Saturday, December 6, 2008

Crushing bargain

By now, you've no doubt read/heard the story about the Wal-Mart 34-year-old employee who was trampled to death by customers clamoring to get into the Long Island, New York store for smokin' Black Friday bargains. I'm not going to go into commentary about how I can just imagine the fat cows/great unwashed squeezing through a portal to retail heaven and letting nothing, least of all a fellow human being, stand in their way. No, instead I'm going to relate my experience, albeit a small one, with a crushing crowd.

My father being in the military, I attended high school in Germany in the 1970s. He was stationed about an hour outside of Frankfurt, Germany and all high school students were bussed to the big (well over 1,000 students) American high school in Frankfurt. Three buses ferried the students from our small town, Butzbach, to school. When the buses arrived in the morning, groups of students would pool around the door to each, and that's when the fun began. Kids were so intent on getting on the bus first that those in the front were pushed by those behind them, who were in turn pushed by those behind them. This added up to a lot of pressure and I was unlucky enough, once, to get caught in the middle of this mass. It hurt! The ordeal went on for only a few seconds, but it seemed so much longer, and I recall not being able to take a breath because of all of the weight pressing in on me from all sides. This episode taught me two lessons about crowds I've never forgotten: One, people shed any sense of personal responsibility while in them, which makes crowds extremely dangerous. Two, avoid them like the plague if at all possible.

For what they're worth, my condolences go out to this man's family. Here was a guy just trying to make an honest buck and he gets the life squeezed out of him by "bargain" hunters. Although it's too early to know whether any of the perpetrators who directly caused this man's death will be held accountable for their actions, or if they can even be identified, I'm sure I speak for all decent people everywhere when I say the following: may whatever you bought that day bring you only the deepest grief and misery.

Take care.

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