Shopping Is Fun! That Is, if You Go with the Right Person

This photo was taken about eight minutes after the store opened, and three minutes after this corner was full of shoppers plopping bargain-priced boxed Christmas trees in their carts. They then moved on to the tool aisles, while we stayed and picked out poinsettias and evergreen wreaths in relative peace and quiet.

I like shopping. I like bargains. But I also like sleep, which I guess is why I’ve never done Black Friday. That, and as a newspaper reporter I always worked the day after Thanksgiving (& was damn lucky to get Thanksgiving off) and simply couldn’t manage both power shopping and deadline writing in the same day. But now that I live the financially challenging free & flexible life of a freelance writer, I can get up at 2 a.m. and hunt those door-busting deals with enthusiasm. And with Older Daughter, who talked me into going with her this year for my first Black Friday experience. “It’ll be fun,” she said. “It’s relaxing. Really.” Given all the scary stories I’d seen through the years, I was skeptical, but this is the young woman who has produced two of the Cutest Grandbabies Ever in the History of the World, so I figured she knew what she was talking about. Turns out she was correct:  Black Friday shopping — the way she does it, at least — is fun and stress-free. Her secrets? First, she researches and prepares by studying all the newspaper circulars. She knows which stores she’ll go to to buy specific items and which stories she’ll go to merely to browse. From her years of experience (she has stood outside in freezing sleet and spent hours in barely crawling checkout lines), she knows which stores to avoid when and which stores are worth  some discomfort and crowding. Second, she also knows in which stores you’ll find the most helpful and best-trained Black Friday staff (Home Depot excels at this) and in which stores you’re pretty much on your own because the yawning uninterested employees couldn’t care less. She knows how to ask about truck arrivals and restocking times and “do you maybe have any of these in the back?” She knows to grab anything you’re interested in while you ponder and discuss the competing merits of a Rock Star Mickey versus a Let’s Rock! Elmo — and she knows to put the rejects back where they belong so others can ponder them, too. Third, she has a great attitude and never gets upset or tense, even when the last pair of size 8 Tom’s Chocolate Canvas Women’s Classic at 25 percent off is gone before she can get to it. She simply switches gears and goes for the Brown Metallic Woven Women’s Cordones instead. No problem. She also approves of frequent treats, so she had me at “And as soon as Starbucks opens and if we’re doing well at that point …” Plus, she was also correct that being out in the pre-dawn hours with other for-the-most-part good-natured shoppers is sort of fun. On the other hand, it probably has a lot to do with who you’re with. Thanks, sweetie, for including me in your annual holiday shopping kickoff. I’ve already started saving up for next year.

Random Thoughts and Labor Day

Yea for long holiday weekends! If you’re lucky enough to get one, that is. The Labor Day weekend always has been sort of a random mix of … well, randomness for me. I mean, it’s picnics and cookouts and road trips and fun — unless, of course, you a) have a job that does not recognize long holiday weekends off as the rest of the civilized world does or b) have few social contacts outside of your job so three or four days away from the office sort of stretches into boring nothingness and you promise yourself again that you’re going to get out more. Really, you are. Also, the Labor Day weekend signals the end of summer and the arrival of college football — although it’s still 92 in the shade and you’re going to get sunburned sitting at the stadium all afternoon. So in honor of all this randomninity, here are some random things that have happened to me this week. 

1) I was eating lunch with several folks from my lapsed book club — now we just get together and eat and talk and drink — and the conversation turned to books we’d each read and would recommend. Everybody whipped out — or tried to, anyway — their list-making-tools of choice. Top prize goes to my friend who uses both her iPad and her iPhone to keep up with the books she’d read, the books she wanted to read and the books she’d share with others. The rest of us were impressed. And now here’s where the quality of our list-making as a whole goes down rather a lot, because coming in second was me, with my black Papermate Pilot pen — I buy them by the dozens — and my pocket-sized notebook I carry with me always and also buy in bulk. Everyone was complimentary that I not only had these things at the ready but that I could actually find them in my purse/survival bag for potential shipwreck on a deserted Pacific island. Next came my friend who did have a pen but was jotting down books on a the back of a Wal-Mart receipt and then my friend who fished an old envelope out of her purse but had nothing to write with. And, finally, there was the one of us who simply shook her head, ordered more wine and said, “Somebody e-mail all this to me.” I want to be her.

2) Turns out I’d worn unmatching earrings all day on Wednesday. Wore them to the office and to lunch and everything. Talked to dozens of people during the day. Nobody said a word. “I thought that was, like, your fashion statement,” a friend said. Nope — only a statement that I obviously need more coffee before I try to get dressed in the morning.

3) I was hanging out with 2 1/2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable and he said what I heard as “want animal bacon.” I naturally thought he was a genius baby for recognizing the difference between animal bacon and vegetarian bacon, but then I realized that we probably weren’t talking about “bacon” at all because he kept saying it while gazing longingly at the TV. Translation from his mom (my older daughter): “Want ‘Elmo’s Blanket’,” a DVD about Elmo journeying to Grouchland to retrieve his blanket. No bacon involved at all.