cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
I had the privilege to awaken at 3:30AM this morning, dress and present myself to CPO Ray Borden at the Germantown Police Department. Once there, I joined with a group of four other Citizen Police Academy graduates and a member of the Police Explorer post. Our reason? We were going to provide a "presence" at the local Wal-Mart Super Center from slightly before 5:00AM until the crowds had subsided as most of the specials were sold to the bare walls.
This has been going on for some time and is an indication of the roles that the police department plays in the community beyond arrests and traffic citations. Wal-Mart is pleased with this assistance and includes the department in its community grants program.
As we drove from the department and approached the intersection of Appleton Avenue and Maple Road, it became very apparent that there was a real rush on to find a parking spot; this was at about 4:45AM. As we drove into the parking lot area, it took no time at all to determine that the place was filled; cars moved up and down the aisles looking for non-existent parking spots. Being in a 'black and white', we had the opportunity to park beside the store. I was the rookie in the group and was properly awed by what I saw.
As we went to our assigned areas (I drew a spot in the Electronics area), the crowds were overwhelming but mostly orderly. The aisles were jammed with people and shopping carts. Movement ranged from slow to impossible if you had a cart; it was usually passable for those of us who had no cart to push.
The process this year involved people having received tickets that entitled them to buy one of the items that were specially priced between the hours of 5:00AM and 11:00AM. Most of those items were gone by 6:30AM. There was a decent inventory of each available so far as I could tell.
The checkouts were crowded to the point that it was hard to discern movement as the lines crept ahead. Many carts were filled to overflowing thus meaning a long time required to be checked out slowing the whole process.
Most people were civil and seemed resigned to their plight even from the beginning. I tend to smile a lot and many of those who received my smile returned it good-naturedly. Some simply scowled at me in return, which I guess I should've expected.
There were some, as you'd expect, who seemed to think of themselves as the only people in the store, and who were thus dissatisfied with having to stand in line.
There were a couple of heated exchanges that were quickly diffused by staff members. One person was under the influence, possibly to steel himself for the experience.
Additional staff was present and worked diligently to move people as quickly as possible. This was the first year for the use of tickets to help control the flow of crowds; that seemed to work reasonably well although veterans of this process told me it seemed that it might've worked better with a few changes.
Even as we tried to help people find faster-moving lines at the various check-outs, some simply refused to give up "their space". They were only wasting their own time, so they are certainly entitled to be obstinate if they choose.
It is difficult to believe there is an economic downturn when you witness the spending that takes place during such an event. It makes me wonder how many of these folks will suffer buyer's remorse even before leaving the parking lot; and, it makes me wonder how many will cringe when the charge card bill arrives because they out-spent their budgets...if there was a budget. The report was that some quarter-million dollars was 'rung up' in the first hour.
And, finally, it makes me wonder if most of us have lost sight of the reason for the celebration at Christmas. I hope the cynic in me is misplaced.
Presuming I'm able, I intend to participate in this event next year and I intend to smile as much as possible. If I see you, I hope my smile will be returned.