I stuffed an extra bottle of pepper spray in my coat pocket and patted myself down to make sure I hadnít forgotten to bring my brass knuckles, nunchucks and a blackjack. My fingernails were filed to sharp points, and I wore steel-toed boots and a Kevlar vest.
Was I totally prepared for this mission? Would I make it back in one piece? I considered adding football pads, but they might have caused more problems than they solved in a tight space. I did go with wrist guards and knee braces. I double-checked my pockets and ran through the checklist in my head. Good thing; I almost forgot my shopping list. That would have been a rookie mistake Ė to go Black Friday shopping without a list. On that path lies certain death.
Full of the Black Friday spirit, I headed to the mall. It wouldnít be light yet for four hours, the perfect time to scout the place, to check the perimeter, to plan my parking, to take the high ground before the enemy takes the field.
Too late! The parking lot was full! And no cars were leaving. There were cars in front of me and behind me. None of them could park, and none of them could leave. If I stopped for even half a second, the horns started to blow, followed by insults shouted out open car windows. Each time I thought Iíd found a space, it turned out to be just a very small car. How, I wondered, were they ever going to get a giant wall-size TV in that dinky little thing? Why, oh why, didnít I think to bring a tank? I could have parked it on top of that little tin can.
It took me an hour to find a spot in Overflow Parking Lot No. 3. Then I had to wait for the shuttle bus to get me back to the mall.
By the time I got there, it looked like New Yearís Eve in Times Square. I considered coming back the next week, but I knew Iíd be taking the chance that all the good stuff would be gone. Everyone knows the only time the stores are full of merchandise is the day after Thanksgiving. After that, they are totally empty, stripped to the bare walls. When I thought of the faces of all the disappointed children who would get nothing if I didnít get inside and buy myself a 60-inch TV for 30 percent off and then spend a few bucks on some silly trinkets for the kids on the way out, I nearly started to cry.
Suddenly, I was filled with the true meaning of Christmas shopping. I reached under my coat and felt for my Taser. Iíd blast the grandma pushing the stroller in front of me, and in the ensuing panic Iíd move to the head of the line.
I pressed it into her neck and pulled the trigger. Nothing. I forgot to charge it. It was totally depleted. Iíd forgotten how much I must have used it working down at the collection agency. You wouldnít believe how many people havenít finished paying for the stuff they bought last Black Friday.
Grandma turned around and bit my trigger finger while alternately kicking me in the groin and punching my face. Grandma turned out to be a he, and the stroller was just a prop to gain sympathy.
It wasnít working. The day hadnít gone the way he planned, either. No one seemed to notice our little dustup; they were all on their iPhones trying to find deals on newer and better iPhones or squabbling among themselves for a better spot in line. This was getting out of hand. I didnít see any store security at all.
Then it hit me Ė all I had to do next year was buy a security guardís uniform. I could walk down the line telling people to calm down and keep order, walk right up to the front door as the store opened and enter in front of all the people who had waited all night. After all, isnít that what Christmas is all about?
Jim Mullenís new book, ďNow in Paperback,Ē is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.