Stop the madness

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 1, 2003

What’s more dangerous – a saber-tooth tiger that hasn’t eaten in a week; serving as the lone military guard at the Baghdad Hilton; or a penniless crack cocaine addict looking for one more hit?

All of the above do indeed fall into the category of dangerous, but each pales in comparison when it comes to a horde of shoppers hungry for a price-slashing, rock-bottom price sale item on what has to be the most bizarre shopping day of the year – the day after Thanksgiving.

Who is in charge of this particular day being proclaimed as the official start to the Christmas holiday shopping season? With the majority of major retail outlets putting out their Christmas &uot;stuff&uot; prior to Halloween, why wait ’til the day after Thanksgiving to fire-up the shopping season?

It just goes to show ‘ya that way too many people enjoy a non-traditional two-day holiday at Thanksgiving. Either that or a whole bunch of people played hooky from work on Friday of last week.

Judging from what I personally witnessed during the early morning hours on Friday and what I later saw on TV, the peace and love normally found during the yuletide season is thrown out the window when there are cheap electronics up for grabs. Put a DVD player on sale for $30 or offer a 19-inch, full living color &uot;boob tube&uot; for less than a hundred bucks and watch normal folks go completely off the deep end.

Such was the case before sun-up on Friday morning at the Ahoskie Wal-Mart. I arrived at 5:30 p.m. – not to shop, mind you (I normally wait until the weekend before Christmas) – to get myself in position to snap a few photos for this publication when the doors swung open at 6 a.m. I learned more in just 30 minutes about the mentality of avid, robust, hardcore Christmas shoppers than it would have taken me a lifetime to discover.

The two things that stick out in my mind when it comes to horde of bargain shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving are, (1) people have way too much time on their hands when it comes to arriving at a store three hours before it opens, and, (2) people go crazy when they see the word – SALE (better known as the worst four-letter word ever written).

But I learned one other valuable lesson on this particular morning – some people simply do not respect their fellow man.

While chatting with a few of the &uot;diehard&uot; shoppers that had arrived as early as 3 a.m., I noticed the line growing longer and longer – stretching all the way to in front of Belks. Those folks, like the ones directly in front of the main entrance, had risen early in an effort to be among the first to shop for holiday bargains.

Meanwhile, another group of shoppers – these arriving after I had positioned myself at the front door – began to form in the parking lot. Instead of politely taking their respective places at the end of the line, they rather began to inch forward – slowly but surely – towards the main entrance. They reminded me of a flock of vultures circling above and waiting for the precise moment to feast on their prey.

These multi-colored vultures finally made their way to the immediate left of the front door – where there was no line. One young female vulture boldly strolled to the very front of the line – where she was severely scolded by the lady who had told me she had arrived at 3 a.m. The scolding fell on deaf ears as the baby-faced vulture – complete with a look of utter hatred in her eyes – waited to slither in when the doors swung open.

And when those doors did indeed open, the mad rush was on. The vultures crashed the holiday &uot;party&uot; – knocking one Woodland woman to her knees, which required her to make an unexpected visit to the Roanoke-Chowan Hospital Emergency Room.

&uot;The doctor said I was severely bruised on my left side, from my waist to my knee,&uot; said Alice Harrell. &uot;It just wasn’t right for those to crash the line after we had waited and waited for the store to open.&uot;

Harrell said she was taking two &uot;pain pills&uot; every day, but, &uot;it’s not fazing (the pain).&uot;

&uot;I’m 67 year-old,&uot; she noted. &uot;If I’m healthy enough to stand in line for nearly three hours, then so were they.&uot;

Harrell said she didn’t blame Wal-Mart for what happened, but did suggest they could offer some type of security outside the building or, &uot;just let a few shoppers in at the time.&uot;

Either that or cancel this madness known as the Day after Thanksgiving Sale before somebody is killed.