I live in a fairly affluent little city in the San Francisco Bay Area’s east bay. It’s the kind of place where we have stand alone Williams Sonoma, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus stores, a boutique-y place that sells $60 pajama pants and $159 sweaters, more restaurants than you could sample in a month, and a certain attitude. Lots of pedestrians, lots of good doggos that you’ll meet while you’re out walking.
Most of the time, I don’t mind. If nothing else, it makes for good people watching. I like posting myself up at some cafe’s outdoor table and greeting all the puppies taking their humans out for walks. I imagine stories for the grumpy old man at the corner table and the young couple holding hands as they cross the street, and the baby trying desperately to get his daddy’s attention.
However, the whole tone of things changes as Thanksgiving approaches. There are certain stores you can’t get near. Michael’s might as well be on Mars, with it’s very small parking lot that it shares with a Bed, Bath and Beyond. The place where I normally get my nails done has joined that chaos. To be fair, it shares a parking lot with a Sports Basement, two gyms, a dry cleaners, acupuncture place, a TJ Maxx, about a dozen restaurants and coffee shops, etc. I got there around noon on Saturday and there was no parking, with as many as ten cars circling just the one section closest to the nail salon.
Sadly, it isn’t just parking lots. The streets are full of cars bullying their way through streets, nearly taking out pedestrians, making illegal turns, laying on their horns in an obnoxious manner, etc. The pedestrians are little better: taking up the whole sidewalk and not letting others get by them, looking at their phones and nearly knocking over others, huddling around the door to a cafe so that no one can get in or out, let alone get around them, etc.
Normally, this behavior doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving, but it came early this year. This is why I do most of my shopping online these days. It is also why I don’t even leave my house on Black Friday.
I use Black Friday as Pay it Forward Day. It is when I do my end of the year giving. This year, I intend to donate to Heifer International and probably fund a loan or two on Kiva.org. I will probably also make a donation to a local food bank or charity giving gifts to underprivileged kids. Far better use of my time and dollars than the further commercialization of our holiday season.
Remember that a little kindness goes a long way. When you find yourself stressed and frustrated with the people around you, be kind. Let your small acts of kindness lift you out of your bad mood. And you may not see it, but it will spread out from you. This is how we change the world, Readers.