Let’s not mince words about this.
Gift shopping on the day after Thanksgiving can be brutal, and the main goal has to be survival.
The crowds, the lines, the nonstop noise — all are enough to turn an usually calm and sensible person into the Grinch. And if you’re shopping on Black Friday because you HAVE to — as in, someone is dragging you against your will — the survival instinct is even stronger.
To help you get through relatively unscathed, here are some tips from me to you on how to survive a Black Friday outing.
You can’t go into battle unarmed. Pack a bag with these essential shopping survival items:
• A smart phone or other electronic gadget, fully charged and ready to call for help or browse an online catalog. Because on Black Friday, it might be faster to look for info online than it is to find a store clerk who can give you the time of day.
• Snacks. If you can, pack things that show other shoppers you put more thought into this exposition than they did. Maybe a nice little apportioned Rubbermaid container of food, with one space for cheese, one for crackers, etc. If you can convince fellow shoppers you are really serious about this stuff, they might be less likely to mess with you or cut in line.
• Something to read. I suggest the Portland Press Herald. Again, others will know you are taking this seriously and that you are very, very smart.
• Plenty of water or sports drinks. Shopping all day is harder work than most of us are used to, so you will need to re-hydrate regularly.
MAP OUT A PLAN
If you think about it, it’s not that there’s one thing about Black Friday shopping by itself that will drive you nuts. It’s the combination of factors that will strain your brain. The little things will add up to do you in.
You probably can’t do anything about the crowds, but you can avoid one headache — losing your car.
We live in Maine, where we’re used to parking at the curb and taking a couple of steps into a shop. But on Black Friday, the parking lot at the mall turns into some giant used car lot on steroids. Cars as far as the eye can see, cars parked against trees, on grass, blocking entries.
So what you need to do — and don’t laugh, now — is find a parking space and map it. Look for landmarks nearby that won’t leave while you are shopping — a post with G3 on it, a shopping cart corral — and take notes as you walk to the mall. Make note of what you go past, and — this is important — what entrance you use to enter the mall. If you go into an anchor store that has more than one entrance, like Sears or JCPenney, make sure you note that entrance. Because if you enter by the men’s department but leave by the petit juniors section, you might never see your car again.
Making a map to find your car is not only practical, it keeps the mind occupied, which is important. Think about the classic World War II film “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” and how Alec Guinness knew that the key to keeping his British soldiers from breaking down under the pressure of a Japanese POW camp was to keep their minds and bodies occupied.
Well, holiday shopping is no different. Here are some ways to keep the mind and body occupied at all times:
• Play “Celebrity Look-Alikes” in your head. When I see someone I think looks like a celebrity, I announce him or her. (In my head, not out loud. I don’t want to look crazy.) So if I see a man in his 40s with a clean–shaven head and glasses, I’d think to myself, “Ladies and gentlemen, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona is joining us at the mall today.”
Try it before you knock it.
• Scope out the cash registers. This is practical, and keeps you active. If you go into a big store where there isn’t one clear cash–out area, like Sears or JCPenney, scope out all the cash registers before you buy. There is always one hidden behind the men’s hosiery or some other out–of–the–way section. Once you have gathered your items, head straight for that register, and it will probably not be as crowded as the others.
• Try out stuff you don’t need. While most people will be looking for gifts on a list, you can keep yourself loose by trying one of those massage chairs they always have at the mall. Or wrap yourself in one of those blankets with arms — because nobody will notice you among the crowds, and you would never do something like that if you weren’t being forced to be at the mall all day.
• Best yet, if you’re at the Maine Mall, ride the carousel. Just to remind yourself what the holidays are supposed to be about — joy.
If he survives Black Friday, Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791–6454 or at: