Claire:

If you're like me, you spent the Friday morning after Thanksgiving in your pajamas, nursing a food hangover and watching daytime television. If you're less lucky, you spent it working. And if you're - pardon my terminology - a little crazy, you may have spent it busting down doors, Black Friday style.

In fact, maybe you even spent Thanksgiving itself in K-Mart or Wal-Mart, both of which opened their doors on Thanksgiving night. Why you would choose to spend the evening in the fluorescent-lit halls of either establishment honestly baffles me, however, when you could instead spend it in a turkey-induced stupor on the couch.

On the other hand, I'm in my twenties and only obligated to buy gifts for a few people, and frankly none of them care if I spend $700 on a brand new iPad or $10 on a good book that I recommend. I don't pretend to know what it's like to be responsible for buying gifts for several saucer-eyed children or for parents who demand more than a particularly saccharine Christmas card. I'm sure there's quite a lot of pressure involved in those situations. Still, I have to wonder if Black Friday deals are worth the effort anymore (if indeed they ever were).

After all, sales abound in the current economy. I can't go to the Gap or Target without running into 10 deals on items I was already planning to buy - and that's not even during the holiday season. Now, with Christmas and Hanukkah coming up, deals are far from restricted to a single day. Sure, if you're the first person in line at Wal-Mart at the crack of dawn on Friday (a feat which, this year, apparently required camping out all night and eating Thanksgiving dinner in a parking lot), you might get one of the five super-discounted flat screen televisions advertised in order to lure you there. But a quick Google search shows me that a multitude of similar deals still exist, even after Black Friday and the more recently minted Cyber Monday.

I won't even delve into the spate of Walmart strikes and protests that have brought to light the less-than-Christmas-spirit-like aspects of Black Friday (including, but not limited to, workers being forced, with no choice and little notice, to spend several hours of Thanksgiving day and night away from their families, preparing for and working Black Friday sales). Personally, I'd find it difficult to shop in good conscience while picketers marched outside.

Based on such findings, I've tentatively come to the conclusion that people shop Black Friday for the "experience" more often than for the deals. Much like when one chooses to compete in a Tough Mudder race or risk a bad trip on LSD, the notion is almost always more enjoyable than the actual experience. At this point, though, I think the rest of us have gotten tired of hearing about it.

Jim:

I think Claire has hit the nail on its head: people sally forth on Black Friday - or camp out in a parking lot the night before - for the "experience." I think that's because they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

This is a universal human urge. Some folks satisfy it by being religious. Witness this from the Christian Broadcasting Network: "CBN.com - Have you ever wished to be a part of something far bigger than your own small existence? Have you wanted to invest yourself in something truly worthwhile? In his new book, A Quest for More, Paul David Tripp tells us that deep down we all long to touch the glory of God's kingdom. And our great gift from God is that he has 'hardwired' us for glory. Tripp's new release challenges the reader to leave behind the 'kingdom of self' and the world of 'I, Me, Mine' to reach toward the kingdom of God." [http://www.cbn.com/entertainment/books/QuestforMore.aspx]

During this holiday season, you can get Mr. Tripp's tome on Amazon for as little as $12.23. Barnes & Noble online wants $13.31.

Other folks seek to satisfy this urge by serving in the military. Here's one such "Army Strong" story: "On September 11, 2001, I sat there watching the television from my home in Puerto Rico. There were buildings burning in the city of New York a city I had never been to. Failing to read the headlines or listen to the anchorman, I changed the channel, without giving it a second thought. Surprisingly, two years later in, I found myself in an army recruiting station ready to sign that dotted line. I felt as if my life was lacking purpose, direction, and motivation. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, so I enlisted into the Army Reserves." [http://armystrongstories.com/blogger/tania-reyes/army-story/]

If enlisting isn't for you, but you dig the uniforms and equipment, you can buy customized dog tags for $4.99, an Army ring for $17.95, and a helmet for $18.89, all on Amazon. Or go to eBay for a complete set of field gear for only $12.00 and a camo-shirt for five bucks. A copy of the People Magazine with its cover-story of the Patraeus affair will set you back $8.99.

On a website called "The Experience Project," members explain why they want to be something bigger than themselves:

"HI im 22 a guy from chicago i want to be a part of somthing bigger than my self im tired of bein the same im lost please help meeeee"

"I have always been looking for something that is bigger than myself. (more of why am I here.... And what am I suppose to do with my life)"

"i really dnt no what to say but i have always said that i want something more than this life but i dnt no what to do.... Im scared and dnt think ima amount to anything. I really want something more than this life but want some one to share my feelings with cause everyone i no is content. I want more i want great i want something that i wont forget"

[http://www.experienceproject.com/groups/Want-To-Be-A-Part-Of-Something-Bigger-Than-Myself/216103]

For these folks, I have found the most outstanding holiday bargain of them all, an online course on "The Fundamentals of English Grammar." They CAN be part of something bigger than themselves… a class. And it's free: "This free online course offers a comprehensive revision of English grammar. It is designed for those already fluent in English who want to improve their writing skills. It examines spelling, grammar and punctuation including commas, colons, adverbs and prepositions. By completing this course, you will see a marked improvement in your written English. This course is ideal for anyone looking to improve their written and indeed spoken English."

[http://alison.com/courses/English-Grammar]

So, you see, at the end of the day - whether or not it's Black Friday - you CAN be something bigger than yourself, just by going shopping.