I was in third grade the first time my lifelong friend and childhood hero, Toby Dawn McIntyre, took me Black Friday shopping with his family. We rolled into the Gibson’s parking lot a few minutes before 6 AM, where a large crowd had already gathered. The prize for the day was a big screen projection tv, but I knew too many people were ahead of us to have a chance, even with all his cousins helping. But just as the doors were being unlocked, Toby Dawn screamed in terrible agony. It startled me so much that I immediately burst into tears, too. It took hours for me to calm down, and I don’t remember much else from that trip. However, I do remember watching football on a big screen that weekend.
After that experience and a few counseling sessions, Black Friday shopping with the McIntyre’s became the highlight of my year. Believe it or not, I never caught on to their tricks because their Black Friday behavior was no different than their typical public displays, occasional disguises, and pointless screaming. For me, it was just another grand adventure with the McIntyres with the added spice of strangers fist-fighting over discounts. Of course, our crew never did anything illegal, but two of his cousins were once “accidentally” locked in a TG&Y store. And another cousin did borrow an Otasco nametag just long enough to cinch a great deal on a Flying-O bicycle. In any case, I was not entirely innocent (more of an accessory after-the-fact) because I certainly never turned down any of the Black Friday booty.
So understandably, one can imagine my disappointment Friday morning when Toby Dawn did not show up. I waited and waited, but no 3 A.M. knock on the window. No text. Nothing. The one time of the year I look forward to one of his wacky, surprise visits and no Toby. Most of all, I looked forward to the two of us racing down the street in our new hoverboard go-karts that would soon be on sale. I eventually drifted back to sleep, very confused and somewhat jilted. At 9 AM, however, Toby showed up, well rested with a cappuccino in each hand. “You ready to shop, Tommy Boy?” Before I could answer, he darted inside and unrolled a map of Lawton on my dining room table. “The blue dots are highest value. If you run behind, skip the green stores. We can get them after lunch.” Toby Dawn explained that he was boycotting Black Friday this year because “the internet has ruined the sport of it all.” Instead, he was focusing all his efforts on Small Business Saturday. As Toby spoke, cars began pulling into the drive. Apparently, my house was central command for the McIntyre’s newest tradition. His cousins all looked rested and relaxed, and we all looked forward to a more leisurely shopping experience. Once they all arrived, Toby proudly outlined the plan: “We will travel clockwise around the city, right turns only . . .”
I was a little uneasy around a group of mature-acting McIntyres, but I sure could not refute their logic. Internet sales have hurt cities like Lawton with critical revenue being lost to the likes of Amazon and Google. And while we all love Black Friday deals, much of the box stores’ income leaves the community as well. I do not think the McIntyres alone can reverse the trend, but we really should focus on our local businesses whenever possible. Only time will tell if they can shop like normal people, but they certainly seemed committed. Within an hour, all his cousins hopped back into their cars and sped off, ready for Small Business Saturday. As Toby drove off, I noticed two hoverboard go-karts leaning against the house, proving that some traditions die hard. “Shop small and shop local, Tommy Boy!” he yelled. And I found myself looking forward to Christmas shopping without any fist fights.