Contrary to what your mother told you, the most dangerous thing you can do during the holiday season is not venture out on New Year's Eve, when the highways are full of drunk drivers, including some who aren't local politicians.
More dangerous by far is the Black Friday 5 a.m. mark-down extravaganza at the Major National Bigbox Retailer. Ever think to yourself, "I'd give an arm and a leg for a new iPad?" Well, I nearly did.
I've been training for the event all year. Lifting weights. Getting up at the crack of dawn to run three miles. Cutting off little old ladies with my shopping cart at the supermarket. Still, nothing could prepare me for what my wife and I encountered early Friday morning, Nov. 25.
We didn't actually buy an iPad, by the way. I can't tell you what we bought -- it's a family Christmas present. Let's just say we went to a lot of trouble to snag this one particular item (it was a great price), and still nearly failed.
First, we got up at 4:30, threw on sweatshirts and jeans, and headed down to the Major National Bigbox Retailer, thinking we might be among the first people there. Wrong. Even at quarter to five, parking spaces were already scarcer than fat kids at a Michelle Obama speech.
Then we had to wait in line for a shopping cart, only to discover we couldn't actually maneuver it through the store. So we abandoned it in the electronics department, where it was immediately fallen upon by a couple of blue-hairs wielding rolled-up sale flyers.
And that's not all that got left behind. At one point we made the tragic mistake of trying to cross a main aisle. I survived, but my wife was trampled by a herd of 40-something moms wearing gray fleece and no make-up. When I turned back, she bravely waved me on. "Save yourself!" she cried. "Somebody has to get the [item]!"
Okay, I made up that last part. But I'm not making this up: a stack of Blu-ray disc players, 10 feet by 10 feet by 6 feet, disappeared in less than minutes. E-readers and laptops went almost as fast. My wife said it looked like a scene from the movie "Jingle All the Way." I was thinking more like "2012."
Anyway, we finally got our item, which we had to drag out to the car, since we had no shopping cart. (It's big, kids. Really big.) The highlight of the morning was when we backed out and sped away, narrowly avoiding the 22-car pile-up that ensued as latecomers vied for our vacated spot.
I realize that none of this information does you any good now, but it could be useful if you plan on braving next year's Black Friday sale at the Major National Bigbox Retailer. Who knows? They'll probably have six more area locations by then.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.