Dodgeball was brutal and merciless, it eventually degenerated into a ruleless free-for-all, it went on under the implicit OK of the supervisory figure ostensibly there to handle such things and it resulted in chaos, injury, grief, sorrow and wedgies. And prior to just a few days ago, I figured it was as close as we humans got to becoming one with our friends in the pure, cold animal kingdom, until, of course, I went shopping on Black Friday.
If you're like me, you spent at least part of your middle school or high school education in a gym class, and if you're like me, you looked forward to this about as much as you would being blasted in the gut with a fire hose full of extremely old cottage cheese, because if you're like me, you were about 75 pounds in high school, had your dad cut your hair and never once in your life anticipated getting your books knocked out of your hands in the hallways (seriously, you would think after three years, some form of primal defense mechanism would evolve, but apparently I'm a walking argument against Darwinism, at least as it pertains to book-knocking, as well as pantsings).
Anyway, if you had this gym class, you probably played dodgeball, which is a game that takes otherwise ordinary, often friendly individuals and turns them into drooling, vicious beasts whose sole goals in life revolve around violence, revenge and bloodthirstyness (spellcheck doesn't like that word, but I'm keeping it). Dodgeball was brutal and merciless, it eventually degenerated into a ruleless free-for-all, it went on under the implicit OK of the supervisory figure ostensibly there to handle such things and it resulted in chaos, injury, grief, sorrow and wedgies. And prior to just a few days ago, I figured it was as close as we humans got to becoming one with our friends in the pure, cold animal kingdom, until, of course, I went shopping on Black Friday.
Black Friday is so named because that sounds sort of like Black Plague Friday, which, along with dodgeball, are two things I would rather experience again in lieu of going to a store on the day after Thanksgiving. I can think of a number of reasons I would rather have a Black Plague Friday instead of the one with the shopping, such as:
1. On Black Plague Friday, people would drive smarter, mostly because they would be motoring around in horses and oxen instead of automobiles, but also because people on Black Friday drive as though everyone else in the planet is engaged in a battle to the death for the last two Pop-Tarts on Earth. Apparently bargains give the illusion of competition, and competition makes people want to run over things with giant SUVs.
2. On Black Plague Friday, people would not get up at absurd hours to drive to a Best Buy, largely because, again, there were very few Best Buys available in the 14th century, except in Venice, but also because it stands to reason that people in the 14th century would not get nearly so wrapped up in the potential procurement of an absurdly large television, what with their having to fight off orcs and evil dwarves and Robin Hood and all.
3. On Black Plague Friday, people in Customer Service would look less like they are dreaming up ways to kill themselves with their belts. (I am not sure where there would be customer service in 14th-century Asia, but let's go with "down at the port.")
Now don't get me wrong -- I can't claim to have done the craziest of the crazy Black Friday stuff: I didn't do the midnight sales, didn't queue up at the electronics store at 3 a.m. so as to land a DVD player for nine bucks. When midnight on America's Shopping Day rolled around, I was where I always am: face down on the living room rug with a bottle of Wild Turkey rolling around next to my right hand.
But I did venture out later on, because I am, in the modern shopping lingo, an unconscionable idiot, and although I didn't get the “Halo 3” edition of the Xbox 360 that, according the posters screaming at me all day long, is an item without which your friends will abandon you in minutes, I did learn several important things about human nature: 1. Human nature is terrifying. 2. Old women will literally bump their cart into you twice if you are trying to get around them in the toy aisle. 3. Apparently there is a game in which you and a few friends can play fake instruments and pretend like you're in a real rock band, which is pretty much what's going on with Nickelback these days, and 4. You know that weird relative you have who shows up at Christmas with handmade gifts and self-knitted scarves and presents they carved out of the bark on the trees in the back yard? I am now that guy. Next year, everyone on my list is getting like necklaces made out of twigs and lawn clippings that I whittle myself. A couple of years of that, I might even get good enough to whittle an Xbox.
Jeff Vrabel is a freelance writer who spent a good bit of time reading the Wikipedia entry on "black plague" during the writing of this; it sounds gross. He can be reached at www.jeffvrabel.com.