4:30 in the Morning (Part 2)

There are many days when I lament celibacy.  Valentine’s Day is one of those days.  The release of the SI Swimsuit Issue is another day.  But while watching holiday movies Thanksgiving night and being subjected to commercial after commercial about husbands and boyfriends buying their significant others jewelry that’s ON SALE for $5,000, a deep wave of satisfaction covers my being.  On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful to be single.

Seriously, what family sits sits around the dinner table and comments “He went to Jareds!”  Dude, if you ever visit your woman’s family and they know what jewelry store you went to, saw that ring off of her finger and get out while you can.  If I ever do change my mind about this priesthood gig, I am going to do my ring shopping somewhere else, just so people around the holiday table can look at my fiancee’s ring and say, “He went to Costco!”

ShoppingNot that I myself have not been swept up by the spirit of the season.  The Pope is coming to Washington, DC in April and if our paths do cross, I have a question for him: Why do we call the day our Lord and Savior was killed Good Friday and we call the day with the most totally awesome day of shopping deals Black Friday? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

I have been keeping dutiful watch on the upcoming Black Friday deals online – when talking about getting up early, my dutiful sister reminded me of the homily we heard just hours before.
when describing my plans. And I know, Wal Mart is evil… but I am now on a budget. The thing is, I don’t know what is expected of me in terms of Christmas presents. Now that I am in seminary and “earning” $240/month, I think it’s understood that lavish gifts are not required of me.  At the same time, long before I chose to follow God’s call of biblical simplicity, I could sometimes be a cheapskate.  My family knows this… I think one of the reasons they support me in this life is that now I have a socially acceptable excuse of being a cheapskate.  Still, I want to come up with something good; I am trying not to push the “God” card… well, for now anyway.

I had thought about sleeping in, but because I had woken up at 4:30 the morning before to start on the turkey, I was already awake.  The mall was only two blocks away, so I decided to get up.  When I got there at 4:55 am, the mass of humanity outside the door was incredible.  You would have thought the Rolling Stones themselves were inside, giving away free cocaine.

The doors open, and I sneak in along the side. Most of the people here are under the impression that they will be walking home with a forty dollar flat screen TV. The last time I felt this kind of frenzy was when I was in Vegas. The lights, the sounds, the mad yet comforting rush of greed. I see a woman with a shopping cart trying to make her way to the electronics, and I want to ask her if she realizes that it is seriously decreasing her mobility and maneuverability.  Amateur.  She will not be walking away with a fifty dollar camera.  Not that that matters to me, because I have other prey.

There they are, the three dollar DVDs. I start grabbing titles uninterrupted while everyone else jumps on the other pile for this year’s electronic Cabbage Patch Kid. I make make my way to another isle and there are even more titles! Wow! I grab some more three dollar specials. Wait a minute, SIX Dollars for Little Miss Sunshine?! What the h*ll is that? “Not a penny over four!” I think to myself and I slam it back onto the shelf. And how come Flash Drives are so expensive? TWENTY DOLLARS for 2 gigabytes?!?! Why not TEN?!?! Wait a minute – across the room I see her.  Beyonce… sweet sweet Beyonce… you my darling are worth five bucks; a special edition of “B’Day” makes its way into my arms.

I check out fifteen minutes after walking through the doors. There is no one in line. There is no one in the rest of the store… deer could prance through the clothing department and no one would know it. But there is a specific gift that I wanted to get that is on sale at Target; they open their doors at six, so I grab a cup of coffee at the in-house Dunkin’ Donuts (hey, maybe Wal-Mart isn’t evil) and make my way around the mall to the long line forming underneath the big red dot.

I start talking to some people in line, and one person relates a story from years past. One year, there was this sale on a particular purse, but there were only limited amounts. Well, the store manager, when handing out numbers to the people in line, handed them out backwards. People started breaking into fights right there. I thought to myself, imagine being arrested for that fight? You’re some guy buying a present for his girlfriend and you’ve just been thrown in jail. You ask the other guy in the cell what he’s in for, and he responds “Killing three men with my bare hands. And you?”

“I got into a fight about a purse.”

Another woman drives by and looks at the line. She utters out loud, “This is the LAST year I do this – this is ridiculous!”

I think to myself, “Oh, you’ll be back. They ALL come back…”

Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.