After only a few hours of recovering from my food coma Thanksgiving Day, my sister and I made the drive to our cousins’ house. We grabbed our newspapers and “additional 15 percent off” coupons, hopped in their SUV and drove to Lakeside, one of the most popular and lucrative malls in southeastern Louisiana. In 10 minutes, we found a decent parking spot, decided which stores we were going to hit first and, with determination in our eyes, strode through those large double doors.
One second was all it took to become fully immersed in the Black Friday chaos. Outside Victoria’s Secret was a crowd of maddened women, eyes like that of rabid wolves, who stormed the store once those doors opened. The line outside Sephora was no better. While the women in this line were deceptively calm, once midnight arrived, they flooded the store as I casually strode to the front of the line for $10 steals and deals.
The most ridiculous of all places was, without a doubt, Express. Until noon Friday, the store was 50 percent off everything. Both men and women jumped at this irresistible deal — I walked in to see a line wrapped around the entire store. I asked a girl in line how long she’d been waiting. “Almost an hour,” was her response. I wanted to scoff and walk out, but then I saw a shimmery red top. And a lace dress. And a peasant top. In the end, I waited in line for 45 minutes. Though I was happy with my purchases, I could not believe I’d ended up in this sad, sad state.
Ultimately, I crashed at 5:30 a.m. and didn’t wake till 4:30 p.m. that afternoon.
Black Friday is one of those days when, though you’re experiencing everything in the moment, the momentum of it all makes it so dreamlike. As I replayed what happened in my head, I felt a flurry of emotions: I was excited I had spent relatively little money for so much, muddled as I was falling from the high, but most of all, shocked at what I had done and what I had seen.
There’d been lines outside stores as if money was being given away. There was pushing and shoving among grown men and women, as if the last droplets of water on earth were being sold. And perhaps the most devastating were the workers, people who had come into work at 8 p.m., maybe even earlier, unwillingly cutting time with family and friends to be a part of the materialistic machine that is capitalist America — a machine that I had willingly become a part of, all to save some money in the long run and help a company up its profits.
At this point, the only place my mind could go to was Costa Rica, where my freshman seminar went over fall break. I recalled the words of one of our speakers when a classmate asked how profitable fair trade in combination with the lax atmosphere of the nation was. His response was, “Perhaps we must question our perception of profit. I think profit can be the happiness you feel when you go to bed, or the time one spends with his or her family.”
Maybe it’s time we all took a line from this and question how we measure profit. Is it buying a jacket for half off, or watching a movie with family as Thanksgiving break wanes? Is it asking your employees to work on a holiday of reflection for that which we are grateful? Or is it realizing the importance of the home, understanding there are more significant things than beating last year’s numbers?
We give thanks, only to return to malls and stores to purchase more of what we want and think we need. A few days later, we stand in line to board flights back to school, wondering where the time went. I know exactly where my time went Thursday night, and looking back, I’m not so sure standing in a 45-minute line for fairly priced clothing was the best way to spend it.
Lea Trusty is a freshman from Saint Rose, La. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.