North Charles Street, toward Towson, a town mostly rolled up for the holiday.
But outside Target in the Towson Marketplace shopping center, a long line of was forming at 7 p.m. — two hours before the big-box store was set to open for Black Friday.
Most of the people on line were women, a trend that was seen at several stores in Towson Marketplace on Black Friday, the country's biggest shopping day of the year.
So why would people leave the comfort and holiday cheer of their homes to go shopping?
"Because we're idiots," said day care worker Dee Morgan, of Towson.
"To get an XBox Kinect for my girlfriend and watch all the crazy people," said Michael Schindler, 44, of Homeland, who works in a financial planning office in Bethesda.
"TVs," said Stephanie Gray, 31, of Parkville, who was hoping to get her hands on a Westinghouse 50-inch, flat screen television advertised at $349.
"That's a sweet deal," Gray said.
She could have camped out at Wal-Mart, in the same shopping center. It opened at 6 a.m. for 24 hours and would be starting its Black Friday sale at 8 p.m., one hour earlier than Target.
But, she said, "Wal-Mart didn't have the TV."
Morgan, too, was looking for a TV, specifically a 32-inch Apex TV advertised at $148. She also wanted a Nikon digital camera for $99.99.
Morgan, 39, a Black Friday veteran, had just finished camping out at a Kmart store. She got there at around 2:30 a.m., and when it opened at 6 a.m., she bought a tablet computer for her children for Christmas. It cost $40.
When she got home, Morgan took a three-hour nap, cooked a turkey dinner for seven people and rushed out to Target before the meal was over.
"They were still eating and I was gone," she said.
Outside the Toys R Us store, 100 people stood on a line that stretched to Michael's Crafts and Supplies. At the front, sitting in their portable chairs, where a sign said, "Line Forms Here," were nurse Michelle Markiewicz, 28, of Parkville; stay-at-home mother Stefanie Lord, 30, of Harford County; and Chipotle eatery service manager Nora Lee Cockerham, 21, of Highlandtown.
The three friends had been there since 5:30 p.m. with the goal of getting heavily discounted 55-piece "train tables" and PS Vita game systems for their children.
Markiewicz said she's been coming to Black Friday sales for years "and every year I've gotten everything I wanted," she said.
Right behind them in line was Seleste Harris, 32, of Towson, who works for the Harford County teachers' union. Harris said she and the three women ahead of her arrived at the same time, "but they ran faster."
With Harris was her daughter, Sanaa, who had lofty expectations for their shopping spree.
"I'm here to get free stuff," the 8-year-old said. She said she didn't have a specific toy in mind.
"I'll see what I'll get in the store," Sanaa said.
There was no long line at Wal-Mart, or any line at all, since the store was already open 24 hours for the day. Customers could shop all they wanted, but they could not reap the benefits of the sale until 8 p.m., when the store's employees cut open shrink-wrapped pallets of merchandise.
Some customers hovered around pallets of the goods they wanted, as if standing guard. Families split up to station themselves in different departments, and they communicated by cell phone.
When the shrink-wrap was cut open, a mad scramble ensued for everything from pillows to iPads.
"A little help," asked Karen Matthews, of Hampden, frantically digging through a pile of king-and-queen-sized sheets as a reporter interviewed her.
"I'm looking for a king," she said.
Destiny Monks, of White Marsh, couldn't find a Wii game called Just Dance 4.
"But I did find my XBox, so I'm glad for that," said Monks, 32, a stay-at-home mom.
There were no big-ticket items in Robert Thomas' shopping cart and not the $99 safe he wanted.
Instead, the Carney resident bought boxes of plastic food containers for Moveable Feast.
"I'm people-watching, as well," said Thomas, 49, a computer auditor. "It's very interesting to watch the dynamics of human behavior and consumerism."
Standing on line for an iPad was Fed Ex worker Zach Daniels, 30, of Towson, who came out to "work off the turkey."
His whole family was out shopping; he and his mom at Wal-Mart, his wife at Staples and his brother at the Target store.
"Everybody's out doing something," Daniels said.
Also in the line was Mark Miller, 29, of Towson, who is studying international relations at Towson University. He and his sister came out shopping, leaving the rest of the family behind.
"They think we're crazy," Miller said.