It started out as an attempt to humor my teenage daughter who had seen one-too-many Target commercials encouraging shoppers to prepare for Black Friday as if it were the Olympics of shopping.
Spurred on by the fun we had last year hitting a few stores in the early morning hours the day after Thanksgiving, coupled with all of those savings she envisioned (she has tons of her own money and is indeed a thrifty shopper), my daughter was gunning to hit some big box stores late Thursday night.
But after a long Thanksgiving day filled with an early-morning run, cooking, cleaning and hours with my family, all I wanted to do by 7 p.m. was crawl into bed and read.
And that's when she started to cry.
Not only did she want to go Black Friday shopping, my daughter wanted to go AT MIDNIGHT and was unwilling to negotiate an early-morning departure instead.
So between the tears and the fact that this child asks for very little, I found myself pulling off Route 35 in Middletown into the Target parking lot around 11:30 on Thursday night, with said daughter and our neighbor -- and trusty teenage sidekick -- and found a line of hundreds of people snaking along the side of the building waiting to get in.
I had envisioned that we'd saunter into the store, walk around and pick up a few sale items that were on our list and head home. I didn't realize the commitment involved in the endeavor, bringing new meaning to "midnight madness."
The girls jumped on the line, which they told me later went counter clockwise around the building from the entrance, along the back and reached clear to the other side. I parked the car in the packed lot and sat listening to the news and feeling cranky until they signaled me to join them some time after midnight as they approached the store's entrance.
Red-shirted employees let about 30 shoppers in at a time in and so we had time to chat with one worker as we waited our turn in the chilly night air to join the masses inside. He told us that he thought there were about 2,000 shoppers and that while the first in line showed up about 5:30 p.m., the next bargain hunters enjoyed a few more hours with family until hunkering down around 7:30 p.m.
Not long after midnight, the first shoppers began exiting the building to applause, their carts filled with listing boxes of flat screen televisions. When one woman left with just a plastic Target bag in hand, it seemed almost as if she had squandered some magical opportunity to score an LCD.
As our Target friend wished us luck and let us into the store to join the throngs, we grabbed a cart and headed towards the back and immediately realized that unless we were gunning for one of the big screen TVs (46 inches for $298 from $549.99), we needed to ditch the cart to navigate through the sea of humanity pulsing toward the back of Target.
A quick stop at the pop up DVD selection set up among the bras and panties in women's lingerie led us to our next line, about 30 people deep, to access the electronics cases. But because my daughter is anything but shy, she quickly ascertained from one of the employees overseeing the line that the item on our list could be grabbed from a nearby display, which we quickly did and kept moving towards the other end of the store.
After scooping up a few more items on our list and admiring, but resisting, all the doorbusters ($64.99 lego sets priced regularly at $99.99 or $19 crockpots and griddles), we made our way towards the checkout.
And here's where I felt like I was back in Orlando, where the kids and I spent a few days doing the theme parks earlier this month. At first glance, it was a straight shot to the registers after we entered the cordoned off queue as instructed by yet another re-shirted Target worker. However, we soon found ourselves snaking up and down the aisles leading up the checkout, past endless selections of mascara, holiday-scented air fresheners and cleaning products.
And although we didn't end up boarding a rollercoaster at the end of our walk through the line, I did experience a sense of disorientation that the half hour we spent moving from one end of the store to the other cost me about $374 when the very happy cashier rang me up.
Just like Disney, but at least with more to show for it and with significant discounts thrown in.
But the girls were elated as we walked through the giant lot back to our car. They had each picked up some DVDs and a few odds and ends for their siblings and relished the discounts and the sense of surviving the mayhem.
And when we got home, my girl gave me a big hug and thanked me for taking her and told me she had been waiting all year for her Black Friday adventure. She also assured me she wouldn't force me to do it again next year.
And when I overheard her little brother asking her the next morning how her Black Friday shopping was, I smiled when my daughter answered, "Awesome."