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Braving the Cold for Black Friday Print E-mail
Written by JORDAN BRANDES   
Friday, 26 November 2010

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-From a plaque posted inside the Statue of Liberty

The poem above is meant to describe the poignant and symbolic tale of those refugees coming into Ellis Island at the turn of the last century. Standing outside the Best Buy at Clark/Diversey this Black Friday I canít help but think that it still applies. Those crazy enough to brave the blistering cold late last night and into the early morning, myself included, are prime examples of how dedicated to consumerism modern America has become.

Driving to and from the suburbs this Thanksgiving I could not help but stare in awe at those dedicated few that were camped outside the department stores at least a full day before Black Friday. What, I ask you, could be so important, so vital, that you would ignore one of the last remaining holidays that honestly and truly embraces family togetherness. I know Chanukah and Christmas is all about getting together with loved ones but presents are exchanged and letís face itÖ itís all about the presents. Thanksgiving is about the meal and being together before the madness of the holidays arrives just hours later.

Itís impossible to know a person without walking in their shoes. So after dinner I got comfy and found my place in line at the store. My demands were simple, all I wanted was a small television for my place. The one I had was getting old and this seemed like the most logical time to replace it. I was not obsessive about it nor did I honestly care that much if I got it this very instant. It was curiosity that drove me to the freezing darkness on this fateful day.

Had this been in the summer or any other time of year for that matter I probably wouldnít have made a big deal out of it. But the temperature was 20 degrees or so and falling fast. I very quickly lost the feeling in my hands and feet.

With the store opening at 5 a.m. the mood became increasingly nasty as the hour grew near. Each store seems to carry only about 20 items (sometimes not even that many) of the prime products people are staying up all night to get. Making sure you are one of the first in line is a strategic move and also a sign of dominance among those in line. If you are brave enough to weather the tundra of Chicago weather youíve earned your prize for waiting in line. In ancient times the winner of a battle would come home with the spoils of war, now they come home with a big screen television.

Once the doors actually opened the chaos grew immensely. Despite letting only 10 people in at time you could still see the fire in the eyes of those on the inside. It was as if there was an invisible timer running in the store keeping track of how long you stayed in one place. Customers grabbed everything they could and bolted for the door.

Zen seems to be the key to surviving Black Friday. I got what I came for and left, avoiding multiple melees along the way. Once the doors opened that madness would continue well after I left and not die down until Christmas. So it goes.

My story had ended shortly after as I climbed into bed just barely beating the sunrise. For others this mad dash at 5 a.m. was only the first of many stops they would make throughout the day. The battle never truly ends.

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