, Corbin, KY

December 5, 2013

Be thankful, not greedy this season, Corbin, KY

CORBIN — I watched several videos from across the country showing feeding time at a zoo for starved, carniverous animals.

At least, that’s what it looked like.

What it was, in fact, was Black Friday, 2013.

My mouth stood agape at the computer screen — I saw pack after pack of greedy heathens fighting over various items to purchase for what was once considered a religious holiday.

I say that, because after watching the way these people were acting, they’d have a lot to ask for in the forgiveness department if they still think they’re acting like Christian people.

A woman arrested while trying to snatch something away from another customer.

A man pushing people out of his way and down to the floor to get to some other bargain.

Another man swinging his arms wildly to get other people away from him.

Police scattered through the crowds, as if that had much affect.

Unfortunately, I can remember the Cabbage Patch doll craze from 30 years ago — even then mobs of people were acting much the same way over getting one of the coveted dollies for Christmas.

I guess those parents taught their children well.

As it is, I was appalled to learn several major department stores decided to open their doors for Thanksgiving — as if their employees don’t suffer enough during the “Black Friday” shopping madness.

I worked for one of those stores for three years and I can tell you — had they told me I was working on Thanksgiving Day, I would have told them to take the job and restaff it. On two consecutive Christmas seasons, I was assaulted by a customer. I was working in one department, and apparently this woman had an issue with another employee. When she walked by me, I told her to have a nice day. She swung around and shoved that finger in my face, bellowing some nonsense that I didn’t understand.

I tried to apologize, but she wasn’t hearing it. I won’t repeat exactly what I said, but her words were brutal, they were filthy, and I wasn’t making $50 an hour to hear her mouth.

I asked her to come with me, and we would talk to the general manager.

She seemed satisfied with that, but when I walked by her, she smacked me.

“Don’t you touch me again,” I said to her fiercely, storming off to the general manager’s office.

But I didn’t get any backup — he gave her a $75 gift certificate and apologized to her for her inconvenience.

She left the room, only with time to spare me a look of “told you so.”

The manager then told me I handled the situation very well. I told him “yeah, but too bad you didn’t.”

The next year, I had co-workers mad at me — like I scheduled my gall bladder problems to coincide with Christmas shopping frenzy.

I went back to work three weeks before I was released — I needed the money — and that day happened to be Dec. 26.

I worked in a big-city department store, and in the department in which I worked, there were three sections.

I was alone in the returns section — and the line appeared more than 100 deep.

Sore, with abdominal staples catching my shirt from time to time, I found a steady pace and worked it. Three hours later, without a break, I get a certifiably crazy woman.

She slung several bags of merchandise on the counter, wanting her money back — at least, that’s what I understood. Her English was pretty broken.

I started sorting through the mess she made and realized none of what she had was products we sold.

I pointed this out to her in a professional way.

She responded with a string of what I assume was profanities.

I explained the situation again, as though I were speaking with a child.

“These buy here,” she said.

“No, ma’am, no you didn’t.”

“Yes, yes, YES,” she screamed, punctuating each “yes” with a stomp of her foot.

That’s when the demon sprang forth.

I pointed to the tags on her clothing items.

I read the name of the store where they were purchased.

Then I pointed to a sign over my head indicating in what store she was arguing.

That didn’t help.

So I called security (telling her I needed a manager) and explained to them what was happening and that they needed to record the transaction between me and this woman.

The guy said they already were.

So I hung up, and made a final attempt to explain that she could not return any of those items.

She walked around the check-out stand, hauled off and slapped me — right across the face.

Stunned, and ready to return that favor, I instead began to call security.

“You have one minute to get your merchandise and leave this store before I have you thrown out,” I said.

She started screaming in her native tongue, and continued waggling her finger in my face — inches from my nose.

Those folks who know me know it was all I could do not to smack her hand away — hard.

Security came, and arrested her. This time, the general manager of the store pressed assault charges against her — and it was all on tape.

You know, when I was a kid my mother made Thanksgiving a separate holiday from the Christmas season.

She took the time to see if we’d remember what we’re thankful for, and what blessings have come during the previous year.

It was a special holiday, and my mother made it so — that’s why I still return to the dinner table the fourth Thursday in November.

I truly was deeply saddened to learn these stores were dissing the holiday for the almighty dollar, but what really, truly saddened me was the behavior of these folks.

I think if you, like me, were truly offended by this action, you’d personally boycott these stores.

I already have.

People can blame the stores for the ridiculous prices offered at these crazy hours of the day — and they should hold some of the blame. If they can offer these prices for three hours on Black Friday, then I believe these prices could be maintained at other times of the year.

But the bulk of the blame shifts to simple greed.

So since the stores and their customers tried to sweep Thanksgiving under the rug, I would like to take a moment to publicly acknowledge 10 of the many things for which I am thankful.

1) I am thankful for my health, what’s left of it. To make a long story short, I nearly died six years ago from kidney failure. Just that I am still here and relatively normal is enough to be thankful for.

2) I am thankful to have four special bippers in my life, my niece, Jessica, my nephew, Peter, and my daughters by proxy, Allie and Abbey.

3) I am thankful I still have a vehicle that runs. I spent a long time forced to walk everywhere because I had no vehicle — so for me it’s a good blessing.

4) I am thankful for my mind. So many people in my age group have succumbed to the damaging effects of drugs and/or alcohol, and they now are a mere shadow of who they were in high school.

5) I am thankful for the health of my parents — both of them take care of themselves pretty well and have had no serious health issues.

6) I am thankful my sister was able to get divorced. No details needed here, but it must be said he is not a good man (and I’m being nice with that statement).

7) I am thankful my other sister was able to find a better job, although it’s far away. She is also in the newspaper business, in a slightly different capacity.

8) I am thankful for a job — after my business failed I was scared to death to get back into the general workforce. Add to that the crumbling economy, and it’s a wonder I was even able to find work when I did.

9) I am thankful for both my eyesight and hearing — if you look beyond the hustle and bustle of everyday life, you can see and hear some of the most beautiful things in the world.

10) I am thankful that I can write. There are many talents I would love to have, but for me the blessing of writing is more than enough.

Take some time during this Christmas season for two things — remembering why we have this annual Christian holiday, and being thankful that we’re alive to celebrate it.

Otherwise we will continue to sink into this heathen, greedy lifestyle that robs us of our dignity, our humility — and our humanity.

John Ross is a staff writer for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at