This wasn’t my first rodeo. Black Friday is an American Tradition. An unnecessary evil to some and a beautiful monster to others.
My eyes felt heavy as the morning began to slowly roll in. Midnight to eight in the morning was the worst time If the shift. Things ran slowly as the best and worst shoppers slept soundly in their beds. I stood behind my counter using the glass cases to support my heavy body. I had to be mindful of the cardboard covering a large crack in one of my counters. A mishap from the week before. Apparently it couldn’t be fixed before Black Friday. My body ached wishing it could sprawl out. It craved the sleep it had been robbed of. I tried to pace. I even jogged around the store during those slow hours. Keeping a watchful eye on cosmetics at all times. No one came. It was silent. Only a few lonely stragglers went about our departments.
I dealt with only one difficult customer around nine in the morning. She was older, and wanted to do separate transactions with certain coupons. Not a problem. We do that frequently. She wanted to pay with a check for each. That isn’t a problem either, but it can be a hassle. We have to scan a drivers license for each written check. I asked her to leave it out, because it would have to scan her ID for each transaction. She didn’t listen. By the third transaction she started yelling at me and the poor seasonal associate for constantly asking for it. “I gave it to you once and that should be enough!” She yelled. I told her as sweetly as possible “The system doesn’t hold information, only per transaction. This is to protect your checkbook and identity.” She grabbed her wallet and threw it at my face. It missed and fell to the floor. A few customers behind her gasped and swore at her quietly, making an example of her to their children who seems silent and terrified. I picked up her wallet and quietly said “Here, you dropped this.”
I let the other customers shame her as I completed her transaction in silence. I handed her her bag dismissively calling “Next!” to the customers waiting behind her. I kept it from being a big deal. Telling the other customers that this kind of thing happens and you just have to push through. No big deal. But inside, it was a big deal.
The seasonal worker with mr was shocked. It was her first Black Friday, and from the exhausted look on her face it would probably be her last. I sighed feeling worse for her than I did for myself.
I began to realize how long and short a day is for a human. How numbered our moments are. How wasted they feel on nights like this. Black Fridays were the essence of greed, not just for the desire of things, but for the time it steals from those who work them. Consumers do not just take home gifts for family, but rather, they take up the time of those associates, sleep deprived, and giving up their families, their spouses, their very selves. The breaths of our numbered lives wasted on explaining coupons. Wasted on getting verbally and sometimes physically abused by customers. Wasted. For what? Dollar amounts. Mortality traded for dollar amounts.
I know it would probably never happen, but I often wonder if someone could convince ever person in a company to not show up to work on Black Friday, just to prove a point? Just a dream.