If you're not familiar with the term, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, which is always the single heaviest shopping day of the year. The name was supposedly coined by those who work in retail, hence the negativism. For them, it's a suck day. For a lot of people, it's a day of opportunity.
For toy geeks, it's often a day where new stuff is on the shelves. On Black Friday in 1995, JPX and I got up super early to hit the stores. Toys R Us opened at 7 am, and we were there. But they didn't have what we wanted. What we wanted: In anticipation of the Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy coming out, new Star Wars figures were being made for the first time in twenty years. The first wave of the new figures was just kicking around that autumn, and the hard ones to find were 3PO and Princess Leia. Jeff wanted the princess and I wanted the droid.
So we headed next door to the Swansea Mall, which was open to the public before the stores lifted their security gates. Sure enough, right on the other side of the gate to Kay Bee Toy and Hobby was a display of Star Wars figs, and right in the front was a 3PO and a Leia. The store wouldn't open for another 45 minutes, so JPX and I used the time to head to the nearby Walmart in Seekonk.
Walmart was disappointing, but worse than that, when we got back to Kay Bee there was a big ol' nerd parked right on the other side of the gate from the SW rack. Damn! This was a pretty typical example of our ilk: about 300 pounds of misfit stuffed into an army jacket that I'm sure hung on a hook in his parents' basement. I sidled up next to him as best I could and stood silently in the gathering crowd, poised like a gunslinger for when it was time to make my move. Soon a noisy guy showed up behind me, going "maaaan, look at all the people. Hey, what are you trying to get? What about you? How about you, dude?" The big nerd reluctantly spoke up: "oh, 3PO, the Princess...the hard-to-get ones." I grinned to myself. He had broken his poker face facade, clearly he had tipped his advantage. I set my gaze ahead and waited.
During all this I was assuming that when go time came, an employee would come up to the gate and turn a key on the floor, saying "let's take it easy people." But no. They stayed behind the counter and pressed a button somewhere. Suddenly the gate was rising past the toes of my boots. I made a split-second calculation: clearly I'd surrendered all dignity by just being here this early in the morning, I might as well get what I came for. When the gate was about two feet high, I flattened and zipped underneath it. Grab! 3PO in one hand. Grab! Princess Leia in the other. Fwoosh! Suddenly I was in the middle of a tight sea of people, clawing at the rack. I turned around and looked at JPX, triumphantly holding the two figs above the scrambling mass around me. His huge grin reflected the one I felt on my own face. Success! Blissful success.
I estimated I had two or three whole seconds with the rack to myself. On the way out, I stopped and got myself an R2D2, a fig that had been out for a while and was not hard to get. The noisy guy was still there, talking, and I heard him say "man, that first guy just flew!" Jeff and I rode that high for the rest of the holiday, and in a way we're still riding it.
This has become my signature story of just how committed a nerd I am.