black friday, the huge shopping day after thanksgiving, is becoming a folk holiday of its own, like popular festivities that grow up around official feast days or state holidays. this morning alicia, a cook and young mother, stumbled in saying she had only slept two or three hours. at four she had lined up at Wal Mart in Branford. the line stretched across the lot. with police present, the line was orderly.
but the moment the doors opened, a tremendous energy swept the crowd. people clapped and cheered, and pressed forward. the line disintegrated. alicia's face conveyed the excitement of the moment, as well as the madness that took place within the store. she told of people scooping up a dozen of a particular product, ten laptop computers. she laughed telling of people grabbing at the same thing, of the loser cursing out the winner, of the quicker grabber giving the other the finger at his demand and running away.
there was grabbing from the store as well. she saw a guy put a camera in his pocket; but no alarm went off, even though there are devices inside the cameras. someone must have turned the detector off, she said. she told of people she knew who in past years had stolen things. it was a fever of running, quick decisions, cooperation with friends, grabbing, piling high. it was laughter at the absurdity of the situation, of alicia pulling two loaded baskets by herself, of seeing people spend 1200, 3000 dollars at the checkout. of people cursing loudly when, ten minutes after opening, the Dell computers so eagerly snatched up were announced as recalled!
the store benefits, overall, from this carnival atmosphere, even as there are inevitable losses. the catholic church, too, must have made similar calculations at carnavals of the past: there are excesses, sure, but they revel in the name of the Lord.
amazingly, while the pleasure of collective madness accrues to the mother, she also anticipates another pleasure entirely different: "i do it for the look on her face when she opens the presents up," said alicia, "that makes it all worth it." but clearly this moment is not the only reward: black friday's excitement belongs all to the mother.