Well, I did it.
Despite my better judgment and against my own advice - I rose Friday morning on a mission. I was going to tackle Black Friday head-on.
Caught up in the pre-Christmas spirit I jumped at the opportunity to take part in the shopping frenzy and walked away bruised, broke and on the verge of tears.
The morning started with a 4 a.m. trip to JCPenney, and it was a good start to an otherwise dreadful shopping experience. Shoppers were brimming with holiday cheer, and willing to share their early morning shopping experience with their local newspaper.
Feeling I might have overreacted, I continued on my mission - that mission was not to find a good deal, but a good story about the holiday madness.
From Bosque River Center I headed down Washington and toward my “neighborhood friendly” Wal-Mart. I was pleased as I realized there was not a horrible traffic issue to deal with when staying home to shop, or write a story about shopping. I recalled the years I lived in Fort Worth and Austin, thank goodness I didn’t have to worry about traffic.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I realized the streets were clear because every resident in Erath County was waiting the unleashing of Wal-Mart’s 5 a.m. specials. I pulled into the last available parking place and prepared to hike five miles to the door.
The horror began as I stepped through the doors. I had never, with the exception of a few rock-n-roll shows, seen so many people in one place. Anxiety flooded every organ and cell in my body.
But still, I had a mission. I was on an assignment, and while I was there I would, for the first time in my 32 years, cash in on at least a few of Wal-Mart’s Black Friday bargains.
My four-year-old daughter is dreaming of her very own Power Wheel. And, for just $88 I could cash in on a perfectly pink Barbie Jeep. No doubt every parent had a similar idea. I didn’t get the Jeep and decided I would wait to start my shopping. No big deal, it would be quick work for a single mom on a tight budget. The sales would continue until Christmas Day.
The other shoppers had another idea in mind. They would stop at nothing to get the best deal on the perfect gift.
Squeezing my way through the crowd, I fell victim to a slew of bargain bullies who managed to get their hands on not one, but three, pretty pink Power Wheels. Not too upset I thought to myself, “Fair is fair, these poor guys have probably been here since 2 a.m. waiting to save.”
Then I was knocked to the floor with a bang as embattled shoppers tore through the standstill crowd. My bag and its contents spilled out between the hundreds of feet below. Thinking quickly, I gathered my belongings. Cell phone, check. Car keys, check. Wallet, check. With all the important stuff accounted for, I picked myself up and searched for the nearest exit.
I made it out alive, lesson learned. Although I was a little bruised, I had every penny I had entered with. Wrong!
When I made it back home I discovered the truth. My mom had dropped $48 into my purse - Santa’s helper was paying for half of the pink Jeep. In the madness and mayhem, I lost the money, never knowing it was there.
Suddenly I felt victimized. No Power Wheels, and then there was the $48 I owed my mom so she could still afford to get her granddaughter something special from Santa.
So, there were a few more lessons learned. Next time I will take my own advice. Sometime it is worth spending a little extra, and never trust your neighbors when there is a sale in progress.
While the experience left me damaged, I still hope all Erath County children have a Merry Christmas. May those children never know that their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were willing to risk life and limb to find that perfect gift.
Amanda Kimble is a staff writer at the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 238.