Turducken, Black Friday, and Other Abhorrent Things Americans Attach to A Rather Abhorrent Holiday:
For the record, I don’t actually have anything against turducken. Or deep fried turkey. I think as red-blooded, vote-participating, freedom-loving Americans, we have the right to fill our bodies with whatever trash we want (including transfat, tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana – but that’s another post). What I do hate is what the product of turducken symbolizes: greed and gluttony. Again, two things on their own I certainly wouldn’t get too judgey about considering my own past choices (and some current ones – is it really gluttonous to have 30oz of coffee in one day though? I mean, you can’t throw the coffee away, that would be wasteful . . .), but put them together – in much the way the turducken is put together – and you have the very thing that Americans get stereotyped for, the very thing that allowed us to celebrate this disingenuous holiday: the taking, the consumption that won’t stop. Eat too much turkey, fine. Eat a lot of duck, whatever. Continue the chicken eating that is prevalent all year round (8.6 billion chickens to be precise), but there is just something about shoving one animal into another animal’s gastric passage, then shoving those animals into another animal’s gastric passage that is so violent and unnecessary. It’s not like people are merely offering all three types of meat at dinner which is excessive enough, but they have to combine them into this kind of super meat, where a person can consume as much as possible with every bite. And though the act of stuffing dead animals into other dead animals to consume is not only an American thing, there is something so quintessentially “American” about this extreme consumer behavior, especially within the context of Thanksgiving.
Speaking of consumption, I don’t know about you, but I can no longer think about Thanksgiving without thinking about Black Friday and those people who have to work the holidays. I hate Black Friday. I really hate Black Friday. The practice is disgusting consumerism at its most irrational. How can you pass up those deals? Well let me tell you: easily. That’s how I can pass up the deals, with no problem at all. I just stuff myself full of carbohydrates (hey, I never said I wasn’t on board with the eating-too-much aspect of this “holiday”), put on elastic-wasted pajamas, and watch Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, while dozing in a wine-induced haze until it is a socially acceptable time to get into bed. As could we all, were it not for Black Friday . . .
When I was in college, one of my jobs was as a barista/bagel-slinger at a locally owned bagel house chain. The owners insisted on being open Thanksgiving, Christmas eve (sometimes Christmas day), and New Year’s eve and day. “We’re only going to stay open until 2 p.m.” the owner rationalized. Well, for people like me having two families (yay divorce!), who celebrate the holiday out of town, and want to eat at 2:30 p.m., getting off work at 2 p.m. is not helpful. I was the opening shift leader though (read assistant manager who doesn’t get paid for more responsibility), so I began work at 4:30 a.m. and got to leave about 10:30 a.m. depending on how busy we were. As you might imagine, when the doors opened, we were not flooded with customers. There were the early morning regulars who always sat outside and watched us set up, hoping that we would let them in early (I never did), but that was it until around 8:30 a.m. when we got quite the rush of people who didn’t want to make breakfast and dinner for the family members staying in their home (I picture the family scenes in Home Alone).
Throughout the morning, a few of the regulars, and many of the 8:30 a.m. flood said, “Oh, god, it’s so terrible that you have to work during the holiday,” just before ordering a dozen bagels sliced and toasted and a tub of cream cheese we’d just run out of; sometimes right after ordering while I was counting out their change. The tenth time someone said that to me, I snapped, “Well, if you weren’t too lazy to make your own breakfast one fucking morning out of the year, I wouldn’t have to work on the holiday.” (I probably didn’t say “fucking” out loud, but I’m sure I did in my head. I say that word in my head a lot). I know I actually said the rest of the sentence though, because the manager heard me, and choked on his coffee. The customer (who was a regular) looked stricken, and said, “well, I suppose that’s true” and walked away. And I’ll tell you what, my 20 year old self and my 33 year old self agree: You’re goddam right that’s true! Supply and demand people. If you don’t demand, capitalists won’t supply. That’s the way the system works.
Completely ignoring any religious affiliations attached to the various holidays, as a culture we talk about family values and using holidays as a way to give thanks and appreciate the people around us and be more kind and grateful and blah blah blah. But it’s all a bunch of hot air if we then turn around and force the working class to wait on people who were privileged enough to get the day off. The vast majority of consumers benefiting from rock bottom prices on blu-ray players and iphones are not the working poor. They’re the ones ringing up, mopping up after, breaking up fights between the middle and upper middle classes who piled into their suburbans and stop through Starbucks for a nonfat venti mocha latte (which doesn’t exist! That is not a real thing), before heading out to the mall to wait in line for an hour before JC Penny’s or Target opens.
For the sake of full disclosure, I am a frequent customer of Starbucks (my father and sister even insist on stopping Christmas morning before we drive out of town to Abuelita’s to grab coffee and an artisan egg sandwich) and other than their gas-guzzling and relatively common parking space hogging, I don’t care if people drive suburbans (I mean, I can see how they’re useful; the little league team has got to travel to away games in something). The point is that if we as a culture are going to act like holidays (whether they are for eating or blowing shit up) are times to relax and see family and friends, then we ought to provide that opportunity to everyone.