It’s close to six a.m., day of the big opening at Good Buy Charlie’s. I’m standing in the crowd of sleepy-eyed, early morning shoppers.
Such nonsense! Already, we’re lined up six deep just to get into the store. Why am I here? I ask myself, marveling at the mass of humanity who’ve rolled out of bed for this big event. The assortment of bodies!
One woman with her hair in pink rollers stands at the front of the crowd. I watch as she wraps a wad of bubble gum around her tongue with feverous action. She snaps, pops, and grinds the gum between her teeth in a sort of military cadence, then out comes the bubble, which deflates over the lower half of her face. Splat. As if by instinct, she sucks the mess back into her mouth with absentminded precision.
“I crawled out of bed at five o’clock for this?” I say, nudging the woman standing next to me. She yawns and goes back to sleep.
There’s a skinny little man on my other side. With a caved-in chest and a face like an oversized prune, he’s jangling keys in the pocket of his sagging, green plaid pants, which he keeps hiking up. Then he blows his nose with one of those loud, wild goose mating honks.
“Gross,” says the little girl who’s standing nearby, holding her mother’s hand.
Gross indeed, I think.
In front of me a woman sticks a cigarette between her lips, lights it, and inhales in a frantic ritual. Then she goes into a gut-grabbing, artery-clogging, heart-shocking, lung-charring cough. I shy away and wave off the smoke signals she sends out.
One old gent, whose girth rivals a blimp’s, teeters from side to side. He reaches into his bib overalls, pulls out a small tablecloth, and wipes a gallon of sweat from his face—even though the temperature has barely hit the seventies. Yet no one seems to notice. Or care.
I’m having second thoughts about this bargain-binge thing,” I say to my dozing friend. “I mean, so what if we wait a few weeks and pay four dollars more for a leaf rake, or queen-size sheets?”
“But it’s so exciting,” she says, popping one eye open from her slumber. I could almost see piggy banks shining in that eye.
Something intangible urges me on, taps my purse strings. I decide to stick it out.
Off to one side, a couple of college kids snuggle together. Wrapped in a sort of “Dirty Dancing”-like stance, they seem lost in their own private, passionate coma. His hair is sculpted high and flat on top with the shape of a tiger carved across the back. The girl’s hair sticks straight out in spikes, which gives it a lead-like quality. I try to picture the guy running his fingers through her hair, but the thought scares me.
We’re packed together like cattle at feeding time. Some folks seem jumpy, as if there’s too much coffee sloshing through their veins. Others are distracted by their whiny little kids saying they have to go potty, bad. And a few, like me, must be wondering why they’re not back home in bed.
Will these doors ever open? I shift feet and reexamine my sanity.
At last, six o’clock sharp! Security arrives. He snaps open the locks with the precision of a prison guard opening a cell. Security bolts back, then disappears before getting mowed down by the stampede of shoppers crashing the entrance.
We scramble inside, darting every which way, like ants on steroids.
But wait. I find myself stalling. I sense what’s coming—the loudspeaker lure: Attention Shoppers! Over in Charlie’s discount tent . . .
And that’s when it hits me. Suddenly, I’m transformed.
“Outta’ my way,” I cry, “and let me at those bargains!”