Pranking Black Friday

Raise consciousness about the silliness of the Black Friday ritual — do anything but shop.

This time last year, Cathy O’Neil and I traded emails about the US’s annual orgy of consumerism. I promised her an article for her Mathbabe blog, which I still owe her, and we wondered how to raise consciousness about the silliness of the Black Friday ritual.

I remembered something a friend and I did back in grad school: we waited in line for movies. And that was it — we went to downtown Palo Alto, picked the movie theater with the longest line (this when the homogeneous corporate 87-screen chainplexes were just getting started), and waited in the line. We had no intention of watching the movie, so if the person in back of us was at all anxious, we’d let them cut in front. And we’d explain “we’re just waiting in line; we’re not seeing the movie anyway, so go ahead — it’s cool.” People thought this was strange, or funny, or whatever. When we got to the ticket counter, we excused ourselves and went back to the end of the line, or maybe to another theater; I don’t remember.

I’m no longer going to get up at midnight to wait in line for the local Walmart to open its doors, but I’d like to know that someone did this, and in the process, raised awareness of our addiction to consumerism, raised of awareness of workers who aren’t paid adequately. Sing Christmas Carols. Sing Channukah songs. Sing old Beatles tunes. Sing Atheist Carols, if anyone has written any. Do anything but shop.

And I’d like to hear any other ideas about pranking this most ridiculous of national rituals.