Zero Dark Thursday

Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Dinner is not a contact sport.

So occasionally proclaims my wife when our hungry kids forcefully jockey for position over serving platters. Sometimes in their gleeful desire to eat as much as they can at the expense of their siblings they fall back to table manners inspired by the World Wide Wrestling Federation. Even when there is plenty to eat.

But Thanksgiving is supposed to be different. It is supposed to be a happy, peaceful, restful time with family and friends and no other purpose but to share loving company and too much food around a dinner table. It is, as its name suggests, supposed to be a day of thankfulness and nothing more.

There are not supposed to be fistfights on Thanksgiving.

Oh sure, Thanksgiving has always been filled with stress, mostly centered on performance anxiety. Cleaning the house. Preparing the table. Timing the turkey. Kissing up to the in-laws. Staying sober. The usual things.

Heck, even the most hardened Thanksgiving veterans can still be haunted by flashbacks of dark dinners past:

What do you mean it is still in the freezer?

How was I supposed to know that paprika sends her into anaphylactic shock?

The dog ate WHAT?

Did you remember to open the flu in the fireplace?

Seriously? Where are you going to find a liquor store open on Thanksgiving?

This is all safe enough. But these days, tragically, if we are not careful, Thanksgiving dinner can end in actual brawls and fisticuffs. One can even be trampled on Thanksgiving.

Of course, this sort of violence really has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. But it has everything to do with Black Friday. And unfortunately, Black Friday now starts on Thursday, just after dinner.

It used to be that the Friday after Thanksgiving was nothing more than opportunity for ambitious, organized gift givers to begin their seasonal Christmas shopping. The day derived its Black association simply as a result of the annoying traffic and heavy street crowds the day always produced.

But this was only annoying to those who were not shopping. To the aggressive bargain hunters the only thing black about Black Friday was the color of their wallets. And to retailers, the only thing black about Black Friday was the color ink it produced on their financial ledgers.

Now Black Friday is an institutional shopping event inextricably linked with Thanksgiving. And to entice ever more shoppers the advertised deals have become increasingly more extravagant and the retail doors are opening earlier and earlier, even luring shoppers to the stores as the Black Friday clock strikes midnight.

And despite the desperate hour, outside throngs of crazed shoppers eagerly fight to get in.

These days, Black Friday is not about saving money. If shoppers really wanted to save money they would forgo the Panasonic 96” ultra wide screen LCD television for something a little smaller and less expensive that would also fit in their house.

No, Black Friday is about the competition. It is about getting something first at the expense of the other guy. It is the thrill of acquisition victory and the agony of empty-handed defeat.

At least that is what I am told by Black Belt veterans who have survived the Friday trenches. Personally, I am too afraid to determine first hand whether this is true.

But regrettably, the bottom line of the new bottom line is that when the stores open for Black Friday business, someone is going to get hurt.

This year several large retailers are opening their doors at 8:00 PM on Thursday. This means that after a pleasant afternoon eating and drinking, we can be compelled to enter into a street brawl outside the locked doors of a Walmart vying to be among the first fifty people to receive a free nightstick and a heavily discounted limited edition PlayStation 5 bundled with Call of Duty: Black Ops Friday.

OK, this might be a harsh and cynical exaggeration of the extended shopping experience, but personally on Thanksgiving I would rather rush to judgment than to rush to a cash register. I see no reason to end the day with PTSD (Post Thanksgiving Stress Disorder).

Besides, why expose myself to potential violence when I can watch football on TV instead?

But this is just me. I don’t like hoards of people and I don’t like lines. And if others want to fight the crowds, well they can knock themselves out.

No, Thanksgiving should not be a contact sport. I see no reason to end a really good dinner with a trip to Melee Mall. On Thanksgiving I will be thankful to become a procrastinating pacifist at home with my family.

Besides, I much prefer to go shopping at the last minute when the really desperate shoppers engage. As sports go, it’s a lot more competitive.