November. The month where the NFL season gets serious, the weather turns cold, and we all gather to eat mounds of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie on Thanksgiving. November is also the month a large swath of our population begins planning for the Christmas holiday. This planning inevitably involves shopping and, if you enjoy venturing into the retail world while searching for the perfect gift, one shopping day reigns above all others—Black Friday.
Black Friday has been watered down in recent years by stores opening on Thanksgiving night, retailers starting sales early, the emergence of “Cyber Monday,” and various days designated to spotlight local businesses. However, I believe folks still look forward to hitting the mall on the day after Thanksgiving. At the risk of being labeled a sexist pig, let me be clear here. When I say “folks,” I mean women. Sure, men shop on Black Friday but, if you take closer look, most of them are shuffling along with a vacant thousand-mile stare, desperately hoping for either a nap, a Cinnabon, or a reprieve because a cranky kid needs to go home. Of course, some men enjoy recreational shopping and there are those who will search tirelessly for a deal. I have a thrifty male friend who reviews the sales and maps out a Black Friday game plan. His annual excursion begins around five in the morning. For the most part, though, men on shopping trips are looking for what I call the “Men’s Section”—a spot in the store to sit, play a game on his phone, and dutifully whip out the credit card at the appropriate time. To the horror of my wife and daughter, I once took this concept to a new level at an Anthropologie store. Feeling worn down, I spotted a comfortable couch, settled in, and fell asleep sitting upright. I did rally and produce the Visa Card at check-out time, so forgiveness was rapid and relationship damage minimal.
In short, for most of my life I never understood the allure of recreational shopping. However, on Wednesday April 6, 2016, my life changed. That was the historic day the retail chain Cabela’s opened a store approximately a mile from my house.
For anyone who does not know, in 1961 Richard Cabela started selling fishing flies through newspaper advertisements and the outdoor magazine Sports Afield. With each purchase, customers received a catalogue offering other items to buy. Soon, Mr. Cabela had a booming mail-order business and eventually began opening retail outlets around the country. For those of us who either fish, hike, camp, and/or hunt, Cabela’s is a “go to” supplier. Their goods are dependable, durable, and more reasonably priced than the upscale outfitters. Long before a store opened near my home, I bought from them frequently.
When the local Grand Opening was announced, my son Andy and I decided to attend. We figured we’d stop by and then go out for eggs and breakfast meat. You know, do some classic male bonding. As part of our planning, I concluded we should show up about fifteen minutes ahead of the ten o’clock opening and find our way inside.
Andy was skeptical of my timeline, and he left his apartment early to check things out. At around nine he called. His message was simple— “Dad, you better get over here.” Ten minutes later I arrived and found myself standing at the end of a lengthy line stretching down the driveway leading to the entrance. I’m terrible at estimating crowd sizes, but upon locating Andy, he informed me the first 500 people were given raffle tickets. He had managed to wrangle one of the final tickets. I was too late.
Inspired by the crowd, I decided to take a good look around. I estimated more than 90% of the attendees were men. Most had come in groups to celebrate the opening and were happily making jokes and sipping coffee. I saw more than one toddler strapped to a father’s back, patiently waiting to get into the warm store. The adults wore camo clothing, flannel, and baseball hats with either fish or bears on them. I’d describe the crowd as what my wife admiringly calls “country guys who know how to do stuff.”
While we waited, we were serenaded by country music blaring from speakers, and we received a personal welcome from a member of the Cabela’s family. A sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives worked the crowd, shaking hands, and, presumably, kissing babies. As an aside, his efforts were in vain. He was voted out of office the following November.
Every twenty minutes or so, various raffle prizes were awarded. I was particularly fascinated when they presented firearms to three different spectators holding the right ticket. I didn’t know you could do that. Apparently, you can if the winner passes the appropriate background checks.
Finally, they were ready to open the doors. I was expecting the normal “ribbon cutting” where five or six dignitaries snip a gold or red fabric tape stretched in front of the store. Ah, no. Instead, an archer, dressed in full hunting gear, climbed onto a metal tree stand and shot an arrow into a large balloon filled with confetti.
The inside of the Cabela’s was an awe-inspiring experience. There was a wildlife display, fresh-water aquarium stocked with large-mouth bass, guns, archery equipment, an extensive selection of outdoor clothing, camping materials, boots/shoes, snack food, sunglasses, and an area where you could find bargains. Most importantly, there was fishing equipment. Lots of fishing equipment. Looking at the rods, reels, tackle, and gadgets, I was like a little kid in a toy store. After about forty-five minutes of warm-up shopping, we decided to indulge the ultimate outdoor-purchase fantasy—the boat section.
Andy and I enthusiastically browsed, admiring john boats set up for fishing, large party boats, and, of course, bass boats. For anyone unfamiliar with a bass boat, they have a low-cut hull, allowing for easy casting and convenience when landing fish. They are also equipped with giant engines, elevated padded seats, coolers, fish finders, electric trolling motors, rod holders, and a livewell tank for keeping fish fresh after they are caught. There’s plenty of room for tackle boxes and any other paraphernalia you want to lug on board. The more extravagant models cost upwards of $75,000.
After strategizing, we decided to propose the acquisition of one of these magnificent watercrafts. Our approach was to use the “we’ll get to spend time together” argument. Knowing there was only one chance to recommend a purchase to The Committee (my wife, Kathy, is The Committee) we decided to be relatively modest with our request. After identifying a suitable model, I texted Kathy a picture of the boat along with the comment, “this one’s only $35,000.” Her response was succinct. After whatever version of “no” she provided, Kathy added the line, “don’t ever use the words ‘only’ and ‘$35,000’ in a sentence again.”
Despite having our material dreams crushed, Andy and I had a fantastic time. When we got home, Kathy provided the perfect description of the day, labeling the experience “Black Friday for guys.” Provided the opportunity, I’d do it again in a minute. Only next time, I would invest more time developing my boat strategy. Eventually, The Committee will succumb.
Steven Rogers’ novel Into the Room is available in paperback and on Kindle. If you’d like to order a copy, please visit Amazon or his website: https://steven-rogers.com/
November News from Steve
I’ve started the process of having “Into the Room” made into an audio book. We’re currently reviewing potential narrators and developing a timeline. More to come as things develop.
With the holidays approaching, please consider “Into the Room” as a gift option. You can order a book through Amazon or my website— https://steven-rogers.com/
A special thanks to the Library of Virginia. On October 26th, they hosted me as the first speaker in their “Book Break” series. You can visit the Virginia Shop at the Library, located at 800 East Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia, and purchase a copy of “Into the Room”. The shop also carries a wide selection of excellent Virginia-themed merchandise. Visit the Library’s website to find information on other “Book Break” speakers. Free parking is available under the building.
If you enjoy my columns and don’t want to miss one, please subscribe by filling out the “Follow Steve” block on my website: https://steven-rogers.com/.
Folks have asked what they can do to help promote “Into the Room.” If you’d like to assist, I’d love more reviews on Amazon and, of course, please “talk up” the book to others. Also, I enjoy discussing “Into the Room” with book clubs, reading groups, and individuals. If you or a group/individual you know is interested, please email me at email@example.com.
Thank you for reading!