my black friday 2023
I went Black Friday shopping yesterday for the first time in a few years, more out of boredom than anything else. It turned out to be a far more subdued affair than I remember; one of the big box stores I visited was quieter than I'd seen even on a typical Saturday. It's not hard to see why: everybody does their shopping online these days, and of the stores I did see, none of them had any good deals. Part of me wants to think this is a good thing: I've read that many sprawling suburban parking lots allocate enough spots for the busiest day of the year (i.e. Black Friday), and now that COVID has all but killed Black Friday as we know it maybe it could spark some change in zoning laws...? And heaven knows we don't need any of that Black Friday violence with all that's going on in the world.
I'm also not naïve enough to believe that people shopping online is entirely a good thing either. I know online orders still have to be packaged and shipped and the increased carbon footprint there is significant. But having everything shipped to your door has to be more efficient than the free-for-all Black Friday used to be, right? I wonder how that environmental calculus works out.
Black Friday going entirely online has presented some problems for me. As I get older the only thing I really want is nice clothes, but most I can't buy online because I have no idea how they'll fit on me. It doesn't help that many of the brands I want to try don't have physical locations near me (or even items at aggregator stores), so I have to decide whether I want to take on the risk of returning an entire order and eating the shipping cost. This year, I decided it wasn't worth it (the memory of last time I did that still stings), but maybe I'll be braver in the years that come.
The only thing I actually needed yesterday was a new pair of futsal boots. My current pair has seen better days and looks like a hungry canine's favorite chew toy, so I visited a local big-box sports store to see if I could try on a pair that was on sale online. Not only did they not have the shoe in stock, but they also told me they wouldn't honor the online sale price if I did manage to find it. A lot gets made of the death of brick-and-mortar stores, but I can't say I'll be too sad to see (most of) them go. In their current state most have somehow managed to not offer you any of the conveniences of e-commerce nor any of the traditional benefits of in-person interaction.
I found myself at the mall on Black Friday afternoon. It was surprisingly more lively than I expected, but the signs of decay were hard to miss. I spotted a bunch of new retailers with names I'd never heard of selling odd products and passed by many shuttered storefronts of once superpopular chains that now sat vacant or had been taken over by something completely out of place like a dinosaur safari or—get this—a realtor's office in the dim corner lot where Abercrombie and Fitch used to live.
I don't love malls and never really spent much time in them, but as I try to figure out what to do tonight with two visiting friends, I do lament that a good third space is harder than ever to find, at least from my suburban vantage point. Most of us are trying to eat meals at home with family for health/social/financial reasons, and if you rule out restaurants (and parks now that it's cold & dark) there are very few places to sit and spend time with friends. One of our usual haunts is this inexpensive driving range that's sort of a Topgolf knockoff with golf, ping pong, and pool, and we're so starved of alternatives my friend is going there twice in one day. I'm grateful that a place like that exists where we can exist in public without burning too much cash, but seriously, can we not do any better? What does everyone else do? (I love board game cafes as much as the next person, but we don't have any of those near where I am.)
A friend of mine came over late yesterday for a jam session, which was a lovely way for me to end a rather uneventful Black Friday. Even though neither of us had practiced what we said we would (a sightreading fest!), it was still a lot of fun, and I found myself wishing we could do this more (she lives in a different state). It's been years since making music was a regular part of my life, and while I have found other hobbies I love, nothing has quite scratched the same itch. Here's a snippet from last night as a treat for getting this far. (Do let me know what you think and if you'd be interested in hearing more in the future!)