My teeth chatter and bones rattle beneath my big wool coat. I didn't layer nearly enough to wait outside this Target for what feels like an hour. Really it has probably only been about thirty minutes. Time truly freezes when you're frozen.

I am packed in against the entrance like a last minute toiletry stuffed inside a suitcase, bursting at the seams. At this point, I don't even remember what I came here for; do I even have a plan? The bundled-up ladies next to me equipped with Venti Starbucks lattes seem to have a whole itinerary. I envy their foresight, especially the latte part.

"What do you get the man who has everything?" I hear one of the ladies ask rhetorically.

"A bigger TV," the other shrugs. I laugh along with them as if I am somehow in on the joke. We have all been standing here so long together, bonded by the experience of torturing ourselves for the chance at a good deal.

I glance down at my phone for the time. The doors should be opening any second. My mind flashes back to images of news broadcasts detailing the trampling deaths of Black Friday shoppers and store greeters. The fear of becoming the next casualty sets in.

Suddenly there is a quiet amongst the crowd. Everyone is positioning themselves with the seriousness of runners at the starting line of a marathon. A thin teenage boy in red appears through the glass, jangling keys. He unlocks the door and the floodgates are officially open.

Shoppers spill into the store like a plague of locusts. I am not trampled, but squeezed between other sweaty bodies until I am finally inside. Everyone is swarming frantically, but I stand there dazed and overwhelmed. What am I even here for again? A gift for Will.

Taking the latte ladies' indirect advice, I head to Electronics. Will definitely already has not one, but two TVs, and they seem to be just fine. But maybe the one lady was right, maybe he could use a bigger TV.

On the shelf in front of me is one TV, it seems to be the last one, unless they have more in the back. Afraid to hesitate much longer, I pull it down from the shelf and nearly fall over from the weight. I didn't even bring a shopping cart with me to put this in. Poor planning yet again.

I stand there with the TV next to me in the floor of the aisle, looking around for someone in a red shirt who could maybe help me move it. I turn back to see one of the latte ladies lifting the TV into her already brimming shopping cart.

"Hey, I was going to buy that," I protest, with very little fight.

"Me too, baby doll," she says in a sickeningly sweet "bless-your-heart" tone.

She makes an aggressive u-turn with her shopping cart and speeds off, probably on a mission to take the last KitchenAid mixer from the appliance section. I am left standing there in Electronics, stunned like a kid who just dropped her ice cream, still without a gift for Will.

I wander the rest of the store looking up and down each aisle for ideas. At this point a lot of the shelves are missing product, so there isn't much left to choose from. They are out of his size in the flannel shirt he would like, no more W's in the monogrammed coffee mugs, they don't even have his favorite candy in stock.

Feeling the pressure to make this painfully disappointing experience worthwhile, I grab some on-sale kitty litter and cat food and checkout. On the way out I pass the latte ladies waiting in line at the in-store Starbucks for another round. I hope their husbands like their newer, bigger TVs.

Back in my car as I wait for the heat to warm up, I feel the chill of not just the air, but the emptiness left behind from my attempt at participating in this whole Black Friday charade. As I mourn my time wasted, I realize that is really the only negative. Will doesn't want or need a TV, or any of these big ticket "doorbuster" items the ads manipulate us into thinking we need.

Will isn't that kind of guy anyway. He isn't the guy who has everything, nor does he want to be. He has everything he needs, and doesn't want much more than a new record for his collection, or tickets to a soccer game. He loves whales, music, and traveling to new places.

It doesn't cost much more than time to think outside the brick and mortar box. Sure, lots of people do want a new TV. But what is better than opening a gift to find something that really is in essence, you?

It is human nature to want to feel "seen." What better gift can one give than that very feeling? We all deserve a little extra thought and effort from time to time, especially those we love. Especially Will.

December 13, 2019 02:49

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