Friday, November 25, 2011

Tis' the Season

David Burnett often makes me laugh. Not often enough lately, but today he had me in stitches. If you reuse this line you must credit him. We were talking about the number of strangely self-important people and unimportant things are on Facebook and he said: “It’s so random – hell, that I have FARTS on Facebook.” Now that is bathroom boy humor, but it made me belly laugh for ten minutes. Maybe I had too much to drink yesterday.

Tis it the season to be jolly? When we were kids, me, my cousin Stevie, Andy Hurwitz, David Levine, and Steven Fraum had to stand in the back of the room when the class sang Christmas Carols. Instead of the act being considerate of the fact they we were Jewish, it made us feel like we had the plague. My cousin Stevie would have none of it, and he ran around the classroom singing loud and intentionally off key. Finally, as was often the case, one of the teachers would grab him by the shirt collar and hang him from a coat hook in the front of the class. This is not a whine about my being discriminated against during the happiest season of the year. Quite the contrary. While we did not celebrate Christmas in my house, I always spent Christmas Eve and part of the next morning at my friend Pam’s. We decorated the tree, sang songs (often a Hannukah ditty), ate a great meal and opened gifts. So, despite bad judgment on the Boonton school system, it was easy to get in the spirit and love the holiday.

As if good feelings weren’t enough, the Economy proudly presents Black Friday. When did this start? I don’t remember it when we were kids, young adults or even grown-ups (which clearly hasn’t happened yet.) As far as I can tell someone on Wikepedia said “The term Black Friday itself was originally used to describe something else entirely — the Sept. 24, 1864, stock-market panic set off by plunging gold prices.” Newspapers in Philadelphia reappropriated the phrase in the late 1960s, using it to describe the rush of crowds at stores. The justification came later, tied to accounting balance sheets where black ink would represent a profit. Many see Black Friday as the day retailers go into the black or show a profit for the first time in a given year. The term stuck and spread, and by the 1990s Black Friday became an unofficial retail holiday nationwide. Since 2002, Black Friday has been the season's biggest shopping day each year except 2004…. when Bush was President—now there’s a happy memory.

Anyway, people now line up days in advance at retail outlets for special discounts. I do my research (I am a genetically perfect professional shopper – all my aunts were as well.) The truth is that, if there are big discounts, there are usually only 3 of whatever product the store is using to bring you in. If you happen to be fifth on line you are just out of luck. This has made people angry in the past. But rather then staying home, they now go out prepared to do battle. This morning, a woman at an LA Wal*Mart (accompanied by two children), was armed with pepper spray, which she used liberally on the crowd in front and in back of her as she grabbed an Xbox. (Note: apparently according to Fox News, she was just spraying a ‘vegetable.’) Rather than calling this a hostile act, most of the media called it ‘aggressive shopping.’ No it wasn’t shopping at all. It was some lunatic, that wanted one of the three Xboxes on sale, so without any regard for the spirit of the season, or true purpose of the holiday, she opted for terror instead of love, kindness and giving.

What does that say about who we are as a nation. We know what it says about the economy – people are so desperate to get a break they will resort to all manner of behavior to get it. But what kind of people have we become? We’re surely not nice, or civil, or well mannered anymore. We are reduced to feeling entitled to take what we want by any means. David says, it was just one incident. But I’ll bet if you asked people who went shopping today, they will tell you that it was neither a pleasant or jolly experience. The gift of giving be damned – let’s take what we can for the least amount of money and tell our kids that the gifts we acquired were purchased with love in our hearts – and pepper spray in our back pocket. We’re just sayin….Iris

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