Emily Williams column

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 2, 2011

Black Friday initiation brings ‘Humbug’ to mind, real needs in focus

“Humbug” was my Facebook status before holidays began last week.

After posting the famous line I started thinking about the story it came from and about the author, Charles Dickens.

I remember being deeply affected by “A Christmas Carol.”

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I thought about the main character’s exclamation: “Humbug.” It means, “deceptive or false behavior,” or “a trick.”

After researching the author and the word, I decided I would not be involved in any “humbuggery.”
Dickens grew up in 1840s  England where he saw children working in appalling conditions as he toured the Cornish tin mines.

 After researching I found how Dickens could write about such poverty.

“In a fund-raising speech on 5 October 1843 at the Manchester Atheneum (a charitable institution serving the poor), Dickens urged workers and employers to join together to combat ignorance with educational reform, and realized in the days following that the most effective way to reach the broadest segment of the population with his social concerns about poverty and injustice was to write a deeply-felt Christmas narrative…” according to Wikipedia.

This research was done after I had my own encounter with this country’s obsession with material things.

After eating more food than I thought humanly possible Thanksgiving Day, I had the courage to take on the Black Friday crowd.

I was somewhat ignorant about how Black Friday operates. I  had a few coupons cut out in hopes of finding a bargain, such as a red Powerwheels four-wheeler for only $100.

With a search for a toy for my child I revisited my “Christmas Past” when I really believed in magic and elves.

Taking on the Walmart crowd in Hernando, I was laughing as I entered the store. Immediately I felt regret for not bringing my camera into the madhouse I found there.

Some faces I saw were very serious, some worried, some confused and others on a mission.

For some reason I kept walking toward the toy aisle. I felt the overwhelming force of human nature as I got closer to the section with the Powerwheels.

I saw a friend and her mother waiting in line with an Easy Bake oven already in their basket and ready for purchase.

With coupons in hand I saw other veteran “Black Friday” shoppers.

With the sale to begin at 10 p.m., the store started to become very uncomfortable about 9:30 p.m.

I saw the Powerwheels I was looking for and walked toward them. I looked up and saw only three of the red Powerwheels. Those three had hands on them.

“Is that the Powerwheel for only a $100?” I asked one of the girls who was groping the box.

“Yes! And there are only three left!” she responded as her posse stared me down. I saw her eyes turn black and horns grow from her hair.

I held my hands up in “white flag” mode and walked backwards toward some place where I was not surrounded by chaos.

Here in “Christmas Present,” there didn’t seem to be much thoughtfulness on display for fellowman.

A man who had witnessed the encounter grumbled in my ear, “Ha! She has no clue what’s on the other side.”

I walked to the other side of the Powerwheel shelf and saw people who also thought the toy was theirs because they also had their hands on it.

I had no idea what was about to happen when the hour struck 10 p.m.

“The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,” gave Scrooge dire visions of his future if he failed to learn and act upon what he witnessed.

Was I about to see my grave like Scrooge did in the book?

I saw police officers standing with their hands stiffly on their weapons.

“You see those police officers? They are not here for nothing,” one Black Friday veteran told me as she held tight to her box of whatever bargain it held inside.

Quickly my how-do-I-get-out-of-this-place-alive survivor instinct took over. I was no longer the innocent, curious holiday shopper.

I found no one cared about the aisle with the hunting supplies and rifles.

Suddenly I heard a sound. I thought surely I would see bulls running down the shopping aisles.

But I didn’t see bulls. I saw people tearing into paper and boxes like it was the end of the world.

“How much is this one?” I nervously asked as I pointed to one rifle.

Under a huge pileup I saw one lady’s arm reach for a friend.

“I got it!” she screamed.

I saw she had acquired a bike for only $30, along with a scratched arm.

“Ma’am, you are bleeding,” I quietly told her as I looked up from the rifle case.

After the madness and only two fights later, I felt the need to laugh and thank God I was alive!

I walked away from the hunting supplies and tents and decided to embrace this thing Americans call “Black Friday.”

I helped Walmart employees pick up shattered pallets. I started helping disoriented shoppers with prices (because I had the Toyland gift catalog memorized).

As I looked at the coupon book I chuckled at the logo, “Save money. Live better.”

If this is “living” then I need a new path, I thought to myself.

Two soft drinks and a bag of chips later I finally found my way to the door.

I realized there was not one thing in that store that I or any of my loved ones needed.

For Christmas all we needed was each other. Not towels on sale for $1.99 or vacuums for $29.

The next day I read headlines about people in other places being pepper sprayed and tased over discount items. It made me think hard and deep.

Christmas is not about gifts. It’s about one thing, the birth of Jesus Christ.

How many Black Friday shoppers had forgotten that, I wondered.