When did ‘Black Friday’ (BF) darken the doors of Jamaica? I demand to know. I also want to know who was careless enough to leave the door open for this very unwelcome intruder. I met BF in the USA several years ago, when my in-laws descended on our home in the guise of ‘spending Thanksgiving’ with us. I understand English well and should have focused on the ‘spend’ part. No sooner had we ended our stuffing of ourselves with jerked turkey and an array of Caribbean trimmings, than plans were being made to get to bed and rise early to be able to ‘hit the shops’. I wanted no part of it. I had seen videos of frenzied persons, clambering over each other, assaulting each other, even shooting each other to get their sweaty hands on ‘bargains’. Little men, walking out of electronic stores with huge flat screen TVs, only to find that the little Fiat in which they had driven could not hold the blessed object. “Does anyone have a number for U-Haul?” I’m not sure how much the rental truck cost, but that TV started to look a bit more expensive very soon.
Within my household, the overseas BF invasion forces were a hardy bunch. Many of them were females, hand-picked, and bred specially for the task, it seemed. They sometimes came with their trainees, some as young as three years old, learning the art from the safety of a push chair. They were muscular and had hands that could rip tags off bought items with a ferocity that made a grown man like me weep. I remember the first time I saw what they had ‘hunted and gathered’. They were strewn on the floor, all manner of garments and shoes. “Guess how much this one cost? 40 percent off the original 50 percent off. $8.99. I had to have it!” I remembered that she had to have it last year too, but in another colour. Show-and-tell time, and women cavorting around on the wooden floors with their wares. I could see them around a huge log fire in another era. Woolen pelts on their shoulders. It was never men who were the warriors, but women. I think the history books mistranslated ‘warrior’ for ‘worrier’.
That’s part of the image of Black Friday that I have. After the triptophan-induced torpor of American Thanksgiving–the cold morning 5k run or walk; some touch football; some hoops; some prep. for THE meal; the NFL game; some charitable work to serve lunches to other needy folks; eating THE meal–the thought of burning energy in the malls, going head-to-head with people and their pocket books might have some warped logic behind it. But, how does that even make its way into the Jamaican social psyche?
The simplest explanation would be that the many conversations with relatives in America, or the many visits–like my own experiences with the ‘invaders’–would have exposed right-thinking Jamaicans to this evilest of evils. Jamaican retailers are savvy at least in knowing that Jamaicans are great ‘followers of fashion’ and love ‘things American’. Voila! Put on some Black Friday sales at the end of November and, who knows, maybe snow will come for Christmas. But, I am one Jamaican who is not going to see my country swarmed and swamped by this piece of foreign nonsense. We are already in the debtors prison because we could not keep our sticky fingers out of cookie jars. Our great boogieman–the IMF–keeps waking us out of our sleeps and scaring the living bejeebers out of us. What would make us want to start spending more money on things we don’t need for a holiday we don’t celebrate? We wont have anything left to spend for Christmas. There’s sorrel to buy, Christmas cakes to buy, presents for Christmas, and more for that season–a true holiday for us. The Pilgrim Fathers did not land here. We don’t have this kind of faux shopping frenzy after holidays we really should cherish, such as Emancipation or Heroes Days. Why would we rush to do it for what Americans are celebrating. I can just about understand the frenzy that happens when Jamaicans watch English Premier League matches–as if they are born and bred fans of teams of which many have little real knowledge. I can also get it that we have our favourite NFL or NBA teams–we at least play some basketball, although not much grid iron football. But, the post-turkey thing? No, sah!
Jamaicans–some, at least–have readily jumped on the bandwagon of those wishing to boycott things Trinidadian. Humbly, I beseech all right-thinking Jamaicans: “Boycott this Black Friday madness!” I really wonder if some people think that the prospect of being trampled by someone wanting to get a jumbotron is a thrill. But, look, you still have time. It’s Thursday, and your soul can still be saved. Go to bed as usual, and cuddle up to your Snookums. Watch re-runs of Tessanne on The Voice. Watch Scandal. Do your normal thing. Don’t leave your house at midnight to go in search of ‘bargains’. I could be a scare monger and say, “Remember, this is Jamaica. We freyd fi duppy!” Do you want to be mistaken for a hottie who is headed out to a street party? Do you want to be thought of the Pimpster? Think of your children. Think of your church. Think of your mortgage. Think! It’s not too late.