I never thought I’d do it, but I did.

My sister talked me into venturing out at midnight on Thanksgiving Day to shop on Black Friday.

She texted me around 10:30 p.m. from Skowhegan, saying she was going to bed and if she woke up in time, she’d pick me up and off we’d go.

She took a nap, I didn’t.

But come 11 p.m., I was still awake and said, “What the heck?”

She drove into my frozen Waterville driveway at 11:45 p.m., her car all warm and cozy inside, the aroma of coffee wafting about.

Bundled up tight, I climbed in and we drove to JC Penney at Elm Plaza, which was a sea of cars and trucks, some with lights on and exhaust blowing out of tail pipes in puffy plumes.

As if that wasn’t shocking enough, we exhaled when we discovered long lines of shoppers at the doors of the store — one extending all the way to Bull Moose and the other nearly to Olympia Sports.

It was like those scenes you see on TV where shoppers barge into a store, falling all over each other, except these Waterville shoppers didn’t appear nearly as frenzied.

“Holy smokes,” I said. “We’d better get out of the car or we will never get inside.”

We joined the crowds of people, hoods on, hands in pockets, feet stomping to ward off the chill.

They seemed mostly young and nearly all female. In fact, the discussion among shoppers waiting in line was about the one man behind us who was looking particularly outnumbered.

At 12:01 p.m., the doors opened, people cheered and the line moved quickly, like a watered-down version of big-city Black Friday.

When we got inside, two employees at the front of the store handed us tickets, the backs of which we tore off to find out what discount we would get — $10 off the purchase of $10 worth of merchandise or $100 off $100 and so on. I got a $10 off ticket.

Shoppers were poring through everything — sweaters, coats, jewelry, boots, towels, pillows, small appliances.

I ran into one of my co-workers and her daughter who have Black Friday shopping down to a science. After Waterville, they were heading to Freeport to hit the stores there. I learned later that they shopped until noon Friday. Oy vey.

Anyway, I scoured the aisles at Penney’s, hoping to find some bargains, and they were there all right, but I didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without. My sister found a few things, but when she eyed the long lines at the checkout counters, she decided she didn’t need them that badly and we left. We then checked out the only other two stores that appeared open, Kmart and Olympia Sports, but nothing there suited our fancies, so we gave up.

By that time, 1:15 a.m., I was bleary-eyed and hungry and we contemplated heading to Augusta or Freeport, but decided the alternative was a better option.

Shopping while tired didn’t seem terribly appealing, and we figured we could go home, go to bed, get up and shop in the light of day if we felt like it, which I, at least, didn’t.

My foray into the deep, dark frigid night with my sister would be the extent of my Black Friday excursion, and while my shopping luck wasn’t on my side, I concluded I’d at least had the experience.

Shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving was sort of like going to the Renys Early Bird sale the first Saturday of November, where we arrive just before 6 a.m. when the doors open and everything is 20 percent off.

Except this was like the Renys sale in reverse.

Instead of having a whole night’s sleep before shopping, you lose a whole night’s sleep and feel crappy afterward.

I recall as a college student staying up all night and surviving just fine.

It was a novelty and no sleep, no problem.

Well, that scenario surely has changed. While I’ve always been the person up for anything, anytime, Black Friday shopping has plummeted to the bottom of my holiday list of things to do.

Give me a good night’s sleep, sunshine on the horizon and a strong cup of joe, however, and I’m all in.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 30 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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