Today’s Courier Herald Column:
Today is the day we all know as “Black Friday”, presumably because it is the day you’re most likely to get a black eye will fighting over the last flat screen TV offered at a loss leading sale price to get you into a store at an ungodly hour. I don’t care much for shopping and crowds aren’t my thing. As such, I don’t participate in Black Friday.
To the contrary, it’s usually a day I spend doing as little as possible. Given the time commitments of my various professions, there are very few days I can schedule to do absolutely nothing. Black Friday is generally one of those days. I don’t have to be anywhere, see anyone, or produce anything. It may be my most restful day of the year.
It usually becomes a decent day of transition as well as a good time to reflect on Thanksgiving from the day before. Thanksgiving often finds me spending about half the day in the kitchen and the rest traveling to wherever the food is going to be eaten. There’s some quality family time while the food is consumed and stories swapped, then the travel back home and the cleanup process of restoring my kitchen to near normal.
The juxtaposition of Black Friday to the food prepared on the day before is a stark one, and shows a bit about how times have changed, at least for my family, over the past four decades or so. Friday is a day where consumerism dawns its ugliest face. It’s now said to be the day where people show thanks by lining up and fighting over things they don’t want and don’t need.
When I was a kid, shopping was much more of a luxury and even extended to our food. Grocery stores weren’t on every corner nor open 24 hours. We grew a large part of our own food. We had a garden that was about an acre or so in size. Dad worked a full time job in Atlanta but with the help of mom and three or four kids managed to grow and then can or freeze a lot of what was prepared in our house. We didn’t eat out much. We weren’t allowed to waste food.
I can remember some of the various shopping decisions we made as a family when I was younger. Multiple trips to stores were made over a period of months to consider just the right vacuum cleaner to buy, and then to find it on sale at the best price. “Impulse buy” was not a phrase that I believe even existed then. Even light small appliances were studied in detail and added only as needed and budgets allowed.
We also didn’t dispose of things that didn’t work just right. We became good friends with our television repair man, and had a regular routine of having one or two uncles come over to help move the 25” floor console unit through the living room and kitchen to a waiting pickup outside to squeeze just a little more life out of it. That TV lasted from the time I was born until I entered Jr. High school.
It was the antithesis of a flat screen. Its replacement also took almost a year of study. I was most delighted that the new model had a remote control. That took the chore of changing channels away from children that were required to assist a father who had worked downtown all day and tended to his garden before settling in to watch one of the six channels available for entertainment.
In short, like many of us old enough to declare times past “the good old days”, there were parts of it that were far superior to the present, but that’s not to pretend times were easier or better. We’ve come a long way since then.
Food is now readily available virtually anywhere and relatively cheap in relation to total household income. Consumer products are easier and cheaper to replace than repair. But the time we used to have isn’t really here either. We are a busier people now than we were, with many more distractions, entertainment options, and other interruptions with daily life that add a superficial nature to many of our interactions.
But today, Black Friday, isn’t one of those days. At least not for me. Cause I’m not participating. If you need me, I’m more likely to be napping, and I will enjoy every minute of it.