My first Black Friday, in Canada.

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No, I did not get into a Walmart tug of war or hair pulling fight over slippers during the Black Friday pandemonium today, like you think I would have. I realize that I am rather smitten about cozy clothes. Especially at this time of year. It does get chilly up here in Canada, eh? However, that is no excuse for all out consumer insanity. I quietly browsed the sales racks and discount bins, noting …the crazed look on peoples’ faces as they hunt down meaningless bargains for stuff they don’t need.  I told myself, “Nothing here could make you act like them. Besides, no sale was that good.” Shaking my head, I walked out without purchasing a thing.

You would have been proud of me. You might have said: “Way to stick it to the retail man Jess! Don’t let this superficial corporate money grab get the best of you!” You would say that… But then a funny thing happened.

I curiously and almost automatically drove my car over to Old Navy. “What could be the harm? Maybe some good sales!” As I scoured high and low for a parking spot, I wondered if it was busy. I felt a little tinge of excitement. Nothing could have prepared me for what lay in store. I mean nothing.

Store buzzing. People everywhere. Employees with headsets. Unattended children. The frantic moms. toddler puffer vests. Hiking boots for next to nothing. Teenagers stocking up on tank tops. Eternity scarves. Every imaginable colour. Young and old hunting for the best deals. The scene was so overwhelming and the madness hit me like a wave. “I am out of here!” I said as the door closed behind me. “I better go home.”

Something magical happened. A display of wonder and awe.  All of heaven shone down and beamed its marvellous glory. Way back on the far corner of the store. There they hung. Beautifully. Delicately. Proudly declaring their 75% off fleece pullover hoodie glory.

I stood there frozen in the midst of bargain fever. It had been much too long since I felt the caress of brand new fleece on my cheeks. All of my hoodies had seen better days. My desire turned savage and I felt floods of panic and fear washed over me.  “Is it too late? I had to have one, two, maybe? How many are left in my size?” GO, JESS, GO!

It was less like the power walk I had intended and more like an awkward prancercise but, nevertheless, I blazed through the crowd. I passed the line up that wrapped around the dressing rooms and as I did so I clipped an old man’s walker with my purse because the gravitational vortex of speed that I was at made my bag trail paces behind. I stepped on a little girls foot as I almost knocked over a T-shirt stand. Nothing and no one would get in my way. Seniors nor small children. I was on a mission.

When I arrived at what felt like my destiny, all of time stood still. Before me, only possibilities: brisk winter walks through the neighborhood, reading a book by the fire, Sunday afternoon drives with laughter and puppies all wrapped in the soft enchantment of fleece. When I came to, I was frothing at the mouth. “Pull yourself together Jess! Lets get this thing and get out of here!”. I searched for my size and when I went to pull the splendour of my new comfortable life off the hanger, I felt a sharp tug. No freaking way.

She was a haggard and mean looking woman with a scowl on her face and a bad attitude.  She had two screaming kids with her who looked tired and annoyed. Behind her was a very large shopping cart full of clothes. It looked as though she had been at it all day. There was no way that I was going to let her have the only size small white pullover fleece hoodie in the whole store with the haul she had in her basket. Oh hell no!  I did not like her, the look on her face, or the fact that her hands were on my sweater. She was the only thing standing between me and the pursuit of my happiness, so I pulled back.

I pulled gently enough not to stretch the precious fabric but strong enough to send a message. That I meant business. “This pullover is mine and you need to just walk away. Take that cart, those hungry kids and that mountain of sweat pants and proceed to the check out before I check you out.” I thought to myself. She looked at me and said “I saw this first.” Really? Are we playing that game?

It’s one of the first widely celebrated “Black Fridays” in Canada and I am a responsible grown woman but I let out an embarrassing and yet necessary “Actually, no you didn’t, I saw it first!” That’s it. The defining moment where I realize I have committed and this is war. We both stood steadfast in our determination, unwavering and unashamed. “It’s thanksgiving!” She said.

What? Her words were sobering.  Does this lady know where she is? This is not America. This is not our holiday. What is this Black Friday hype? Where am I? Is this a dream? As I woke from the fog of consumerism I replied  “Listen…”  and took a deep breath “…you’re totally right.” And in true Canadian spirit finished with “I’m so sorry. It’s all yours.”

I left the store empty handed but not empty hearted. The fading visions of cozy afternoons frolicking like a polar bear midst the wilderness of British Columbia in a crisp white pullover vanished. My dreams were crushed but my heart was proud. Of myself, of this country. And even though it is our American neighbours (and one really dumb Canadian) celebrating thanksgiving, I am still grateful. Grateful for the fact that yes we have big corporate American box stores in our city, but no we do not need to share in the thoughtless vigour of “bigger is better”.

In Canada, we value being humble and even if we really are not, we value saying sorry. Regardless of my possessions, be it hoodies who have been with me for eons and through many expeditions throughout this great land, I am happy with what I have and am thankful that I am Canadian.

Happy-not-our-thanksgiving-because-ours-was-in-October-black-friday-day everyone!

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