It’s Thursday morning and I’m prepping for the afternoon Thanksgiving meal to come. It’s the one meal of the year that is pure gluttony married to a feast with a purpose: To be thankful for my blessings and the family that I have. As dysfunctional as it can be at times, I still love them, and as usual, I prepare not only for a giant meal, but ready myself to experience every emotion smashed into a very short time. Every year we gather at one destination, my sister’s house in Laguna Hills. We come from all over to reunite, eat, sleep, and partake of the tradition of all traditions, The Black Friday Sales.
I’m not the shopper of the group; my role, catch up on sleep and to keep the couch soft and warm for afternoon movies. I’m good with that. My wife is the line keeper, the most patient of the bunch (and because is not interested in the sales) is drafted to hold spots in line as the rest of the group plans their strategy for the next bargain. It’s sort of a leap-frog thing, very well orchestrated with the finesse of a highly planned military operation. You’ve got to see it to appreciate it.
This year I have one other laid-back companion in my sleeping brigade, my Nephew Aaron.
The shopping countdown has begun, T-minus nine hours and counting to the 12 AM commencement of Operation Shop-Hop. Over the aroma of foods almost ready for consumption, the troops begin to strategize, “The Disney Store opens at midnight, are we going? Are we getting up at 5 or 6 AM!? The line is already forming at Best Buy, do we go there or not?”
Already lining up at Best Buy? Never have I lined up for days to hit a sale. I’m extremely interested. And enlisting the support of Nephew Aaron, I set out to investigate.
We drive to Best Buy and spy a line of chairs, tents, and bundled people. All look like hearty shoppers and numbering around fifty. Why hearty shoppers? It’s cold, looks like rain is coming, and the store doors don’t even open for over 24 hours.
To the front of the line we quest and are completely rejected by chair one. Chair two nods us off, followed by the support of chairs three and four. Fifth in line takes it to a new level, “I can’t have my photo taken, I’m in the Government.” We appreciate the humor and move on. Didn’t feel right anyway.
Past the chaired shoppers and up to the first set of tents we travel. I’m now even more inquisitive in my desire to be allowed into this boutique culture. At tent one, we meet two well-equipped young gents. Their post looks more like a mountaineer base camp than that of a waiting-for-a-sale encampment.
I’m telling you, these guys have it down, multiple tents, lightweight chairs, sleeping bags, provisions, a power source, and even a television (got to have some luxury). I need to understand Black Friday and they look like they know exactly how things work. Perhaps they will enlighten us, I extend a hand of fellowship.
By the way, there is one item I’ve already found out from the front of the line that is the hot buy. The Reason the encampment started on Tuesday for a store that opens on Friday. You do the math. I do a little in my head and come to this conclusion– there is no way I’m sleeping on the curb, possibly in the rain, for three nights to get a $199 forty-two-inch flat screen.
What I quickly learn, from our camping friends, Twan and Chris, it’s not all about the sale, it’s about the experience and bonding with friends.
“We’ve been doing this for six years. It’s our chance to hang out and catch up.”
Twan and Chris are very gracious, offering Aaron and I chairs in inviting us to stay a while. We join the camp and I realize the eyes that were earlier upon us as strangers, have turned to momentary friends.
Thirty minutes into our exchange, even one of the first to reject us (I think chair three) strolls over to engage in the conversation, there is obviously something peaking his attention. Is it me, or is it Twan, or Chris? I can’t say. But whatever it is, we are now part of something.
Our discussion starts as do most introductions. I speak of the origins of 365, and my family’s interest in Black Friday and we exchange a few general questions; you know, the basic common graces in getting comfortable with each other stuff.
We chat for about thirty minutes and the topics lean towards the future and wisdom for the readers of 365.
Here is where my earlier question is answered. Is it me, or is it Twan or Chris? I can’t say. But whatever it is, we are now part of something.
But I still think it is Chris.
Not two minutes before we are visited by chair three, Chris says to me, “I am a Christian. Just thirty minutes before you guys showed up, I said a prayer asking for a chance to share what I believe.”