Yesterday, I learned firsthand that Black Friday is the official beginning of Armageddon. This year, experts estimated that 114.6 million zealous shoppers flooded malls and complexes across America to buy toys, clothes, gadgets, and to ask their husbands if these pants make their butt look big.
Which is the most dreaded question a woman can ask a man. There is no correct way for a man to answer the does-my-butt-look-big question without offending his wife, or at the very least, losing his front teeth.
This is true even if he says, “NO! YOUR BUTT DOESN’T LOOK BIG!”
Or “ABSOLUTELY NOT, SWEET CHEEKS!”
Or “YOUR BUTT IS SO SMALL, IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR THIGHS START UNDER YOUR CHIN.”
No matter how he responds, this man’s wife will get huffy and say something like, “Oh yeah? Then why did you pause so long before you answered?” Whereupon the man will be dragged outside and shot.
Anyway, I wasn’t supposed to be at the mall yesterday, but my wife cannot turn down Black Friday deals. She is obsessed with them. And it doesn’t matter what they are selling, if it’s marked down, she is going to own it in three colors.
Once, she bought a truckload of Campbell’s condensed cream of celery soup simply because it was on clearance. This struck me as an odd thing to do.
Never in the history of our marriage can I recall either of us saying, “Gee, I’d like a bowl of cream of celery soup.” And here’s why: (a) celery soup is meant for baking weird casseroles normal people never eat, and (b) it sucks.
But the bottom shelves of our pantry are loaded with expired clearance celery soup cans that are so old they say “I Like Ike” on the backs of the labels.
Black Friday was a mess. We arrived at the mall at eight in the morning. And when I say “arrived at the mall” I mean that I could see the mall somewhere on the distant horizon, behind a sea of 114.6 million parked cars.
We drove around looking for a parking place until my odometer turned to zeroes.
“Just drop me off up front,” my wife said.
“But there are no parking spots,” I said.
She didn’t hear me, she was already sprinting toward the mall, knocking pedestrians out of the way with her purse.
So I drove around for five or six fortnights until I landed in Greenland, where I parked the car near a fjord and took a steamship back to America.
When I made it back to the mall, I could not find my wife anywhere. I tried calling her, but cellphones were not working. One mall security officer offered an explanation why:
“Because everybody’s an idiot,” he said.
So I was forced to use old-fashioned wife-finding techniques. Which luckily I am good at. If my wife and I ever got stranded in the wilderness and became separated, I would not panic, I would simply look for the nearest J. Crew Factory Outlet. There, I would find her in the back of the store, asking the fashionably dressed employees if they had any cream of celery soup.
On Black Friday, there is a LOT going on in the mall. I got distracted by a guy selling pretzels at a kiosk. I love hot pretzels. So I tried to buy one, but I felt a tap on my shoulder. An aggressive tap.
“Hey pal,” said a man. “The line starts back there.” And he pointed to Greenland.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t see the line.”
“Didn’t see it? I’ve been standing in this line for two days.”
“Two days?” a woman added. “I’ve been here since Halloween.”
“That’s nothing,” added another lady. “I gave birth to my first son in this line.”
So I waited in line. There I watched an elementary school public concert. The kids were precious, dressed in holiday finery, wearing cute hats.
For the grand finale, a man dressed as Santa came galloping through the crowd, shaking hands, groping elderly people in line, and kissing babies.
I found Mall Santa to be—how do I put this?—obnoxious. I have seen some great mall-Santas in my time.
I once knew a guy named Dean who dedicated himself to his Santa role. Dean’s beard was top notch. It didn’t matter where he was, his white hair drew attention. He could be getting his oil changed at Jiffy Lube and auto mechanics would form a single-file line and take turns sitting on his knee.
When Mall Santa greeted me, his beard looked like a dead lap dog, he had the smooth complexion of a high school sophomore, and his voice sounded like Bobby Brady.
He looked at me and said, “WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, LITTLE BOY?”
“Nothing,” I said.
“COME ON!” he said, grabbing me by the shoulders and violently shaking me. “YOU HAVE TO WANT SOMETHING! EVERYBODY WANTS SOMETHING! HO! HO! HO!”
“I’m just here for the pretzels.”
Then Santa gave me a slap on the back and said, “COME ON! TELL OLD SANTA WHAT YOU REEEAALLLY WANT!” Then he gave another slap.
In this moment, I was beginning to visualize many things I wanted. Most of which involved standing before a judge and pleading self defense.
After my pretzel, I fought the crowd, heading toward J. Crew. And when I got there I found my wife. She was trying on plaid pants in the back room. She was standing before a triple-mirror, inspecting herself. And I am not kidding when I say that these pants were so plaid they gave me inner ear problems.
My wife saw me and smiled.
“Oh! You’re here!” she said. “Good! You’re just in time to give me your opinion.”
“Tell me the truth, now, do these pants make my butt look big?”
And we’ve been standing in line ever since.