Columnist’s note: It was a great Thanksgiving holiday, with lots of good food and family, but writing a column didn’t make it into the mix of activities. Accordingly, I’m re-running a piece from two years ago that ran the Monday after Thanksgiving. See you back here next week.
I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving weekend with your families, and that you aren’t dragging too much as you start this week.
If you got some great bargains on Black Friday, congratulations. And I hope you have the same luck this Cyber Monday.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, I guess I must accept that the Christmas season has begun. It is the day before Thanksgiving as I write this but as you read it, it’s the Monday after. I hope you had a nice holiday weekend. There are many of you who spent it putting up your Christmas tree and outside lights and you are now in full holiday mode.
Some of you might have even gone out on what has become known as “Black Friday.”
Only now, in typical American fashion, the biggest shopping day of the year starts the day before. Not to be outdone by stores opening at 4 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, a couple of years ago some of them raised the ante and opened their doors at midnight. Now it’s being pushed up to 10 p.m. or earlier Thanksgiving Day.
I’m as frugal as the next guy but it would take something awfully compelling for me to go stand in a line with throngs of people or even camp out, for crying out loud, for the privilege of being the first person in some store where I am allegedly going to come upon bargains I cannot afford to miss. So no, just in case you were wondering, I wasn’t among the shoppers Thursday night or Friday.
It reminds of my freshman year in college. This was, of course, ages and ages ago when college freshmen were assigned to little cinderblock cells with two single beds. If you were lucky you might have had a bathroom that joined with your next-door neighbor.
I was not so fortunate and used the community showers down the hall. (This contrasts greatly, of course, with today’s college freshmen who have electronic systems in their rooms that rival media rooms in some of the finest of homes).
Anyway, when I was a mere freshman pup all those years ago, one of the prized possessions in a dorm room was a little two-by-two refrigerator. This was the only appliance that was allowed and you had to rent it from the school.
The word was that there was only a limited supply. Unless you had some connection with housing, you had to stand in line to get one. And there were horror stories about the length of the line and the hours one would have to stand in it before getting a fridge.
My roommate and I decided we just had to have one of those refrigerators and, come hell or high water, we were going to get one. As I remember, the place where we could get them, in the basement of a residence hall near ours, would open at 8 a.m. I had an 8 a.m. class so my roomie, whose first one was later in the morning, and I would have to tag-team it.
I got up at 4 a.m. and went and stood in line. There were already scores of folks there but I was close to the front, thus assured of getting one of the little mini-fridges. My roommate came at 7:30 and took my place in line so I could go to class.
By this time the line consisted of hundreds of students waiting their turn. By the time I got out of class at 9, my buddy had already gotten our refrigerator and delivered it back to our room. It looked like a brown box, dented and scratched, and had obviously been used a number of times.
But we plugged it in and it worked and that’s all that mattered. It would soon hold the essentials of a college student.
I knew there would be a lot of disappointed folks and I decided I would be a good sport and share the fridge space (all two cubic feet of it) with my friends who just couldn’t drag themselves out of bed in time to get one. I was not going to gloat, but I felt pretty smug about the whole thing.
Later in the day, not long after lunch, I noticed a guy across the hall carrying one of the refrigerators into his room. Only it didn’t look like ours. It was a sparking yellow color with a shiny chrome handle (ours opened by lodging your fingers between the door and main part of the unit). It was obviously brand new.
As I opened the door to his room for him, I asked, “I guess you brought this from home?”
“No,” he replied. “I got it from that other dorm over there.” He pointed in the direction of the place I had stood in line earlier in the day.
“Oh wow,” I said. “How long did you stand in line?”
“No line,” he said, looking at me quizzically. “Just walked up and got it.”
So the real story was that there was no premium on the supposedly sacred little appliances. After housing gave out the old ones to the idiots who had stood in line through the pre-dawn hours, they opened up cases and cases of brand new ones for the late-comers. And there were plenty to go around.
This kind of set the pace for me for the future. I don’t get too excited over the supposedly latest and greatest Christmas item and I will sure as heck not go stand in a line hours before a store opens.
My wife sometimes cautions me about shopping after things are “picked over.” Until now, she never knew what I meant when I would just shrug and say, “Remember the refrigerator.”
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.