12:00 AM in Gilroy

I consider myself a fairly normal and sane person. Sure, I'm a glutton and I have a decidedly warped sense of humor; but beyond that, I'm a relatively well-adjusted adult male with a sense of self respect and a grudging willingness to coexist with other people under most circumstances.

Which brings me to my next question: how the HELL do I find myself driving down to the Gilroy Premium Outlets late on Thanksgiving night, for the Midnight Madness Day After Thanksgiving Sale?!

According to the San Jose Mercury News, approximately 10,000 cars had traveled to the Gilroy outlets by 3AM on Friday, and 20,000 cars by the time the main sale ended at 6AM. Normally, if I read something like that I'd just say "huh," and promptly ignore that number... but when you're knee-deep in a miasma of vehicular exhaust and processed garlic (one of which I dig by itself, and it ain't exhaust), and trying to navigate a parking lot while dodging both jaywalkers with their heads buried in outlet guides and idling cars double-parked in an aisle wide enough for exactly 2.5 cars, the reality of 10,000 cars really hits you hard.

This is not joyful shopping, with people singing Christmas carols as they shop side by side in a wonderful joining of America's crass consumerism. This is horrible and vengeful shopping, where the strong shoppers use the blood of the vanquished to help slide their overladen shopping bags to the backs of their SUVs before going back for more carnage. This is capitalism combined with ultimate fighting combined with attitudes and actions that would make Machiavelli hunt for his security blanket. This is 75% Stephen King, 45% Clive Barker, 60% H.P. Lovecraft, and 20% Charles Dickens (which is still mathematically valid, as everything's half off.) This is a group of rabid consumers whose infectious insanity could cause Ghandi and the Dalai Lama to get into a no-holds-barred slapfight over the last Summer Sausage at Swiss Colony (at least they couldn't resort to hair pulling.)

This kind of shopping is, God help me... kind of fun.

Anyway, we head to Gilroy (about 30 minutes away) at about 10:40PM, in the hopes that we might get there before the major rush. This is proof that we've never done this type of thing before; the people who've done this before got to Gilroy at around 2PM and had their Thanksgiving turkeys delivered to them in line. And because we've never done this before and decide to go on an impulse, we of course get stuck in traffic on the freeway about a mile before the exit, since the poor traffic light at the end of the offramp is woefully unprepared for Black Friday mania and is only letting six or seven cars through at a time. We finally manage to get to the outlets themselves at 11:45, and drive around the parking lot looking for a vacant spot. Some stores are already letting people shop, and we do see people getting into their cars and leaving, but there's a queue of 5 cars at the front of each aisle, just sitting and waiting for the first sign of reverse lights. After about half an hour, I convince Lucie to start shopping, and I'll find a spot and let her know where I park Meg. I let her off in front of Lane Bryant, and continue my quest for a parking space.

An hour later, she calls me and says she's done shopping.

I'm still circling, looking for a parking spot. I can no longer hear my iPod's Christmas music playing over my mad gibbering and insane cackling, and I've burned about a quarter tank of gas and opened a hole in the ozone layer that can never be repaired, but oddly enough I'm still feeling like shopping myself, so we trade places and Lucie circles the parking lot while I head off to Harry & David for snacks for my people at work (which we have dubbed "Nerd Chow.")

Four minutes later, I call her and tell her I'm done shopping.

Hey -- I'm a dude, and I don't have to try on truffles to know they fit just fine.

We head on back home, and notice that the line to get off the freeway is even longer at 1:30 in the morning than it was at 11:00 at night. Our senses overwhelmed, our gas tank empty, our fists bruised and bloodied, and our wallets sore, we get back to San Jose both victorious and sleepy. We fall asleep knowing that we have participated in one of the most ridiculously capitalist and commercial events of the year, Black Friday; and that we will never, ever, EVER do this sort of thing again.

Unless they have a really awesome sale or something.


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