Like tsunamis and pyrotechnics-related club fires, being trampled to death is generally not a fate you consider while lying awake at 4 a.m., your brain buzzing with all the horrors you manage to push back during the day with coffee, the computer, work, family and all the other things that make you forget that, like everyone else swarming across the globe, life can be gone in an instant.
WalMart security guard Jdimytai Damour probably didn’t. But I bet he’s watching his family put him to rest up in heaven, or whatever afterlife he personally believed in. And I bet he’s pissed.
I would be. After all, he was a lowly, underpaid temp, punching in for pennies an hour once the government’s take is accounted for. He didn’t even have the misfortune of being an actual WalMart employee. They probably hired him as a way to avoid paying benefits, or having yet another name on the HR roster who could sue.
And so, in the wee hours of Black Friday 2008, a crowd of more than 2,000 of his fellow Long Islanders wanted so badly to be able to buy cheap Chinese-made crap, they actually tore the doors off their hinges and killed him under their feet. According to the Seattle Times:
“Tension grew as the 5 a.m. opening neared. By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 had become a rabble, and could be held back no longer. Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in with the weight of the assault.”
Witnesses and the police said the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, of Queens, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him.”
Scarier still is the fact that people feel little, if any, remorse at others’ misfortune or pain. From the same story:
“Some shoppers who had seen the stampede said they were shocked. One, Kimberly Cribbs of Queens, said the crowd had acted like “savages.” Shoppers’ behavior was bad even as the store was being cleared, she recalled.
“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Cribbs said. “They kept shopping.”“Outbreaks weren’t restricted to New York. At a Wal-Mart in Columbus, Ohio, Nikki Nicely, 19, jumped onto a man’s back and pounded his shoulders when he tried to take a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen TV to which she had laid claim. “That’s my TV!” Nicely, 19, shouted. “That’s my TV!”
“A police officer and security guard intervened, but not before Nicely took an elbow in the face. In the end, she was the one with the $798 television, marked down from $1,000. “That’s right,” she cried as her adversary walked away. “This here is my TV!”
“Charisma Booker, also on the hunt for a TV, said she had been shopping at Wal-Mart every Black Friday for nearly a decade. “There are fewer people here this year, but they’re more aggressive,” she said. “I’ve never seen anybody fight like this. This is crazy.”
“At a Wal-Mart in Niles, Ill., a mother fought back tears when she discovered someone had taken her cart filled with toys.”
It’s everywhere. Turn your attention away for just a moment in the checkout line and someone is guaranteed to hop in front of you. Say something and you’ll either get ignored or, more likely, cursed at, especially if there’s a small child in the transgressor’s cart seat, which really blows my mind.
Even worse is behavior behind the wheel. I have both been witness to, and a victim of, some of the most dangerous, poorly thought out and downright asinine vehicular activities in recent months.
Just last week H. merged into the left lane on the Blue Route, only to find a white coupe that was at least two car lengths behind – Pa. license plate No. DYJ 9585, for anyone interested – that apparently took offense at the fact that he had the gall to pull in front of them.
The car actually passed us on the left shoulder, pulled in front of us, slammed on the brakes, and began to swerve and slam on the brakes intermittently, until we finally exited the highway. It was a terrifying display of complete stupidity, especially considering the fact that we were travelling at least 60mph and traffic was heavy all around.
Not to mention there were several lives at stake – I could see the outline of at least three heads in the offending vehicle alone – and least of all my little puppy’s, who was too small to be safely harnessed in the seat.
Even if H. had pulled out directly in front of them, there is absolutely no excuse short of complete mental retardation – and even that is putting the disabled down – for that sort of driving.
I nearly threw up from the experience, and H. almost had a coronary because, after three years with me, he knows he’s not allowed to do what he would, under normal circumstances for him, do: follow the car until it stopped and then confront the driver, moron-to-man – the driver being the moron, of course – to deduce the reason for such foolish behavior, and why H. shouldn’t put him in shock trauma because of it.*
So I’m not at all surprised that this particular group of Black Friday shoppers was so impatient to get in to snap up all the big discounts they resorted to murder.
We’ve been sold the idea of the American dream for so long it’s morphed into something narcissistic and dangerous. The adage, “You can do anything” has been repeated so often it has been turned into a sadistic version of telephone, where the message has become distorted not into silly but literally, you can do anything: cut people off, curse like a sailor, eat bulk food from the bins, steal a kid’s bike off a porch, lie to your employer, commit insurance fraud, bilk the American people out of $300 billion, kill in the name of justice, do whatever it takes to get to the top of the list, head of the line, front of the pack or corner office.
Just look at the financial mess we’re in, the perfect example of greed and entitlement run amok.
I’ll be the first to tell you that not everyone can own a house. I’d love more than anything to own one, but I’m not willing to risk financial ruin by biting off more than I can chew. Nor should anyone think it’s okay to lie, ever, for any reason, in order to sell one.
The poor security guard was probably trying to make as much money as he could, working whatever gig he could get, in order to make ends meet. Just like all of us in the recession Bush was certain he could ward off if he just denied it long enough.
Well, it didn’t work, and lo-and-behold we’re all up shit’s creek without a paddle.
The irony is, as the pundits turn blue bemoaning the end of the fiscal world, and newscasters spew harrowing tales of honest folk going belly-up with the same intonations as the ghost stories we used to tell during sleepovers – the only thing missing is a flashlight under their chins – my life’s just about the same.
Maybe even a little bit better, thanks to a summer spend toiling over thousands of pages of copy in a local company’s annual clothing catalog. It’s the same gig that allowed me to bail on the corporate hell I was dying in. And, thanks to their continued use of my skills, they’ve enabled me to avoid returning to that world again.
And so the crumbling global economy is little more than a blip on my radar. I was poor to begin with, and will probably continue to be as the recession marches on.
Despite my higher education, I’ve never managed to cash in on the earning potential that allegedly comes with multiple degrees hanging on the wall. I guess that’s because said degrees were earned out of a genuine desire to learn, not earn. (Oh, insipid! Barf!)
Two of them are art degrees, the third is journalism. Not exactly booming businesses. But, I’m happy. And while I’ll continue to clip coupons and live on things like (whole grain) bread and (organic) canned soup, I can’t really share in the depression being felt by those who, until recently, pretty much had it all.
And since I’m, as usual, too poor to shop this time of year, I’ll stay safe at home while I put my degrees to work and make all my presents.
Unless, that is, things really hit the fan and I’ve got no choice but to whore myself out to the temp agencies. In which case, I’ll do my best to avoid the maniacal, retail-obsessed mobs who are so desperate to consume they’ll willingly crush another human being beneath their feet in order to buy like they have every other year.
I suppose they figure if there’s a mountain of gifts under the tree, they can pretend, at least for now, that it’s still possible to buy their way to happiness.
They deserve everything they get, after all. Right?*I neither condone violence, nor do I apologize for assuming the driver is a man. Auto insurance rates for young men are sky high for a reason, and while H. knows I’m not a fan of beating up other people, sometimes I think the world would be at least a more civil place if people were allowed to confront others rude behavior without the threat of jail or a lawsuit every time someone says boo.