It’s Thursday, November 22, 2007, Thanksgiving evening. The feast is over, the food is in the fridge, and the dishes are in the dishwasher. My 4-year-old son and my 1-year-old daughter are at home, in bed, as is my lovely wife. It’s close to midnight, it’s 23 degrees outside, and it’s spitting snow. I’m on my way to Best Buy. Black Friday, here I come!
I’ve heard that Best Buy will be selling a Toshiba laptop, together with a Canon printer, for only $229. The word on the street is that the package will be incredibly limited, with only a handful available at each store. The deal is under-promoted, though. It’s not in the printed flyer, nor does it show up on most website listings. If I’m lucky, maybe there won’t be too many people there looking for this particular item.
I arrive at Best Buy, and there’s only a couple of cars in the lot. No one seems to be lined up outside the store. Yes! That laptop is mine! Or so I think…
I park my car and start walking up to the door when I’m stopped by a security guard. You can’t stay here. He informs me that there’s a line for Best Buy in the next lot over, in front of the Lowe’s building. I hop back into my car and head over. I soon see the crowd. Are they all there for my store??
Yes, they are. There’s a long line of people already. I fall in at the end and am immediately greeted by my neighbors in front of me. Can you believe this? Did that security guard stop you too? What are they thinking? What are you going to buy? Oh, you heard about the Toshiba too, huh?
Some young lady approaches me and asks if I want to be added to an informal list that she is keeping. I’m number 17, she informs me. As long as your name is here, you can leave for a little while to go to the bathroom or get some coffee or something, and then get back in line again. You will be number 173 on the list. I give her my name and she adds me to the bottom and then moves to the next person in line…
…who happens to be a young lady with a three-month-old baby in a sling wrapped around her chest. Have I mentioned that it’s well below freezing and snowing out? What’s up with this woman?
It turns out that she’s also here to get a computer, though she has her sights set on a $199 eMachines desktop PC. Not a bad deal, considering that it comes with a monitor and a printer. But seriously? You’re going to stand in line for close to 6 hours in the snow, holding a 3-month-old baby, just to get a computer? Her husband is at home with their older child.
Time moves slowly. It’s cold. More people arrive. Some people give up and leave. I chat with my neighbors. Mommy feeds Baby. We all encourage each other. If I can, I’ll help you find what you’re looking for. Don’t worry. I’m sure that there will be enough.
It’s getting close to 4:00 AM. Best Buy is supposed to open at 5:00. We see several sheriff’s office police cars pull into the Best Buy parking lot. People start murmuring. What’s the police doing here? Are they just here to keep the peace? Can we head over now?
List girl volunteers to jog over to find out what’s going on. Soon after she leaves, though, other cars start trickling into the parking lot. They’re parking. People are getting out. They’re not being turned away. What the??? They’re lining up in front of our store!
Where’s list girl? What’s happening? Everyone starts shuffling over towards Best Buy, but soon it turns into a mad dash. I stay with Mommy, who is moving as quickly as she can without jostling Baby too much.
More cars are pouring into the parking lot. The people behind us start to push past. I tell them, in no uncertain terms, that there’s no way they are going in front of Mommy and me. For a minute I think they’re going to try to fight their way past, but then they back down.
By the time we get to the storefront, there’s a mob already there. People are everywhere. It’s kind of a line, but there’s very little order. No ropes, not a store employee in sight. More people are arriving by the minute, jostling for position. More cop cars fly in, lights flashing.
List girl is talking to a policeman, showing him her paper with a list of names. He’s not interested. It’s hard to tell in the press, but I estimate that there’s at least 500 people in front of me now, most of whom have arrived within the last 15 minutes.
Finally, Best Buy employees start to come out. They are walking up and down the line with stacks of tickets, handing them out to customers. Anyone want a Sony plasma TV? Who’s here for a washing machine?
I try to get some information on computers. Are there any Toshiba laptops left? The $229 one? No, that’s gone. How about the eMachines PC? Gone too.
Mommy and Baby leave. No computer for them. I decide to stick around. I’ve been here all night; might as well go in the store and look around.
First $20 bill in my hand gets it! My head whips around. This ticket is for a $399 Sony laptop! Give me a 20, and it’s yours! I race to the man. There’s a crowd around him, but somehow I’m able to present the money before anyone else does. I don’t even know anything about this machine, but I came here for a laptop, and I’m going to get myself a laptop! Now I have a ticket.
Anyone want an eMachine? I don’t need this! I race in the other direction. This time, I’m the first one there. Where’s Mommy and Baby? How long ago did they leave? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? Maybe I can catch up to them. I jog back towards Lowe’s, but I don’t see her. I run back and forth between the cars in the lot.
There! There’s a woman in that car over there. Is that her? I bang on the window, and she jumps. Yep, that’s her, and she’s breast-feeding Baby. Oops. Mommy is very happy to have a ticket for her computer.
It’s August 2015 now. I’m sitting in bed, typing this story on my (almost) 8-year-old Sony VGN-NR110E laptop. I’ve upgraded the RAM. I’ve replaced the hard drive. I’ve replaced the battery twice and the power cord once. I’ve replaced Windows Vista with Windows 7, then with an Ubuntu / Win7 dual boot, and just last week I upgraded to Windows 10.
Somehow, this old machine just keeps going. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t get the Toshiba. I’ve gotten my $420 worth from this Sony, and then some.