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Plan to avoid Black Friday fails
[November 23, 2012]

Plan to avoid Black Friday fails

Nov 23, 2012 (Walla Walla Union-Bulletin - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- At 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, I received a phone call.

"This is Livia Hegdal, and I'm here in the parking lot of the College Place Walmart where, as you can see behind me, there's a scene of total chaos," said my wife over the speaker.

"We're on the phone, dear. I can't see behind you," I replied, pausing the movie my brother and I were watching.

"I know that," Liv said. "But I'm taking pictures.Oh ma'am! Just a moment please, can you tell me why you're braving this scene of chaos on Thanksgiving " I was a little troubled at the comment, until I realized Liv had turned her attention to a passing woman in an attempt to get an interview.

An interview, by rights, I should have been conducting, but had turned over to my dear spouse, because let's face it: who wants to go shopping on Thanksgiving just because the big box stores have pushed up their Black Friday sales a half a day My wife and roughly 80 percent of the rest of the population, that's who.

When I first received the Black Friday assignment, I resisted, listing three very convincing reasons. I don't like crowds. I don't like shopping. And I really don't like shopping in crowds.

"Can I come with you " my wife asked when I broke the news that my boss had given me but one alternative.

"Sure," I said. "But we're not there to shop. We have an important job covering the news." Twelve hours later, I was sitting at home while Liv got in-depth interviews with local shoppers who had been standing in line for several hours.

By and large, they were polite, if occasionally terse.

"Is this going to be in the paper " was the most common response.

Then Liv would call me to give me the update.

"As you can see, Luke, it's still chaos down here (I know, I'm taking pictures I said)," Liv would say in her best news anchor voice, which is pretty good. "There are piles of boxes set in different locations around the store. I can see they've spread the televisions around so people don't trample each other. Oh, and there are movies for only $1.99, excuse me, sir, I think I had my hand on that one ... click." I was a little worried. My wife and I are training our 3-year-old son to use good manners, and I can tell you Liv has no patience for "the grabbies." I could just see her ordering another shopper to "go to time-out right this minute." She called back minutes later.

"Wow, some people down here are a little rude," she said. "Mostly they're not bad. We need to watch the classified ads, though. I saw a ton of parents buying those electric scooter-cars. They'll be up for sale in a month or two when the batteries run out. Do we need a pingpong table " By this time it was roughly 8 p.m., and shoppers had started sheltering in place. Families had set up miniature forts in the aisles to keep people from snagging items from their carts and would send scouts out to look for more deals. One woman, according to Liv, had used three leather benches and walled herself in the furniture aisle.

Lone shoppers, like jack salmon, zipped through the store, trying to wriggle their way past the blockades. At 9 p.m. I got another phone call.

"I've got about 100 movies," my wife said breathlessly. I could hear the shopping frenzy in her voice. "I also got six boxes of tupperware, a scooter, the giant Lego box and ... ow, my shin! Gotta go." At 10 p.m. Liv called again.

"I am never doing this again!" Liv said. "You owe me. You owe me big!" At 11 p.m., Liv pulled into the drive and I helped her unload the loot from the car. There wasn't much, really. A few presents and the tupperware. She had jettisoned most of the other items.

"I don't know what I was thinking," Liv said, clearly exhausted. "I was there in line, and realized, 'Wait, I don't need any of this stuff.'" "Did you put it back " I asked.

"Are you kidding Leave the line Not a chance," I just dropped it in the aisle. Someone came along and scooped it up." "Oh, OK," I said. "Do you want me to rub your feet " "No," she said, and I started to worry. Not wanting me to rub her feet means she has a bigger favor to ask, and she knows she's going to get it. "I want you to go, tomorrow morning, and get me a phone." Until that moment, I had felt pretty clever to have avoided having to shop on Black Friday. I knew, however, that resistance was futile.

At 4 o'clock this morning I rolled out of bed, propelled by my wife's foot. Eventually I woke up, too. At 4:30 a.m. I staggered into Walmart with the glazed expression of the living dead. It was fitting, really, since the store looked as if the end had, indeed, come.

A few other shoppers, store staff and police loitered around, like bystanders after a fire. I could tell most of the other shoppers were still holding out a sliver of hope that one of the good deals had been overlooked in the previous night's melee.

This was not the case. What sale items that still remained were so much junk, heavily "marked down," in an attempt to rid the store of merchandise that had been overstocked in the '80s. Piles of knick-knacks sat forlorn.

The phone my wife wanted was no longer "available." I decided to try K-Mart, only to find the sad scene repeated.

Defeated, I headed home. I could see a few other would-be shoppers driving in their cars. I recognized the frantic, glazed eyes. But most of the shops were closed. Only the big box stores had opened so early, and they had been picked over.

When I got home again, I snuggled next to my wife.

"Did you get it " She asked.

"No. It was out." "Oh," she said. "Let's not do this again." "Oh, I don't know," I said. "Maybe next year, they'll start Black Friday on Wednesday. We can get all our shopping done ... yawn ... before ... what was I saying Dear " ___ (c)2012 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.) Visit Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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