At any stage of life—and particularly at the one I'm currently wandering through—if you're not getting better, you're getting worse. I know this to be true, and I try to live my life accordingly.
Why, then, did I find myself standing in a 1,000-person line at a Target store in Marana two hours before sunrise?
The glib answer is that I had already done my duty at the Kohl's in Oro Valley, so this was the next stop.
A few years back, I wrote about how my wife had snookered me into accompanying her to one of those ridiculous Black Friday sales where they have six of each sale item, and they've all been hidden way in the back by the employees who will direct their friends to the secret location upon arrival. The whole system blew when the sales started at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. They now blow exponentially as opening times approach midnight from the wrong direction.
I pretty much hate Thanksgiving anyway. The food is awful. Turkey is dreadful, usually too dry or frighteningly wet. I have the same creeped-out reaction to stuffing that some people have to clowns. Mashed potatoes are the Regis Philbin of foods—popular, but for no really good reason. And then there are cranberries, a food that floats in bogs and is harvested by people who wade crotch-deep in the water. Uh, no.
Once every two or three years, I'm forced by social convention to deal with a traditional Thanksgiving meal. I put jalapeño and/or salsa on everything and then hope for the best. (When I cook at home on Thanksgiving, it's either lasagna or Mexican food, for which we can all be thankful.)
But the food is nothing compared to the shopping horror that follows a few short hours later. What makes it so bad is that my wife and children, who are completely normal the other 364 days each year, are absolute Black Friday freaks. Last week, I went out and got the Thanksgiving Day newspaper (the one with all the ads in it), and they were all standing by the door like zombies staring at a crucifix. (Oh, man, I must have accidentally eaten some stuffing; my similes are all off.)
As we drove down to Douglas to see my mother-in-law, my wife carefully and meticulously (and maddeningly) went through each and every ad while my son made not a list, but rather a table of stores, opening times and items listed in order of preference. Then, like they're in the War Room, they started strategizing. "If you get there really early, you can be done and move on to the next one before it opens. And then you can execute a flanking maneuver and catch them off guard." I started envying the people who took part in Pickett's Charge.
What's most unnerving is that we're all pretty simple people with simple tastes. We all drive Hondas. And while no one will ever accuse me of being a slave to fashion, the rest of the people in the family dress nicely, although not extravagantly. It's just so puzzling to me.
In all fairness, they don't just buy stuff to buy stuff. It's not like, "Hey, here's a home comb maker on sale for $12."
"We already have combs."
"Yeah, but it's only 12 bucks!!!"
They buy stuff that they'll use. They also get most of their Christmas shopping done in a four-hour period.
What's really funny (in a very, very sad way) is that every year, I drag myself out of bed at 3 a.m., and then almost never actually buy anything. Last week, I initially went to Kohl's just to stand in the checkout line while my wife went to get stuff. Last year, I accompanied my daughter to Walmart to get a flat-screen TV and stood there for two hours to make sure no latecomer tried to move her off her spot.
I have to say that except for the occasional person who wants to get there late and cut in line (or the one who gets there early and wants to smoke in line), most people are amazingly polite, especially when compared to the horror stories that you see on the news about other parts of the country.
Anyway, after getting done at Kohl's, I went over to Target to get a Crock-Pot that the strategizers said was on sale for a really good price. And so it was that I came to find myself standing in line in Marana at 4:20 a.m.
Behind me were two teenage girls who were arguing about the philosophical significance of the New Moon movie. A kid on my basketball team named Ally loves those books and movies and has tried to explain the Twilight Saga to me. The best I can figure is that they involve a love triangle between an unattractive teenage girl, a dog and a bat.
The coolest thing was that members of the Marana Police Department had parked in front of the main doors at Target, effectively blocking would-be line-cutters from edging close to the entrance. And all this time, I just thought they were only good for making drivers slam on their brakes as they speed around that curve where River Road becomes Thornydale Road.