Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Holiday of Metaphors: The Thanksgiving Thing


I never really noticed before just how dramatic the week surrounding Thanksgiving has become. The Wednesday before is known as "Black Wednesday" in certain circles (those "circles" being, of course, the local bars, pubs, and dives where people hole up in the hopes of drinking themselves into an unconscious stupor so they can prepare to deal as graciously as possible with the family members they don't have to deal with the other 364 days of the year.)

And of course--as we all know by now--the infamous day following the holiday: "Black Friday," the busiest shopping day of the year (or so I'm told). Actually, though, I think the whole notion of "Black Friday" being such a consumer-conscious event is a bit misleading. I think the whole idea of people trampling one another, stampeding down store-aisles, and pushing each other out of the way to be the first to grab the "Hot Buy" of the year can be attributed to at least three competing factors: 1.) we all have pent-up energy brought on by the quantities of food and sleep from the day before, 2.) we're all just basically greedy assholes, and 3.) we'd all rather do anything--even if it means fighting traffic, crowds, headaches, and indigestion--other than sit one more minute in the house with those family members we normally don't have to deal with the other 364 days of the year.

And not to be outdone--now, in this glorious computerized age we find ourselves in--we have what has cleverly come to be called "Cyber Monday," a day supposedly devoted to giving the online shoppers and vendors their due. This is a day presumably when everyone--and I guess we're really supposed to believe everyone--is stealing time at work (if in fact we go in to work at all) to sneak a peek at our favorite online shopping sites. The whole notion behind such a day is ludicrous, but my biggest problem with the day has nothing to do with the philosophical challenges it poses. No, my biggest beef comes with the unfortunate choice of name it has won.

Cyber Monday.

Don't you know the OCDers among us are squriming and fidgeting nervously. There must have been a shortage of crayon boxes on the day that name was created; that's all I can figure. As a result, the brainstorming list for meaningful colors must have been disastrously short. But the most obvious question I have about the whole "Cyber Monday" name-thing goes back to the age-old cliche: Why fix something that ain't broken? Was "Black Monday" already taken?

*[Aside: After trying to build up that joke to a somewhat satisfying climax, I thought I'd actually go online myself and do a little "cyber sleuthing" to see, in fact, if the term "Black Monday" has already been taken. It has. Going all the way back to 1987, actually--the year Pat Cash (who?) and Martina Navratilova won the men's and women's Wimbledon championships, respectively; the year the Edmonton Oilers took home the Stanley Cup; the year in movies that gave us our first (and God knows not last) Predator and Lethal Weapon; the year that U2 gloriously snagged the golden rings with The Joshua Tree--it turns out that was the year the world stock markets took a collective nosedive into the collective toilet. And on a Monday, of all days. Talk about pouring salt on a fresh wound. And hence the name "Black Monday" was born. Which just goes to show, I guess, that one way or another the stock market can always be blamed.]

Which brings me back to my original observation of this holiday we call Thanksgiving existing as some sort of proverbial "island of calm" amidst a flurry of days given over to greed, and selfishness, and avarice, and marketing one-upsmanship. Yes, I know the day's ridiculous mythology of gray-flanneled Pilgrims with tall, rectangular hats and shiny gold buckles on their shoes sharing a feast of corn, and venison, and squash, and turkey, (and liquor) with their new-found red-skinned friends has worn a little thin these days. I know. And I also know that today the holiday we call Thanksgiving is primarily a day given over to football on TV, and food, and...football on TV. But it was no less a prescient mind as Abraham Lincoln's who, in 1863, amidst the danger and drama of the Civil War, first saw the need for establishing a national day like Thanksgiving--this island of a day in which we are reminded to stop for a moment, and to catch our breath, and to look around us and say, "Yeah...okay. This is good. It could be so much worse."

And chances are, the stock market will prove you right anyway. So why not give thanks while you can, I guess? Buy into the myths of the day, and smile, and enjoy the relative "island of calm" while you can (a veritable light in the darkness sandwiched, as it is, between black days--kind of like an Oreo cookie, come to think of it), and sneak yourself another glass of wine to help you deal with those family members whom you wouldn't want to deal with even if you knew how, and let the legendary tryptophan begin to work its magic spell on you...

You're going to need your energy to deal with the days ahead.

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