Black Friday

Its hour has come round again at last. William Butler Yeats could never have imagined his great beast materializing as a ravenous shopping spree. Or could he?

I have to admit, I never knew the existence, not to mention the meaning, of Black Friday until a very few years ago when a Thanksgiving guest had to leave early because she had to get up at 4am. I asked her why the hell, or words to that effect. It's Black Friday, she said. I told her I hadn't realized she was Catholic, or words to that effect. I mean, I thought I knew the Advent Calendar fairly well, having been raised in all things Christian, but the only Friday I could recall was the oddly named Good one. And that was half a year later. My next thought was that perhaps there was some sort of yearly celebration of a stock market crash? My friend was an accountant. Except that was a Tuesday, and ...

What??! There are people who get up in the middle of the night to go shopping? Never in a million years ...

Granted, I'm not a shopper at the best of times. There are maybe three or four stores in town that I can count on to carry something I either need or might possibly want to wear, and when the occasion arises, I dart into them, find the item, and escape. I find the exhortation to "shop here and save" the oxymoronic ravings of a retail giant, a retail giant who can also be heard to mutter "fie, fi, fo, fum."

Still and all, I'm a sucker for tradition. Sick and sorry as I thought all those folks waiting in line for store doors to open, it had obviously become one of the traditions of their culture and who was I to take it from them. I would do my part by continuing to stay home and eat pie. I feel a similar sense of smug superiority toward those pilgrims to Lourdes, but I wouldn't crush their belief and joy in what they do for all the world.

That's why I have been a little dismayed at the news this year that tradition is being flouted. The great beast had set its alarm early. No more meeting at midnight, no more rendezvous at the dark of the moon. I suppose the shoppers are happy enough - lord knows the Lourdes pilgrims would be just as happy to have Mary pop up all along the way instead of having to wait for their turn at the grotto. But, as any seeker will tell you, the virtue is often more in the journey taken than in its consummation.

So consumers beware. Next thing you know, the last week of November will become Black Week, and anarchy [will be] loosed upon the world.