Thanksgiving has always impressed me. Growing up in Mumbai, I’m used to religious holidays; I was particularly egalitarian as a child because some Christian or Muslim or Parsi celebration meant that I could stay home from school. The other kind of holiday was the national kind, mandated by the government so we can remember Mahatma Gandhi or the Republic day or something like that. But those holidays weren’t really celebratory.
That’s what makes Thanksgiving interesting. The idea that people of many religions adopt a standardized turkey-based (and other trimmings) meal with beer and football games is incredible. Irreligious ritualistic celebration is refreshing. It marks a level of maturity that is indicative of an evolved people.
Then comes Black Friday.
So there I am, outside BestBuy with a buddy. Doors are supposed to open at 5 am, so we have five hours to kill. Nothing hurts the Indian sentiment more than paying retail for something that just went on sale, and what with it almost being winter break (when many of us go home acting as couriers for electronic devices for our relatives in India), there are many desis in the queue. It is an electronic store, on perhaps the biggest discount day of the American year, so the line is disproportionately Asian.
We suddenly hear a stream of Gujarati from the group ahead of us. They are whispering loudly about the laptop they want, and going into specifics, logistics and schematics. I think I see a floor plan in their hand, and a bespectacled guy is handing out strict instructions to his friend and girl-friend. I get a sinking feeling that they’ve actually made at least one reconnaissance trip to BestBuy just to get the upper hand on the rest of us who were playing it by ear. They are stealing naps in turns. There is some science to this whole black friday shopping thing, and they are on to it.
I have never fully appreciated the horror of varicose veins until tonight. Alternating between standing and sitting cross-legged on the cold parking-lot floor is not my idea of fun. I think someone is smoking some reefer which is pissing off the NYPD. I didn’t inhale.
The cops are keeping a watch for unruly behavior. Apparently there have been stampedes in such situations, and occasionally a couple of casualties. But hey, as long as we can get 25% off on that air purifier! Of course, anyone who has been a regular on a Mumbai local train will find the most beastly black friday queue a breeze.
Ah…we finally get in, and reach the place where they keep the laptops, wait…what? Only those with the ticket can buy discounted laptops. And the ticket was a piece of paper handed out to the first twenty people in the line, which means we were never in the running for it anyway. There’s a little kid running around (not a day over twelve), selling tickets for twenty bucks. Wow…capitalism is so organic to us.
My friend’s already got the latest unlocked blackberry along with an external hard drive and a sandwich toaster under his arm, and a camera and some other stuff now under my arm. I’m just buying an external hard drive, but it’s nice and sleek. Products sold by Apple and Bose are price-controlled, so no store can undersell them even if they want! So the Bose in-ear headphones I wanted were jeering at me from a corner in all their retail arrogance.
Pitch black is turning into twilight as the day is breaking, I buy a mixed chicken-lamb with rice from a roadside vendor. You gotta love NYC.