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Posted: November 20, 2012 5:41 p.m.

Black Friday: A reporter's survival guide

What is it about Halloween? It seems you wait all year for it, and then once it's over, it becomes a race downhill to Christmas. I try to make sure I slow it down this time of year. I like to make cookies and decorate things and make lovely gifts for my son's teachers, like vanilla and sugar scrubs. I typically don't subject myself to the Black Friday insanity, but I have been known to go before, and if you don't prepare yourself, you're in for a rude awakening.

I used to go occasionally with my mother and sister. I stopped when every trip ended with at least one of us in tears over something totally insignificant, like where to have breakfast. Last year, I decided to do the Thanksgiving night thing. There wasn't anything I needed in particular, but I wanted to get the shopping over and done with, and the friend I went with had a bunch of stuff she needed so we decided on Toys"R"Us first. We showed up about 8 p.m. because they opened at 9 p.m. The line stretched around the building and almost to the Best Buy behind it. Seriously? There were people in the front of the line eating turkey legs and stuffing off paper plates. Oh holy crap, I thought. What have I gotten myself into? But I want to help you, dear readers, to avoid the madness associated with Black Friday, so while my tips may sound silly to your pre-Thanksgiving ears, don't say I didn't tell you so when you're weeping in the parking lot of Target at 3 a.m.

Drink first
Although it would be magnificent if I meant alcohol, I, in no way, condone drinking and driving. Also, I think many people actually are a little lit while shopping, which leads to awkward things like fights over the last Fur Real Friend puppy or Barbie Dream House. Don't laugh, I've seen it. I watched two women call each other awful names at Toys"R"Us last year and push each other until security arrived. All over some dumb toy that their kid will play with twice and then either break or shove in the bottom of the toy box and forget. But the drinking I mean is caffeine. You start off all excited with your second wind, but about an hour later, you are dying, leaning against a shopping cart full of overpriced crap with "lowered" sales tags on it to trick you into thinking you've saved $3, while standing in a line that stretches the length of the entire store. Coffee, Mountain Dew, anything you can think of. The plus is you can be awake to watch the crazy people fight over Elmo dolls.

Take the ad, but read it first
The taking the ad part without reading it first is what holds up lines and also makes people act crazy. You glance at the ad and think that Black Ops 2 is on sale for $40; you snatch it up and feel triumphant! You get to the register and it's actually only on sale for $40 if you buy three other video games at regular price, or something insane like that. If you READ the ad first, you can avoid the embarrassment. Or, if you're like the lady in front of me last year, you can argue anyway in spite of the fact that you are being shown the ad. It was like she forgot how to read and was bound and determined that if she refused to read it that would make her way the right way. You end up looking like a total moron and everyone behind you will sigh and mock you. Or at least I will.

Be comfortable
You are about to stand outside in the cold, rush around inside a store that is going to be blazing hot because the employees hate you and your shopping insanity and want to make you pay. You're going to be leaning and crouching and reaching and doing general gymnastics to get what you want before someone else. And you are going to be standing. A lot. Do not come out in your "Pretty Woman" thigh high boots, in skintight jeans or jeggings, with your hair did and so much makeup on I can smell your face. You need to learn to shop like the regular folks do. Plus, I can get so much more stuff in my comfy jeans and Converse with my hair piled on the top of my head held in place by an ink pen than you can in your streetwalker clothes. It's fine if that's your style every day. I guess. But if you want to make shopping in the pre-dawn hours worth it, dress for comfort. Also, if you wear all that makeup it will start to melt in the heat of the store and then you will look like your face is melting off. People will laugh at you. And by people, I mean me.

Leave your babies at home
I cannot stress this enough, people. If you do not have a husband, a mother, a sitter - someone who loves you or will at least take your money in order to watch your precious angel baby, then stay your behind at home. I have a kid and he's not always great. But if I took him out in his pajamas and coat at 9 p.m., and kept him with me while I went from store to store all night and into the early hours of the next day, he would be a demon straight from the pits of hell. 'Cause he's a kid, and he's tired and he doesn't want to sleep in the front of a shopping cart. Neither does your kid. I promise. So just because you can ignore your screeching offspring who sound like they are being murdered by a house cat while you search for Spiderman gloves or a LeapPad 2, doesn't mean I can - or should. Find someone to watch them or stay home. Simple as that. All the junk we rush around trying to get on sale will still be on sale come Cyber Monday.

Be nice!
I know this is a hard rule. You're tired. You don't want to wait in those stupid long lines; people will inevitably do things like bring screaming kids and act like boneheads, but just be nice. As many people as are out who will be jerks, there are plenty who are just out trying to find a deal and they're not wanting to fight you over Barbies and flat screen, plasma TVs. Is it hard? Of course it is. Do I oftentimes call people names in my head or maybe punch them in the throat - also in my head? Of course. But keep it in your head. Keep your words sweet. And if they mess with you, just "accidentally" trip them. If they're wearing those ridiculous heels, it shouldn't be hard. Sometimes karma needs a little help.

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