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My First Black Friday An Ellicottville Student’s Trek through a Capitalist Wasteland

By Louisa Benatovich, Student Reporter

After two months of pure scholastic stress and turmoil, the Thanksgiving break arrived like an angel from the heavens. I all-too-willingly succumbed to the holiday’s tantalizing call, sentencing myself to days of procrastination and idleness.

Though I had an exam to study for and a mountain of applications to complete, I dedicated myself to something a bit more worthwhile — the pursuit of something new, something different. I wanted this Thanksgiving to be unlike its tired predecessors; I wanted to redefine what the holidays meant to me. I wanted to go Black Friday shopping.

Admirably, in my 17 years of life, I had perennially abstained from the chaos that surrounds the shopping extravaganza.

“Black Friday?” I always asked myself. “Like the Black Plague, the Black Widow Spider?” The colorful adjective never boded well for me. How is “Black Friday” supposed to be a day of commercial glory? Somehow, this year, I managed to change my mindset. I’m not sure whether it was the pained cries of my senior year withering before my eyes or the “bucket-list” mentality that occasionally edges me out of my comfort zone, but I found myself asking off from work that cursed day, Friday the 23rd.

I arrived at the Walden Galleria Mall and immediately wanted to turn back. Opting out of valet service, I circled the never-ending parking ramp, fuming at the oversized SUVs taking up a space-and-a-half.

Finally, after what seemed like a literal eternity, I found a spot and squeezed in. I exited my little 2007 sedan — she took up an appropriate amount of room — descended the stairs and entered the mall.

The smell hit me like a cannonball, a strange combination of giant soft pretzels and unmistakable retail. I hit Five Guys for a power-up and exited 30 minutes later, already sweaty, with Cajun fries and a water.

I glanced around the mall. It was like a war zone. I saw people sleeping, crying and fighting. I saw mothers turn to pack mules; I saw children turn to screeching animals. I weighed the pros and cons in my mind: wait in line for an hour at a store I like or browse freely in a store I hate.

Neither was appealing. I darted in and out of shops, almost buying quirky socks or strange ornaments, but I could never follow through. I arrived at Macy’s, exhausted, feet pounding. I stood for an absurd amount of time in front of the cheap mall nail salon, almost convincing myself to get a pedicure. I would have given anything not to walk another step.

Macy’s “door-busters” were more like “light knocks,” but I still found a deal or two to satisfy my holiday shopping list. I waited in line, an innocent little girl in a mall full of veteran shoppers. “Black Friday deals ended at 1,” I heard as the man in front of me checked out. It was 4:30. I left the mall, dejected and only three cast iron pans the richer.

And what I experienced wasn’t even the worst of it. I didn’t stand in line at Walmart for 5 hours, pining for $200 iPads. I avoided Best Buy with its crazy shoppers double-fisting flat screened TVs. I didn’t dare look at the Apple store. I’m sure there was barely room to breathe.

Black Friday was a terrifying experience for me, and I don’t think I could ever go back. After that ordeal, I have decided to shop the “normal” way: internet stalking for deals on Cyber Monday, my crazed eyes burning.

Oh, what a wonderful way to begin the holiday season. Good luck, everyone!

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