Yesterday was the day that retailers say sets the tone for what kind of shopping season it will be.
It is called Black Friday, and it is my understanding the reason is because every business expects to be in the black by the end of the day.
At first it seemed to me this is a fairly dubious name and would be a better term for one of those lunatic slasher movies, although that could also be a story about shopping today. At the very least, it would have been better served by being called Green Friday or Plastic Card Friday.
From the purchaser's point of view, it certainly should be called Red Friday, because that's where most of us end up when the day is done.
You need to establish a few rules to shop by, and my main rule this year was to buy nothing that was made in China. This does two things: voice my displeasure at businesses who have sent American manufacturing overseas and it saves me a lot of money because I won't have to buy anything for anyone.
No doubt it is the lure of the big sales stores advertise that pull in the crowds. Tell shoppers they can get 50 percent off and they will charge the department store doors like a herd of drunken gnu.
We have red tag sales, blue light specials, coupon discounts and sometimes just plain old sales. It really doesn't matter if anything is on sale or not, as long as the customer thinks it is.
And it should be noted, not all sales are the same. For instance, you never see a buy-one, get-one-free sale at a car dealership.
Some stores opened at 4 a.m. in an effort to convince people to shop early in order to beat the crowds. Shopping early is one thing, but 4 a.m.? The only reason you should be out at 4 a.m. is because you haven't gotten home yet.
It is an oddity of the human condition that we will put ourselves through misery in the name of getting a deal. People balance the trials and tribulations of the shopping season against their economic health and voluntarily accept the misery.
The initial trial of shopping on Black Friday is parking. Parking is always a problem, even at 4 a.m., and the key is to simply be patient.
Some people, and not be sexist, but in my experience they have usually been females, will drive around the mall parking lot for hours and burn up gallons of gas in search of "a spot a little closer."
The spot a little closer will always be four spaces nearer the store than the very first spot they passed.
There are also the handicapped parking issues, which is serious business. Handicapped spaces should only be used by those who are handicapped and have been authorized to park in those spots.
You will often see people parking in the handicapped spots because they are lazy and want to walk the shortest distance possible to get to the store.
It should be noted that a lot of times when you see a family parking illegally in a handicapped spot, what rolls out of the car is a fat woman, a fatter man and four or five piglet children. If anything, they should be parking as far from the store as possible because they need the exercise.
People who abuse the handicapped parking spots should face the most severe penalty possible, which at this time of the year would be to have their car towed.
Another trial is the checkout line. It is almost certain that sooner or later you will be behind someone in the checkout line who will have 357 items and at least one of them will be devoid of the infamous bar code.
Without a bar code, the checkout computer is useless, so everyone is frozen in line until some bleary eyed employee who has been at work since, well, 4 a.m., can find a similar item and determined its cost.
There is also the very good chance the person in front of you has the last item of its kind and the price will never be found and you will starve to death while waiting in line.
And you can rest assured that at some point the very item you endured the crowds to buy will be sold out. As you stumble back to your car you think, "Well, it would have been a great deal."
But there is something else at work. If you have the right attitude and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the big shopping day can be fun.
And there can be moments that will renew your faith in the decency of humankind, such as when someone holds the door for a person with an armload of packages or the shopper with a buggy full of merchandise lets the person behind them who has only one item go first.
It doesn't seem to happen a lot anymore, but it still happens. Perhaps if we worked to make it happen a little more, the season would have more meaning than just getting deals and enduring the misery of Black Friday.