We see the headlines every year, the herky-jerky video on the twenty-four-hour news: The absurd, before-dawn throng busting through the Walmart doors, demonic eyes narrowed, headed for the electronics. Strangers literally knocking one another to the floor, some with their hands wrapped around a high-def TV . . . or around someone’s neck. Stranglers in the night—fighting over a 75 percent-off Wii or laptop. The trampling. The swearing. The selfishness. I’ve even heard of bargainers getting shot.
People have died.
Two days before Thanksgiving, with the eating season just ahead, I decided I needed some new sweatpants for expansion purposes, so I headed to “Dick’s Sporting Goods.” A lovely older salesperson (“Guadalupe”) remarked on my nice selection while unlocking the dressing room for me. She then added that I should wait until Thanksgiving and/or the day after for the Black Friday sale. My items would be slashed by 50 percent.
I shook my head and said, “I won’t be able to come on Thanksgiving, and if I wait until Friday, these might be gone,” motioning to the four pairs of sweats draped over my arm. What I wanted to say was, “Are you crazy? I hate shopping on a good day! I wouldn’t be caught dead trampled at a Black Friday sale!”
Saying nothing, Guadalupe carefully lifted the edge of the current 25 percent-off sale sign on top of the clothes rack, revealing the 50 percent-off, Black Friday sale sign. Visual reinforcement. Now I understood: Guadalupe was a flat-out tease.
She lifted her eyebrows as if to say, You see what I see?
“Okay, what if I buy them today,” I complied, “and then return them on Friday to get the sale price?”
Her eyes shifted. “I don’t know. I don’t think they will let you. But let me go check.” She made a beeline to the front desk.
I could see Guadalupe’s funeral-like face as she walked back to me. From several yards away, she began shaking her head and mouthed, “No, they won’t let you.”
“I think I’m just going to buy them today, Guadalupe.”
Guadalupe was not finished. “What if we hide them?” She made a space behind some random sportswear. “We put them here and you come back early Friday and get them. I’ll be here. I’ll be here on Thanksgiving Day too, and will keep watching them.”
Guadalupe was working all the angles for me, to the point of offering to babysit my hidden sweats. Surely some rules were being broken here. But her commitment to and care for a stranger like me for no other reason than to help? Almost made me cry.
I admitted to Guadalupe that I had been having a really bad day, and that her kindness changed everything. She looked at me like De nada. Don’t sweat it.
Making up my mind about the clothes, I announced, “See you at 6 am, Guad!” If I were a proficient winker, I would have winked. I settled instead for a knowing smile of friendship, acknowledging our upcoming Black Friday rendezvous.
Names and places have been changed to protect the kind.