Friday, November 27, 2009

Spending (or not-spending) Black Friday at the library

The kids and I are spending Black Friday at the library. Or this part of it, anyway.

This is for a few reasons. One is that I still like to observe Buy-Nothing Day, a tradition started by a Vancouver artist in the early 1990s and promoted by Adbusters magazine as part of their grassroots effort to de-commercialize Christmas. I used to be a lot more self-righteous about it. I used to in fact get very much on a soapbox about it, proclaiming the general hideousness of crowds flocking to the malls on the day after Thanksgiving to kick of the Christmas season with a buy-buy-buy mentality.

Whether it's an effect of the Recession of part of the natural mellowing that occurs in most of us with age, I'm not up on a soapbox about Buy-Nothing Day anymore. Now, rather than self-righteously condeming Christmas shoppers, I recognize how many people's livelihoods depend on commercial consumption of this kind: not only the retailers, manufacturers and shippers, but also the coffee shop and restaurant employees who benefit when more people are out for the day shopping. In these Recessionary times, the sight of other people out shopping makes me feel happy for those whose livelihoods are being supported as a result, rather than critical of the consumerism it represents.

Besides, some people find it fun, and -- again, the mellowing-with-age factor -- I'm no longer so inclined as I once was to look down on the way other people choose to have fun. My sister-in-law adores Black Friday shopping; she's one of the many who sets her alarm at 4 AM to get in line. ("Could you give me Holly's Christmas wish list?" she asked me yesterday as we were cleaning up from Thanksgiving dinner. "Sure, I'll send it to you," I answered casually. "Could I have it right now?" she pressed. "I start shopping in less than twelve hours.") My sister-in-law has a full-time job more grueling than anything I've ever done: she runs a residential center for emotionally unstable teenagers. It's enormously stressful work, both physically and emotionally, yet I've never heard her complain about it. If she finds it fun to spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping, I'm hardly in a position to question her choice. I'm glad she has found things she enjoys doing so much when she's away from work. She's earned that time off.

But as for me, it's a long-time habit to cocoon on the day after Thanksgiving. I'd be happy to stay home all day, sorting through Thanksgiving leftovers and planning my December baking regime. But it seemed to me to be important to get the kids out of the house today, and with Day 3 of our refrigerator repair under way at home, Rick needed to stay put, so the kids and I headed for our favorite destination, one that's not at all like Black Friday shopping: our local library.

We love our library. The kids just have fun browsing through books and playing computer games, but to me it's a nearly hallowed place because I never get over my amazement at how many resources it contains. It's not a very big library by most communities' standards, but the selection of new books is terrific. Plus there's a wide range of magazines and newspapers for browsing, and free Internet access for still more browsing and reading. In the first few months after Holly was born, the library was my great escape. I'd be home taking care of her all day, and then after dinner I'd sometimes sneak out for an hour or two at the library. I could have gone elsewhere but I couldn't think of a better destination: the library just has so many more choices than any other single stop.

Today at the library it seems that all around me are reminders of other things I should be doing. The book exhibit right next to the carrel where I'm writing features the theme of desserts, reminding me I could be home starting my holiday baking; nearby magazines proclaim Christmas craft ideas I could peruse for ideas for the kids; front pages of the New York Times and two local papers remind me that I could be boning up on current events. The whole bank of computers is unoccupied right now, reminding me I could even be working.

Instead, I'm just soaking in the library ambience. Other people are standing in line or locating gifts or driving from store to store. I do hope they're enjoying themselves, and I know there are things I could be seeing to at home right now (though the dishes are done, I'm not completely cleaned up yet from our Thanksgiving dinner, and I really do need to start reusing those leftovers before it's too late).

But the kids are happily browsing and I'm happily writing, so for this particular hour of this particular Black Friday, this is all we want.

1 comment:

  1. Nancy -- You bring up a great idea for a destination when one needs to get out of the house, have some social interaction, some visual and mental stimulation. Oftentimes stores are so convenient and enticing that we often turn to "browsing" or "just getting one thing" when looking for that shot in the arm.

    But you make me realize that a library -- with all its new content, gathering place quality and multi-media format -- can provide a perfect alternative to shopping, and especially that shopping that we do to lift our mood.