Unlike the rest of America, I try to avoid all stores on Black Friday weekend. Black Friday has grown from a day to a weekend since most retailers have caught on to Americans’ willingness to extend their shopping frenzy instead of standing in line to grab merchandise on a specific day. This arrangement may be great for avid shoppers, but it can be a nightmare for those of us who prefer to avoid shopping whenever possible. Fortunately, if we want to take advantage of any electronics, bicycle parts or bicycling accessories discounts, we can wait until Cyber Monday to bargain hunt from the comfort of our homes.
Despite my carefully laid plans, this year it didn’t work out that way. I needed to buy something for a project I was working on and it couldn’t wait. So, I gritted my teeth and set out to the store to fight the crowds.
All of the unnecessary holiday displays blocking the aisles made it difficult to find what I was looking for. After walking up and down the aisles several times, I finally found it hidden behind a festive-looking table of on-sale items.
Product in hand, I headed towards the checkout area. In spite of the growing line of customers, the manager did not see fit to open another register and let us wind ourselves around the displays in what appeared to be a single line.
What was most peculiar about this line was that there were two registers open, but the customers did not seem to be flowing between both of them. Instead, three people were standing in the middle of the two registers, engaged in conversation and oblivious to everyone around them.
I was tempted to maneuver around them to see if there was any way to get into the other line. I moved to the left of one guy who was standing closest to the center of the lane. I was trying to get around him, but he would not move.
He and his male and female companions had decided to plant themselves in the middle of this lane. They were not even watching the register to see if the cashier was ready to help them.
A woman behind me with a cart full of loot rolled her eyes at them since she couldn’t get around them either. She was not shy. She yelled out to them, “Are you in line?” It was a good question since there was no way to tell why these people were standing in the middle of the floor engaged in conversation.
None of them answered her, but they did move a little bit towards the register. Consequently, the rest of us were able to move up. At that moment, I caught a glimpse of why we were waiting so long for our turns: a customer was paying with a paper check.
I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone pay with a paper check. Most people use credit cards debit cards or cash. The cashier wasn’t sure how to complete the sale. He did make her show two forms of ID. But when it came to processing her payment, he was lost.
Shifting my single item from one arm to the other only heightened my impatience. I had had enough of the three chatters. I was tempted to ask them if they understood the concept of a checkout lane. Did they know where to stand, how to pay for their merchandise, etc.
If there hadn’t been two guys, I would probably have confronted them because their self-absorbed behavior was inconveniencing the rest of the customers. But since I wasn’t in any mood to take them on two to one, I restrained myself. Instead of speaking my mind, I plowed into the arm of the guy in the middle of the lane and pushed past him.
He looked surprised as I spun him around. I made a production of placing myself behind the person who was paying for their merchandise as if to demonstrate the proper way to align oneself for the checkout process. When he realized that I was just getting in line, he let the thing go.
After a lot of restless foot tapping, it was my turn to pay. I handed my item to the cashier who asked whether I had a loyalty card. I did not. She asked if I wanted to sign up for one. I told her that I might sign up the next time I was in the store to deflect any begging on her part, as I was in a hurry.
Once I had escaped from the confines of the store out into the parking lot, I spotted the three annoying chatters standing near a vehicle. It was an enormous gas guzzling monstrosity. It exuded waste and self indulgence, not too different from what its occupants had shown inside the store.
Even after I got onto my bike, I couldn’t resist watching them for a few minutes to see what they would do. Two of them climbed into the vehicle while the other fiddled with his phone. He followed them into the vehicle shortly thereafter.
The driver started the engine and began to back out into the aisle. He drove about half way down the aisle, and then stopped in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. Within a couple of minutes a car pulled up in front of them and stopped, since they were blocking the aisle.
Having a car stopped right in front of them didn’t spur them into action. Another car pulled up behind them. With cars on both sides, I thought they would have to move to let the other cars pass. No such luck. They sat where they were, blocking the lane and preventing two cars from getting by.
It didn’t take long for the patience of one of the drivers to wear thin. He blasted the horn to get the loafers to move. This was the second time someone had to confront them to get them to move out of the way of other people.
I wondered why they didn’t care at all about the people around them. Focusing on themselves was consistent with certain aspects of American Culture. It was the “me first and the hell with you” attitude so often found in people who identify strongly with popular culture.
Such a mindset is all too common on American roads. The loud cry of egocentrism is the mantra of many drivers. Whether this attitude came from drivers or whether it was already present and only manifested itself in drivers, we’ll never know. Regardless, when one is on the receiving end of it, it’s hard to tolerate.
As a result of this experience, I vowed to stay out of the stores as much as possible during the holiday season. Unfortunately, I can’t stay off of the roads, so I’ll have to resign myself to enduring this self-centered driver mentality, at least part of the time.