Upon returning Friday from spending Thanksgiving with my daughter and family, I said goodbye to my son-in-law’s mother at 22nd Street and boarded an uptown bus. My objective was to experience Black Friday at Macy’s. This is the day that all the retailers pray for a deluge of Christmas- shopping customers that will put the stores in the black for the year. Friday’s New York Times was filled with ads touting tremendous discounts especially on electronic equipment. Macy’s doors would open at 6:00 A.M. Since I was arriving at 5 P.M., I would miss the onslaught rushing for the $70 portable DVD players and Play-station No.3, but I was still hoping to see some action. And maybe buy some ties for my son for his birthday and Christmas.
I got off at 8th Avenue and 34th Street and headed for Macy’s. That one block with its discount stores and poorly clad shoppers has always depressed me despite the memory of buying a beautiful seconds bedspread there some years ago. Pedestrians were hot on my heels, and I kept stopping to let them go by rushing to wherever. Approaching 7th Avenue I noticed for the first time a drab old building with a marquee displaying the lettering Regency Rooms and Suites. An outside fire escape connected all six floors. I wondered what kind of a tourist would choose to encamp there. But the narrow, white painted lobby looked clean, and a nicely dressed couple were leaving the building. Probably one of those little gems listed in some Japanese guide book. Two doors up was a Starbucks – the block was forecasting better days.
A sea of humanity surrounded Macy’s, including an old woman in a mechanized wheel chair trying without success to navigate the revolving doors. What a courageous woman, I thought, to tackle Macy’s on Black Friday! I entered the men’s department just inside the entrance but I was disappointed not to experience pandemonium. All the early bird shoppers were probably home by now eating their left over turkey dinner. There seemed to be almost as many sales clerks as customers, and they were helpful and surprisingly cheerful — maybe a new contingent sent in for the night shift. The administration will be boasting at the increase in employment figures for November. There was table after table of sweaters at such reasonable prices that I ditched my plan to order from LL Bean, and seized a beautiful blue/green heavy cotton V-neck for only $39.95. No large, so I settled for a size medium whilst trying to assure myself that my son-in-law looked like he had lost weight.
On to the tie department. Earlier in the week I had looked at ties in the men’s store Boss – none appealed to my eye or pocketbook – the least expensive being $85. Here were hundreds of ties with each table devoted to a well known designer and starting at only $24.95. I headed first for the Donald Trump table remembering that last year, much to my surprise, I had found a pink, grey and white one that was very tasteful, but not this year. The sales clerks, a man who was alert but looked old enough to be retired and a young woman, were straightening out the ties. She told me that paisley was the latest in tie design. I hate paisley, so I moved on and got so immersed in the ties for over an hour that I forgot to observe the shoppers. I had become an observee myself. With three beautiful ties in my hand: a Geoffrey Beame, Perry Ellis and Ralph Lauren, I headed for the check out counter. The clerk was so well turned out that I wondered if he was a laid off CEO. He informed me that if I were to open a Macy’s charge account I could get an additional 15 per cent off. I told him that fifteen years ago someone appropriated my identity and made purchases at Macy’s in New York, Florida and the West Coast and that it took me a year to straighten matters out. He said I could try. I didn’t think he had the time to also hear that some forty-five years ago, during hard times, Macy’s relieved me of my card for non payment and that last year American Express called to tell me someone was trying to use my card but where, I don’t know. Rejected, alas, not by Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf Goodman, but by Macy’s. I toyed with the idea of bringing a lawsuit for emotional distress, but since I was able with my American Express card to buy three ties for the price of one at Boss, I walked out with my purchases into 7th Avenue and into a New Yorker cartoon. A sea of people in the midst of which was a lone cleaning man trying to sweep the sidewalk with an old fashion broom and dust pan. He was surprisingly cheerful when I spoke to him.
Down into the subway with a very fleeting resolution – that next year I would be one of the crowd storming the doors of Macy’s at 6:00 A.M. on Black Friday.
Lydia LaFleur worked thirty-two years for The New York Public Library as a librarian specializing in work with teen agers. After retiring in 1987, she has continued to enjoy life as co-founder of The Morningside Players, a community theater in Morningside Gardens where she lives, performing in many roles over the past twenty-eight years, and also as a participant for the last fourteen years in the writing workshop “Writing from Life Experience” led by Susan Willerman. She is the mother of two wonderful children, a son and a daughter, and four grandchildren.