Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Midnight on the Firing Line

There was a frightening undercurrent in the crowd that gathered around the red cardboard display boxes in the back aisle of Lynn Haven's Walmart Super Center just before midnight on Thursday. It was minutes before Black Friday, and the tension was high.

The only thing I can compare it to is a school of piranha circling chum.

The display boxes held DVDs and Blu-Rays behind a thin plastic wrap. A woman in a blue best said she would cut the plastic and remove it at midnight, at which time the always-growing crowd could then take their picks of the videos. I looked around, and it was clear the crowd had other ideas.

People literally circled the line of red displays, noting the titles they desired. They glanced at the others in the crowd, weighing their chances in a fight.

This is what Christmas is all about, I thought: Togetherness.

One of the women in blue vests walked up and down the row, telling people to clear the main aisle. Crowds backed up on each other in side aisles. A few tightened their shoe laces.

About 11:58 p.m., we heard shouts and mob noise coming from the other end of the electronics department, where someone had opened a box of video games. Then a woman in a blue vest popped a box cutter and started to touch the plastic wrap on the displays — and that was all it took.

The crowd rushed into the aisle, shoving hands through the plastic wrap to snatch videos. People reached around each other like TSA agents at a pat down, groping blindly for hidden treasures they couldn't even name. Everywhere were exclamations of "Excuse me!" "Sorry!" "My bad!" "Pardon!" "Excuse me again!" as people reeled through and against one another to seek out season sets or special editions or heavily marked down titles.

Ah, the gentle sounds of the season!

Arms loaded, I sought the shopping cart I had parked on a side aisle, but it was gone. Instead, I found my daughter having escaped alive from the other end of the electronics department with some things she wanted for Christmas in a cart. I dumped my loot in there and guarded the cart while she dove into the crowd I had just left behind.

No injuries were reported.

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