Friday, November 23, 2012


I have never really been one to participate in the day known as Black Friday. I think it has more to do with the drunken satiation of being overly fed and indulged from a Thanksgiving feast of food, friends and family than any aversion to crowds, noise, shoving, pushing and the occasional outbreak of buggy rage at the local Wal-Mart. Well, there is all of that too. Yet as I sit here thinking about what all of this means and look longingly at the circulars brandishing slashed prices for the latest electronics, I can't help but think about who the people are who stand in these long lines waiting in frigid weather for their chance at an electronics lottery.

I have known quite a few BF shoppers. Most people I know who go, do so out of necessity more than anything else. I was the recipient of one excursion several years back when my significant other stood for hours in line to purchase two very necessary laptops for our growing businesses. Hers had died and I had given mine back to my former employer. Now, I was anchored to my desktop computer daily monitoring our businesses and out of the loop if I left it. The laptops offered us a modicum of freedom. Mostly though, the folks I know who attend BF are friends picking up a needed item here or there and relatives who are raising several often small children and who stand in line for hours to purchase the latest toys, electronics and more often clothes, shoes and the greatest of necessities of the brutal northern winters - coats.

I understand all of this of course. Who doesn't love a good bargain? And while for many of us, standing out in the cold for hours after stuffing ourselves full of turkey, pumpkin pie and football is just one more ritual in an otherwise long list of holiday pastimes, for others this shoving, pushing, grabbing and buggy bumping is done out of necessity to provide for our families. Our Black Friday shopping is less about want in America, it is increasingly more about need. Being allotted one day a year to fill this need in one of the most debasing manners I can imagine - the run-and-grab-free-for-all, to me is appalling.

Before you think that I am down on Black Friday entirely or am out to demean BF shoppers, please understand that nothing could be further from the truth. I am angry that our country of capitalist consumerism has descended into this bleak abyss of a Friday feeding frenzy to fight over a few scraps that corporations and manufacturers have trotted out for our freakish sideshow. For example, Wal-Mart cheerfully announced on Facebook on at 2 AM on this Black Friday that there would be 50-inch flat screens on sale at 5 AM at each store for only $299. There would be a minimum of 10 such TVs at each store. 10.

Think about this. 10 TVs for the masses of people already in the store shopping, those who read it on Facebook and decided to go into the lion's den in hopes of facing the lion. Who would get the TVs? The mom and dad who had been scrimping and saving all year to purchase a nice TV for the den so the family could have some time together? Or the single mom wanting to pick up a new TV for her brood to watch safely at home while she is working her second job? Or maybe the teen who has worked really hard this year and wants to make his first real purchase for his family, which has never been able to buy a new TV?

OK. I know I am laying it on pretty thick, but in reality those are the people who are in the lines. And they have been standing outside waiting while you and I were safely ensconced in the comfort of our homes watching the Patriots stomp the Jets. And for everyone who got the TVs, there were dozens more at each store who didn't. In fact, the comments following the Facebook announcement were that some stores had already sold out of the TVs at 2 AM although they were not supposed to go on sale until 5. Those families were having a Bleak Friday.

I think we should find a different way of doing this. Everyone purchase a lottery ticket to try to win an opportunity to buy the TV. $5. Give the lottery money to a local charity that feeds and shelters the homeless. Stop making people stand in line hoping for something that is beyond hope. Can you imagine the signs?

"All major appliance sales will now be conducted by lottery. 
Everyone has an equal chance to buy a ___________________.
Fill in the name of your favorite electronic appliance here).
All proceeds will support the homeless."

Everyone gets only one lottery ticket. And you must be over the age of 16 to purchase one. The money goes to charity. 10 lucky winners walk to the checkout aisle with their purchases. No one gets hit with a buggy. No one pulls out a shotgun. Everyone walks away feeling like they had a good shot (hopefully). And in the meantime, with a little bit of sanity we can get on with buying the coats, tights, jeans, clothing and gifts we need for ourselves and those we love. And not feel so bleak about the Friday after the day we give thanks for all that we have. I'm just saying.

Robin "Bobbie!" White is the award-winning author of several books of poetry and short fiction. She lives in Boston.

Friday, November 2, 2012



So today officially was that day. You know the one. The one where everything that can go wrong eventually does. The one where you think, this can't really be happening. Thoughts become things in my world and at some point today as I rushed out of the house to take my roommate to work, per her request, I thought, "Should I lock this door? What happens if I can't get back in?" Ask a question, get an answer.

My roommate had a quick meeting and didn't have time to find a place to park the car and get there on time. As it was, she was already leaving later than planned so she made an offer, which I gratefully accepted. Take her to the meeting, sit in the car until she was done, drive her to work and keep the car for the day. Are you kidding me? That was a no-brainer. I had errands to run, laundry to do. I could run by and see my mom and take her treats while my laundry was washing! Wow. Multi-tasking in a major way! Woohoo.

The caveat was that we had to leave right away. I was on the phone with my web master going over details for my new website and how we were going to marry several of the sites and which ones those should be. I had a billion details and things that needed doing, like changing out illustrations in one of the books, contacting an author about her bio and spending time working on my novel for NaNoWriMo. Clearly a full day, but one I would gladly forfeit an hour to help my roommate in exchange for use of the car.

So, when she said, we have to go right now, I took her at her word and remembered I was wearing my slippers, put on some shoes and grabbed a light sweater out of habit to put over my pajama shirt that went with my pajama pants, both of which I was wearing. I got in the car and headed to downtown Boston. Now to be honest, my pajamas are an old pair of sweatpants and an old long-sleeved shirt. Both are ratty and stained, thin and you know - comfy. I lounge around the house in them, yes, but wear them out, NO. But, hey, it was only for a minute and I wouldn't get out of the car and although I didn't have on a bra, I wasn't going commando either! So, hey, I was OK.

Everything went smoothly. She was a little late for her meeting - traffic was heavy. Hey. It's Friday. I got her back to her office and promised to be available to pick her up around 7 PM. I called my sister who was at work so she couldn't hang out. The brakes sounded a little funky so I opted not to go down to Fall River to see my brother, but hey, I could go home, potty, shower, grab my laundry, laptop and some Fig Newtons and have a good day. Do some laundry, get my writing done, grab some coffee and take the Newtons to see Mom. You know, enjoy having a car in the city for a day. Cool.

I parked the car by the back door of the house thinking I would carry the laundry out that way so it would be easier. I walked to the front door, put the key in the lock; it wouldn't budge. Not one speck. OK. It has been a little stuck before, no problem, just jiggle gently, lift a little, turn the door handle, push harder, twist it with all of my might, bang near the lock to unstick it. Nothing at all worked. By now, 20 minutes had gone by and I was in the front hall doing the potty dance in my pajamas, with  my crazy hair and sore fingers. One roommate was at work where I had dropped her off, the other was out at an appointment with a friend. The landlord, who lives in New Hampshire had been by earlier and by now was safely ensconced somewhere north of the border. It is Friday afternoon, ya know.

I am going to spare you the details of this day except to say this. It was nuts. I drove back to the roommate's office to get the back door key only to have the same issue with that lock. A small front window was unlocked and while I could open it, I could only imagine the 911 call from my roommate describing what the neighbors would see of my big behind wedged securely in said window frame as I attempted unsuccessfully to climb through it in my ripped up jammies. Yeah, no, that wasn't happening. And the smaller roommate who had texted to say she was on her way, called an hour later to say, her friend who was driving her now had her own emergency and she wasn't coming.

So the melt down began. It had been several hours at this point. I was still in my pajamas and the wiggle became a full on disco display of dancing maneuvers as I tried to figure out what to do next. I called my roommate to let her know what was happening. I had to drive back to get her so she could fit her tiny frame in through the window and let us in. I told her fine, I would do that, but only after I stopped at the Starbucks to use the bathroom. I barely made it. And I mean barely. By the time I left, my other roommate text to say she had gotten out of her friends car, taken two buses home and had climbed in through the window. She was home. I could finally get in.

It had been nearly five hours since I had left home. And I was now home safe and sound. So, the moral of the story might be that thing our moms said about wearing clean underwear when we go out, but it's not. You see there is more. I am a bit of a recluse these days. Going out takes a lot of effort. I have been working on my writing projects, searching for a new job and cooking for my lovely family - my two roommates. I am still recovering from some pretty intense life transitions and have added a few more, so I am a little sore in spots (read depressed). I am working through it all just the same and I keep it moving forward. I have a great support system. And that is the lesson today.

I finally went back out and picked up my roommate a few hours after I had come home and passed out from the stress of the day. We were sitting at the kitchen table talking, eating sharing. I was clearly still a little frazzled when my roommate Celenia looked at me and started cracking up laughing. Sadie and I just stared. Sadie finally asked, "What's so funny?"

Celenia pointed at me and said, "You had the worst day," and started roaring with laughter. I looked at her and thought about my hurt feelings, the melt down I had because I couldn't get back into my safe little cocoon, the running back and forth, the frustration, the embarrassment of being uncombed, unwashed and in my pajamas and I looked at my roommate with the tears streaming down her face from her uncontrollable laughter, and I thought, You know what? This was all pretty damn funny!

We take things in life too damn seriously sometimes. I know I do. I cry and give in to the pain and heartbreak, the sorrow and fear when really, I need to smile at the joy that I am still here. Yes. There have been transitions, yes there have been times when I am ass out vulnerable and unsure, there are a lot of times when I have missed the mark, and have been under-dressed in life, but you know what, I am still here. I have so much more than most I know. I have friends and family and a whole bunch of tightly woven safety nets to catch me when I fall. I am so grateful. And yes, I need to exercise that humility muscle a little more often and I'm pretty sure if I give it some thought, that muscle is somewhere in the vicinity of my funny bone.

Listen, I wasn't out in the world waist deep in flood waters. I wasn't without electricity thrust into a makeshift shelter in my pajamas and I wasn't cold, starving or without funds. I was in my roommates car for Pete's sake, with a bunch of options the worst of which was to go to Starbucks and get a friggin' cup of coffee. It wasn't the end of the world and in the scheme of things, it was no where near it. In fact, it was and still is pretty darn funny. And at the moment all of it is making me smile. And knowing my two roommates, we will regale our family and friends with this tale time and time again. It is one of those defining moments when you know you have tremendously loving connections and things really are OK. I can hear it now over coffee and pie during the holidays, "And then she had to come all the way back and get me, but you know Bobbie!, she just had to stop at Starbucks first!" Insert raucous laughter here.