Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday

The economy might be sick, but consumerism is sicker.

Imagine yourself as one of several hundred consumers, hyped-up by the promise of spending. You are exhilarated by the annual prospect of acquiring more things than your neighbor, new things, shiny things, clean smooth soft things, things you didn’t have before. Imagine standing outside Wal-Mart in the dark cold 5 a.m. air, your pulse racing, every face around you flushed, every body jostling for position in front of the sliding glass doors, vying for a spot closest to the stockpile of 99 cent Burt’s Bees Lip Balm, 99 dollar Blackberry phones, and 799 dollar Samsung LCD TVs.

Suddenly there is a roar. The crowd surges forward. You are carried along the sea of bodies, pushing to keep your position. (You were so close, don’t let that woman get in front of you, who cares if her bratty kid wants the Sponge Bob Mp3 player for $39.99, she can wait her place in line, she wasn’t up as late as you were, here in the cold, if you push that guy to your left maybe you can get past him, you’d have a clearer shot at the door and he looks like your annoying coworker anyway, the one who made fun of you for saying you’ve always been an enthusiastic Black Friday shopper, although this year is just ridiculous, who would have thought everyone would pick Wal-Mart sales, that’s why you’re here, because you thought people would be at Circuit City and Best Buy, stupid shoppers.) Your adrenaline soars as you inch forward, pressed between body-filled coats and hats and mittens. Everyone is shouting.

There is a crack; many cracks, really; a shattering sound, as if all the cold bodies that had been pressed together had broken to pieces, crushing one another to shards. But no, the sound is coming from ahead. You look up to see the frontrunners in the crowd lurch forward into the store! You squint as you are mashed against the back of the man in front of you. What has happened? Only as you are pushed over broken glass, through the entrance, do you realize: the mob has acted overeagerly. You have broken through. You are inside Wal-Mart.

And then you stumble over the body.

“Wal-Mart worker dies in rush; two killed at toy store”

Summary: A horde of shoppers “bum-rushed” a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, Long Island, breaking down the doors. A 34-year-old male employee from Queens was trampled to death. A 28-year-old pregnant woman and three other workers were also injured. Customers angrily resisted leaving the store and tried to keep shopping as officials announced they were closing the store, insisting, “they had been waiting on (sic) line since Thursday.”

Meanwhile, in Palm Desert, California, an argument arose between two teenage girls in the electronics section of Toys ‘R Us. A gun was pulled, and two men died. Thank you Amendment Number Two.

This is the sort of capitalism that makes me embarrassed to be live in consumerist America.

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