At four in the morning I was sound asleep. This in and of itself is nothing significant. But today is Black Friday, and nine years ago that statement wouldn't have been true. Nine years ago I was working retail at a major electronics chain... and I was very much awake.
People who have never worked retail just honestly don't understand the sheer terror that forms in your gut as you look into the seething crowd clawing to get into your doors just prior to opening. I've never lived through a zombie apocalypse, but I imagine that if I were camped out in a store, staring at an incoming zombie horde ready to break through the glass doors... well... it must be the exact same feeling.
This is why when people I've now met later in life tell me that they were planning on going shopping this morning I may inadvertently sneer at them unconsciously. A gut, primal instinct kicks in. At that moment, they have been transformed into not the person I knew, but instead one of them... the horde that seeks to claw and attack until they get the 30% off DVD player they so desperately need. I remember one year where we had a $7 cordless phone on sale, and while getting more products down from up-stock the horde almost pulled me off the ladder trying to get at the phones. I could have been killed or at least seriously injured if I had fallen.
And let me tell you, no one's life is worth a $7 cordless phone.
A year doesn't go by where there aren't reports of violence or fights... or in the case last year deaths that result from the stampeding, psychotic mob that decides it's a good idea to gang rush retail establishments to buy useless junk the day after we've all just celebrated how much we already have. I don't care that it's your day off, or that it's the actual first day of Christmas season. None of that matters to me.
What matters to me is that these people are insane, dangerous, and occasionally monsters.
Maybe I shouldn't be so judgmental. I know people who go out because they're on a budget and want to give their kids the best Christmas they can. That is, actually, understandable. But people like that only make up a small percentage of the horde. The rest... the rest are just looking for the deal. It's the hunting instinct gone wrong, and it brings out aggression, anger, and overall the darker parts of our humanity...
...and if you've never been a retail worker, being the last line to hold up against that horde... well, then you just don't understand.
Yeah, I remember working at a certain general retail establishment in the toy department on Black Friday. While restocking shelves I found myself huddling for cover near the now-stocked shelf, hoping no one would run over me or into me. The most curious thing was coming back from my 15 minute break and noting most of the store was moderately populated, but the toy and electronics departments looked uncannily like a swarm of angry bees from a distance.