To the point week of 12-2-10

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I AM NOT A FAN OF “Black Friday” in any sense of the term. The thought of getting up at 2 a.m. and traveling in the cold, dark early morning to stand in line to save some money on some Christmas presents doesn’t attract me at all. There may be deals, but I’ll pay a little more and get some sleep and not have to fight the traffic and shoppers any day.

Ah, the shoppers.

Now my knowledge of “Black Friday” shopping is severely limited, but I have had one personal experience, but I’ll get to that later.

I do recall several years ago when my father volunteered to go to a megamart early on the Friday following Thanksgiving to buy some handheld computer games for his grandchildren.

I remember him telling of his trek once he got back home, noting that because the store was open 24 hours a day, there was no time for the store to “close” and then reopen for the holiday sales.

The solution? The sale items were wrapped in brown butcher paper, taped tightly shut so that no one could see what items were at which location in the store. Rumors swirled about what was where, so he made his way over to the electronics area and waited for the sale to begin.

Now my dad is a big fella, but when the sale started and shoppers started ripping the paper off and tossing items here and there, he knew that he was truly in the middle of a free-for-all.

He did manage to get what he went after, but my brothers and I haven’t found a reason to ask him to go shopping for us – or his grandchildren – on “Black Friday” since then.

I also remember a time when Howard Wade, then the pastor of Switzerland Baptist Church, volunteered to go to a megamart the day after Thanksgiving and purchase a computer for the church that was on sale. He made it back in one piece (mostly), but probably still has nightmares about trying to get that computer out of the store.

This year, “Black Friday” had a bit of a “White Christmas” to it, and some areas were snow-covered and a little slick in spots. That didn’t seem to slow down shoppers, however, as news reports declared record sales.

“Black Friday” this year also wasn’t limited to a single day.

If you watched the flyers in newspapers and commercials on television, you quickly learned that many retailers weren’t waiting until the early morning hours of Friday to start their sales. Instead, many began special sales a couple of days prior to “Black Friday”, with some even holding special sales on Thanksgiving Day.

I guess it was “Beat the Rush so that you can beat the rush”, or something like that.

My wife’s family gets together in Louisville for Thanksgiving, and although I return to Switzerland County on Thursday night, dozens of my wife’s family members stay the night to spend more time together. This year, some of the grandchildren headed out to do some shopping at the stroke of Midnight.

Standing in the cold as the snow blew around them, about an hour into their quest they were told that they were actually standing at the wrong door, which led them to more standing and more cold.

Merry Christmas.

So I again missed “Black Friday” – although I did get a text message from a friend whom shall remain nameless (Her initials are ‘Sandee Hewitt’) at 6 a.m. on “Black Friday” telling me that she had found a deal on an item that we had discussed earlier in the week. By the time my eyes focused to read the text, I saw that she was going to go ahead and purchase the item, which was a good thing, because some time had passed between the text and my response.

With “Black Friday” behind me, I began to think about the more casual approach to Christmas shopping that I choose to enjoy – but then a new “shopping demon” came into my life.

Everyone, meet “Cyber Monday”.

If you haven’t heard of “Cyber Monday”, it is a day that retailers have created to focus shoppers on making their purchases online rather than actually going to the store. If you checked your emails over the weekend, then you probably got all sorts of electronic ads enticing you to spend Monday shopping online, complete with specials available only over the Internet.

I sure am glad the economy is in the toilet, otherwise just think about how much money we would spend!

Anyway, as much as I hate shopping, I do have to confess that I have one “Black Monday” story. It’s funny because, at the time, it never occurred to me that it was “Black Friday”.

It was the day after Thanksgiving, 1986, and I was heading to Cincinnati to Good Samaritan Hospital because my wife had just given birth to our first child, Abigail.

On the way over, I decided I would drop in the Florence Mall and buy a Teddy Bear for my little girl, so I wandered into a retailer only to find a huge crowd of people. Somehow I found a pink Teddy Bear, and then began my search for a cash register.

There was one open (no kidding – just one), and the checkout line stretched completely through the store. Well, there I stood, pink Teddy Bear in hand, waiting in this eternal line when I caught the man in front of me glancing at my bear, then to me, then back to my bear.

“Cute bear,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied. “My wife just had a baby girl, our first, and I am getting this Teddy Bear to take to the hospital.”

“Your wife just had a baby?” He asked.

Then something really strange happened. I refer to it as my “Christmas Miracle”.

This guy turns around, stares down this long line of customers, and yells at the top of his lungs.

“Hey! This guy back here just had a baby and he’s trying to buy this Teddy Bear to take to his new little girl in the hospital! Move out of the way and let him through!”

“Let me through?” I thought. “Right, like that’s going to happen.”

Guess what?

It did.

All of those people split down the middle and moved to the side and let me walk right to the front of the line. As I passed they started clapping, which I thought was cool that they were clapping for me when my wife did the hard work.

I walked right up to the counter, told the cashier that I didn’t want to save an additional 10-percent by opening a charge account (don’t you just hate that? Not to mention that I would have turned my admirers into an angry mob by stopping to fill out the paperwork), and bought my pink Teddy Bear and walked right out the door.

It was my Christmas Miracle, and every time I get frustrated with other shoppers and customers during the holiday season, I stop and think about a very large group of very nice people who decided that they could wait an extra couple of minutes so that I could get back to see our baby.

Abby turned 24 this week, but that’s a story that I will keep with me forever.

So, if you’re out shopping and you see some guy with a pink Teddy Bear, you might just ask about the situation, because you might have the chance to be his Christmas Miracle.

Even without “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”.