I’m not particularly fond of shopping or crowds. Throw in snarled traffic, fluorescent lights and Christmas music in November, and the scenario transcends to a whole new level of unpleasantness. And so it goes without saying, I would never venture to a shopping mall on Black Friday — unless, of course, it was at the behest of The New York Times.
When a NYT business editor reached out to gauge my interest in contributing to a Black Friday report, I enthusiastically agreed to brave Shelbyville Road the day after Thanksgiving. The assignment: Find a handful of unique Black Friday scenes to relay in 300 words or less. The finished product, which included work from five U.S. writers, including me, can be found here.
One of my favorite vignettes from the day didn’t make it into The New York Times. But the conversation was a breath of fresh air amid the frenzied shopping madness, and so I’ve included it here…
‘We’re here this early every day’
Four older gentlemen situated in plush chairs chat casually as though it’s a living room, not a bustling mall concourse. They’ve been at the popular Oxmoor Center in east Louisville since the doors opened at 6 a.m., but not because it’s Black Friday.
“We’re here this early every day. Well, six days a week — we let our walking shoes rest on Sunday,” says Ken Jenkins. The 63-year-old calls himself the “pup” of the foursome, which meets up most mornings to walk the mall.
A homemade sweet potato pie covered in aluminum foil sits on the table next to Jenkins. It was a gift from “a nice gal” at the Kate Spade store, which overlooks their usual gathering place.
The guys met as individual mall walkers. A friendship developed, and they’ve been walking together for more than five years. They’ll walk for an hour, then take their regular seats for conversation and camaraderie. “And donuts,” says Jenkins. “We take turns bringing donuts. Except for that guy,” he jokes, pointing to the group’s senior member, Wally D. (“That’s what I go by,” the 91-year-old says matter-of-factly when asked for his last name.)
They have no intention of shopping, not on Black Friday or any other day. It’s all about walking and talking, says Don Coleman. The 75-year-old “mayor of the mall” checks the step counter clipped to his bright white sneaker before declaring, “I already have 12,000 steps today, and it’s only 8:30.”
A handful of fellow mall walkers say hello as they stroll by, offering up humorous one-liners like, “I can’t believe all these people showed up just to walk the mall today.”
By 9 a.m., the mall is teeming with Black Friday shoppers. The guys leave their post and part ways — until tomorrow.