Holiday shoppers: Remember, safety first

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 23, 2009

I bet most people at least one story of the trials of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when Christmas shoppers get a bargain by any means necessary.

Sean P. Murphy is web editor. He can be reached at

Stores used to open at 6 in the morning, then 4, now stores open late on Thursday — even before the clock ticks over to Black Friday.

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Ours happened many, many years ago.

The object most coveted: a Cabbage Patch Doll. The store: the Northeastern chain Caldor. The players: my mother, who barely stands 5-feet tall, and hordes of other shoppers, cramming the walkway in front of Cal’s, waiting impatiently for the pimple-faced assistant manager to turn the key and unleash the madness.

Mom, jostling for position near one door as if trying to snag a seat on the New York City shuttle between Grand Central Terminal and Times Square, saw mostly backs of shoulders.

The doors opened and the throngs plowed through. Some turned left, others right, but Mom followed the main horde. Down one aisle, a quick left turn and — Eureka! — Cabbage Patch heaven.

Dolls from the low shelves were snagged with deft efficiency. A few dolls remained up top.

On a stepladder, Mom would have a hard time reaching the upper shelves. Her hopes were about to be dashed. My sister would have to do without THE gift of the year.

Into view came a tall man with a cast on his foot, walking with a cane.

His name was Ray, a friend of Mom’s from church. He had his kid’s cabbage secured in one hand, but caught view of Mom, now behind the throngs, depressed and physically depleted.

He shot his cane upward toward the top shelf, hooked a doll and Kareem Abdul-Jabbared (equivalent of a basketball hook shot) that thing over the horde to the waiting arms of a now smiling, yet still physically depleted, shopper. Mom wrapped her arms around that thing as if carrying a live grenade. She bumped and jostled before seeing daylight.

Christmas arrived and Lori had THE Christmas prize. She combed the doll’s hair and changed its clothes. Months later, the doll Mom had risked her well-being for was at the bottom of a closet — like, well, a head of cabbage.

So on Friday, or late Thursday night, please be safe. The must-have toy of 2009 will be collecting dust before you know it.