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Lots of emails and twitter messages: Are people on Long Island insane?

No, not all of us. And I don’t want to say that what happened at WalMart today is not indicative of Long Island but…..

I don’t go shopping on Black Friday. I don’t like shopping as it is, and I avoid the mall at all costs any time of the year. However, there was one year I decided to brave the Shop til You Drop crowd. It was about seven years ago. WalMart had a bicycle on sale and all my son wanted for Christmas was a bicycle. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time and the chance to actually get my kid something he wanted for a reasonable amount of cash was too good to pass up. So I went to WalMart the day after Thanksgiving. At 5am.

By the time I got there, the line was snaked around the store. The doors wouldn’t open until six. I thought about going home, but then I thought about the bike and my then-adorable child and decided that I – someone who had an abject fear of crowds and hated stores – would make the ultimate sacrifice and stand outside freezing for an hour, then enter the store with this horde of hyped up people just to see my son smile. Also, it would make for great martyrdom later on.

Six o’clock came and the doors opened. The line that was just perfectly formed in front of me dissipated into thin air as everyone rushed for the door at once. Visions of Who concerts danced in my head as I lagged behind the surging crowd. It was like Elvis just appeared in front of Graceland. Pushing, shoving, screaming. I waited until the last of the screamers got into the store and walked in behind them, heading straight for the bike aisle. Within two seconds, I was knocked flat on my ass by an old lady wielding her cane like a sword. Elbows were flying, people were literally running through the store to get to the aisles with the biggest sales, and they were pushing out of the way anyone that stood between them and that 50 dollar tv.

The store had been open all of thirty seconds and already the floor was covered with merchandise that people knocked off the shelves. There were kids crying, mothers screaming at each other in the toy aisle, workers yelling for people to calm down and in the middle of all this I just stood there, frozen in fear. I could feel a panic attack setting and I had no idea which way the bicycles were. It was chaos all around me. I willed myself to walk into the thick of things, keeping my son’s “I got a bike!” smile in mind. I finally found the right aisle and walked toward the boys’ bikes.

She came out of nowhere. She was about 400 lbs of solid fat stuffed into a fur coat and she was waving her hands in the air and screaming something. I froze again and she barreled toward me and as she got closer I could make out part of what she was saying “….AWAY FROM THAT BIKE, THAT IS MINE, YOU HEAR?” Her hands reached out for me. I was sure she was going to shove me right down to the floor and I managed to stumble backwards a few steps, but I backed up right into another woman who began yelling obscenities at me. All the while the fat fur lady was coming full force toward me. I sidestepped at the last minute and the fur lady did an inadvertent chest thump with the cursing woman and my fight or flight instincts kicked in. Hell no, I wasn’t going to fight. I was running. Fast. The hell with the bicycle. The kid would probably ride it for five days and get bored with it, anyhow. I was getting the hell out of there.

It took me ten minutes to navigate my way out of the store. I had to step over thousands of dollars of merchandise and run around at least three abandoned kids and one overturned shopping cart and what seemed like a thousand strong army of desperate housewives looking for the ultimate bargain.

I got to my car and just sat there, shaking and smoking, until I was sufficiently calm enough to drive to work. I never went out on Black Friday again.

And that is why the story of what happened at WalMart today does not seem inconceivable to me. I’ve seen the way people behave and, unfortunately, it seems to be a way of life here on Long Island. This is a place where everyone is always in a rush, where people drive as if they are the only ones on the road, where everyone acts as if they are owed something, where people have no problem taking up two spots with their Escalades or parking in handicapped spots. The longer I live here (46 years now) the more tired I grow of the self-centered, me-first, demanding attitude I see every day. This is why I have spent the past year talking about moving to California.

Maybe it’s like this everywhere. I’ve never lived anywhere else, so I don’t know. I just know what Long Island is like. I used to defend this place when people would make fun of it, but no more. The bad attitude here has become more prevalent in recent years. Nobody gives a shit about anyone else. I feel like I take my life in my hands every time I get in my car because nobody is paying attention to the people around them. They’re on their phones, they’re yelling at their kids (who are rarely buckled in), they’re sailing through stop signs. And it’s not just the driving. The attitude encompasses every part of the daily routine. I deal with it at work, I deal with it in stores. The rudeness, the sense of entitlement and the “gimme and gimme now” attitude is everywhere. It certainly doesn’t surprise me to see people stampeding over one another to save a few dollars on a television when just this morning I saw a woman who just got out of a new Mercedes stomp into Walgreens and demand the cashier get fired for shorting her A FREAKING PENNY in her change.

Like I said, I don’t know if it’s just here or if it’s everywhere, but what the hell has happened to our society?

2,000 people were waiting to get into that WalMart at 5am. They literally ripped the doors down because they didn’t want to wait for the store to open. They knocked the 34 year old WalMart greeter down, then stomped over his body and continued shopping as workers asked them to exit the store.

Everyone who helped rip that door open, everyone who stepped on that poor man and everyone who didn’t give a shit and kept looking for their god damn bargains as the emergency crews worked to save the guy’s life…you are all pigs. You’re less than human.

Happy holidays.

[Update: He wasn’t a greeter, he was a temporary worker sent to that WalMart today by his temp agency. Not that it matters, just like to have my facts straight as the news is updated]

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