Black Friday

A draft excerpt from Black Friday, a chapter in ‘Building Bridges: Can We Love & Relate in a Polarized World?’

Back in 2007, I attended a Thanksgiving party with a family from my church. Afterwards I was invited to my first sit in for Black Friday outside Circuit City that night. I had never encountered this phenomenon before. At about 9 p.m. that Thursday, we queued up to buy gadgets at steeply discounted prices. Many of us took turns sitting in the car to stay warm and then get back in line as we waited for the store to open at 5 a.m. I was handed a ticket at my request to get one of the discounted laptops. I was getting it for over 400 dollars off. When we went in, it wasn’t a stampede of any kind like in the viral videos, and there were no fights. I wasn’t sure if I should be disappointed or not. I got my laptop and continued to browse around. I picked up a steeply discounted Garmin GPS for my car that I didn’t need, and a digital photo picture frame for my parents. They didn’t ask for one and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have known what to do with it, but I felt an urge to get it nevertheless. I don’t remember what else I picked up, but I filled the trunk of my car.

I then took some kids out to the mall later, because that’s what you do on Black Friday in America… go to the mall and fight for parking spaces. Apparently one of the doors of my car didn’t lock properly and someone in the parking lot checked. They were able to pop my trunk and steal everything out of the back that I had soldiered through the night to possess. Needless to say, I was angry and filed a police report. I hated the person who stole my things. Over the following weeks, I kept imagining catching them, and exacting my revenge.

Eventually my mind wandered back to getting pickpocketed in England a few years before on New Year’s Eve and nabbing the robber before he left the train car. He couldn’t have been more than 15 years old. He was a a child of poor migrants from South Asia, and part of a ring of thieves, being peddled on the front lines by an underground syndicate. When I insisted he give me back my phone, he pulled out 4 of them and none of them were mine. He had slipped my phone into the pockets of a richly dressed man with a long winter coat. When the boy and I got off the train, with me still holding onto his jacket, I had an eloquently dressed couple come out of nowhere to inform me that he doesn’t have my phone. Confused and angry, I insisted. The lady suggested I let him go because he would go find his 4 brothers and they’d seek revenge. The kid then pulled out a box cutter knife that couldn’t have been more than 5 centimeters in length. I let him go and he ran off the train platform.

It had been the first time I had been robbed. After filing a police report at my friend’s house, for weeks I imagined the scenario going differently with me displaying courage to confront them and getting my phone back in each scenario or at least avenging the crime. The very next week, it made the headlines of the newspaper that a large underground racket had been discovered and Scotland Yard had a sting operation exposing the whole gambit. The lasting anger of being violated lingers still …

2 thoughts on “Black Friday”

  1. Thank you for sharing this excerpt of your book. I can see how these situations would have left you feeling violated. I’d love to know how this connects to the larger theme of building bridges.

    Just looking at this short piece, I can see avenues for development. For example, delving into the culture of consumerism in the US, what drives people to own things they don’t need, how possession of objects (and the unexpected loss) can drive people to imagine acts they otherwise wouldn’t normally consider.

    I look forward to learning more about the direction you take.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Michael Sullivan

      Erin! thanks so much for comment! I rarely get feedback so its wonderful to hear from you!! The book gets into more of the weeds for sure and I try not to be too explicit as I let the stories make their long term impression that consumerism divides us and hollows us out potentially, unchecked.

      Thanks again for journeying with me as I tell my story!

Comments are closed.