I groggily looked at the alarm clock, which registered 2:30 a.m. Time to get up and honor a commitment I apparently made to my 15-year-old-daughter less than six hours earlier:
Drive her and her friends to Black Friday sales.
It's been several years since I entered the Black Friday scrum. Once I succeeded (a $250 air hockey table for $79) and once I failed miserably (a Nintendo Wii Fit, at the time the hottest toy on the market, gone before I'd even found the electronics department). My wife insists I will find amazing deals on clothes for her but everything on the SPECTACULAR BLACK FRIDAY DEAL racks always seems to be adorned in fur, rhinestones, fringe or all three.
This time I vowed not to even enter the mall. Until my daughter texted for a pickup, I would drive aimlessly around town, watching darkness give way to light and eventually stopping at Denny's where I would nurse my headache with yet another unhealthy meal, while reading any section of the paper that didn't contain Black Friday ads.
Yet, when I pulled up to the mall, miraculously I saw an open parking spot mere steps from the entrance. This had to be a sign. Perhaps there was a deal inside that would prove too irresistible for me. (A set of screwdrivers for $9.99, anyone?)
Instead, I encountered sights and sounds that made me want to return to my parking space and rent it by the hour. Specifically:
A fully functioning food court! Eight hours after Saran wrapping Thanksgiving leftovers, the images of Black Friday shoppers ordering Burrito Supremes from Taco Bell were enough to make me turn and run into the nearest store. Unfortunately, that happened to be Abercrombie & Fitch, which featured . . .
Shirtless male greeters! These guys put the elderly, cheerful Walmart employees to shame. Their ripped physiques, on full display at 4:45 a.m. and showing not a hint of a Taco Bell meal, were enough to make me do an about face and run into Macy's where I encountered a . . .
Hip-hop disc jockey! Instead of regaling shoppers with Andy Williams, Carpenters and Mariah Carey Christmas classics, he was blasting beats from the likes of Pitbull and Jay-Z. Black Friday items swayed on the shelves. Ears covered, I retreated to Sears, only to find a . . .
Free knife giveaway! A Sears employee, wearing a headset microphone, was actually showing a group of very tense looking Black Friday shoppers how to use what he described as "the last knife you will ever need to buy." And just for stopping by, the knife was free! The shoppers happily exited the demonstration, lethal weapons in hand. I turned away, afraid to make eye contact with any of them. Instead, I took the escalator down one level to appliances. Finally, some peace and quiet. In spite of great deals storewide, nobody was purchasing washer/dryer combinations at 5:15 a.m.
And then I saw it. For 75 percent off. A cordless leaf-blower. This was better than breakfast at Denny's. I made my contribution to the struggling U.S. economy and headed upstairs to find my daughter and her girlfriends waiting for a ride.
"Buy anything?" I asked her.
"Some cute jeans with rhinestones on the pockets," she replied. "How about you, Dad? See anything good?"
"I saw a lot," I said. "I'm just not sure how much of it was good."
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com.)