So for the past few years, because my wife and I are both silly and enjoy watching/experiencing a particular kind of American holiday madness, we’ve gone Black Friday shopping. Usually just Best Buy or Target, both of which are pretty well organized in how they do things, and neither of which tends to have reports of tramplings or tazings or any of that “fun” stuff. We don’t really spend much money, and we watch the chaos unfold with some degree of amusement.
2012 went a little differently. 2012 involved going to WalMart.
Yes, I know all the various moral/ethical reasons I should not shop at WalMart. I don’t pretend to be the most moral/ethical person out there, and I had always heard that WalMart represented the “pinnacle” of Black Friday insanity, and this year, there was something I wanted there, a cheap copy of the then-recently released Forza Horizon.
And so, at 2 in the morning (since all the stores started doing deals at 12am Friday, if not earlier), my wife and I made our way into WalMart. My wife gets some vague anxiety in large crowds, but she also gets some vague amusement out of seeing them, so we go in together, and I try to keep her amused at it all.
WalMart is, at this point, worse than I could have imagined. WalMarts usually look vaguely like the former warzone Spec Ops: The Line wishes it could replicate, but this one looked like the war was still going on.
Everywhere we go, people are standing in a long line for the registers that seems to wind its way through half the store. I makemy way back to the games section, and some poor frazzled worker has no idea what I am talking about when I ask her about the game. Were this any other store, at any other time, I might be a little frustrated at this, but here and now, all I can feel is some vague sympathy and a silent little hope that she gets to escape this soon. This is WalMart, so I know she will not.
Some person hears me ask about this game and tells me that Forza is probably up in the Produce section. I pause a bit at this, but this store is so clearly a madhouse that it seems more than possible, and away I go, texting my wife who was off in another section of the store to let her know where I am going.
And what the fuck? There are ten temporary cardboard shelves of games and DVDs, just sitting in the Produce section. Forza is there, and my wife manages to find every single Harry Potter movie on DVD for a buck a piece, and we consider ourselves potential minor victors in this little capitalist war (even though we are all losers) and decide now is as good a time as any to try to check out, not knowing that there is never a good time to check out at Black Friday WalMart.
We have trouble finding the end of the line. As I said, the line weaves up and down aisles all through the store. In our search, we end up back by electronics again, and somehow a fight has broken out, and a few local cops are charging in, and we stay out of it.
We end up in line with behind and in front of some relatively nice people, all waiting to buy whatever particular deal they came here for. It feels silly, yes, but also some sort of vague consumerist camaraderie develops. I hear about how nobody wants to go to the Steelyard Walmart. There’s possible thinly veiled racism/classism implicit in this judgement, since Steelyard is smack in the middle of some of Cleveland’s most economically depressed neighborhoods, but having driven by that particular store on the way home from dinner earlier, it looked incredibly crowded, so maybe not, though their tone of voice says probably.
This line crawls. This line weaves. I start considering if it is worth it. It’s late Thanksgiving night, and I am standing in line behind a bunch of people, most of whom seem to just be grabbing anything they can get their hands on just because it is on some kind of discount, only to probably realize later half of what they grabbed is stuff nobody wants. My wife and I are tired. Each time we get close to the front of the store, the line weaves back through some other aisle. Now we are in the greeting cards. Oh look, the jewelry counter. After spending more time in line than out of it, we get to the register and check out.
This feels like some kind of America, or at least a basic trial of consumerism one should endure to be a True Amhericuhn.
We stop at one more store, Macy’s, whose midnight opening seems somehow humane compared to the WalMarts and Targets of the nation, who opened early on Thanksgiving, guaranteeing their employees that much less of a holiday. We stop at Macy’s because it makes my wife think of her late grandmother, who would take her to Macy’s as a kid. Macy’s feels somehow much less chaotic. It’s probably because even at its worst, I have never seen a Macy’s approach the warzone feeling WalMart can have on a regular day.
We go home and go to bed.
Oh, and hey, the game is pretty good too. It’s Forza, minus the feeling that you constantly have to be racing somebody. This makes it basically the opposite of being at WalMart at any time, let alone late on Thanksgiving night. It also makes it a pretty damn solid game for just not really doing anything at all, which is something I find myself valuing more and more in video games as time goes by and I feel less like being stressed out by my hobby.
That might seem like an odd statement, after I’ve previously talked about how much I love Cave games and such, but there are times for both. The only games I can remember enjoying as much just hanging out are the Skate series. Yeah there’s plenty of “stuff” to do in both Forza Horizon and the Skates, but damn if sometimes it isn’t just better to hop in your car/on your board and just cruise around doing nothing at all. It’s probably pretty important that both of these games feature some pretty nice camera options for taking photos.