Today belonged to me. This was my day to shine. Usually, I was the guy causing unexpected chaos and destruction. Today, I’d be causing expected chaos and destruction along with thousands of others. Yes, I would finally fit in, be one of the crowd, join the hordes of like-minded people gathering in the same place for the same purpose. Oh, how liberating it felt to be part of something bigger than myself, this time without being involved in illegal “human Voltron” experiments.
My eyes scanned the crowd of people waiting outside the closed doors. We were mere minutes away from all hell breaking loose. I could feel the tension and excitement. People were growing impatient, pushing and shoving to get a better spot.
I did no pushing.
I did no shoving, either.
I’d already claimed the perfect spot. One where I could remain uncontested. I smiled. Once again, I turned out to have been smarter than the rest.
The doors would open any moment now. I stretched, anticipating the fun ahead. Finally, two store attendants showed up and made their way to the front of the crowd. They unlocked the doors and began the countdown.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six,” at this point, the rest of the crowd joined in, “FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE…”
“BLAAAAACK FRIDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” I bellowed and jumped down onto the unsuspecting crowd below from the second-story ledge I’d been hiding up on. My feet made impact with a few heads and faces, and the rest of my body soon followed. I landed right in the middle of the shuffling mass of people, who were clearly surprised by my masterfully planned, perfectly timed, and impeccably executed stunt. Some of them screamed, others shrieked. All of them were clearly unprepared for the strategy I’d chosen. I used the element of surprise to grab a bag from one of the nearby women while simultaneously performing a leg sweep on the man to her left. This was playing out almost exactly the way I’d seen Black Friday play out on TV. So far so good.
It was only in the middle of taking down the fifth person that I’d noticed nobody else seemed to be participating in this rambunctious, no-holds-barred merriment. In fact, most people looked decidedly appalled and even angry. By inertia, I pushed and tripped a couple of more people, but soon my wild swinging and punching slowed and ultimately came to a complete halt. What was wrong? Why were these people just standing there, as if this wasn’t the one day of the year when we were all supposed to partake in state-sanctioned violence?
“What is wrong? Why are you people just standing there, as if this isn’t the one day of the year when we are all supposed to partake in state-sanctioned violence?” I demanded.
“Because it isn’t, you goddamn psycho!” someone yelled.
I looked around. The people I’d tackled were getting up from the ground, rubbing their injuries and shaking their heads. Everyone else was looking on in what I could sense was severe disapproval. It appeared my understanding of the concept of Black Friday—which, like most things in my life, was based mainly on what I’d picked up from watching funny YouTube clips—was somewhat incomplete. Not to worry: If my similar past experiences were anything to go by, I’d easily find a way to navigate the situation.
“Moron,” the victim of my leg sweep said, “What’s your deal? And what’s with the hideous black rags you’re wearing?!”
“These are not rags,” I declared with pride, “It’s my ninja outfit!”
People in the crowd started muttering and exchanging glances. I could tell by their confusion that they were woefully unfamiliar with the honorable men and women of the ninja persuasion. I continued:
“Ninja—also known as shinobi—were elite covert agents in feudal Japan. They carried out risky assignments, such as–”
“We know what ninjas are, you tool. Why are you dressed as one?” spoke the leg-swept man.
“This is my creative Black Friday outfit. Yes, Black Friday, the day when everyone wears black and heads out to the city to legally fight other people in an effort to win the coveted title of ‘Master Black Friderer.'”
Most people were now giving me a look I was all too familiar with. I seemed to get that look quite often in my interactions with others. It was a special mix of pity, condescension, and disbelief about how somebody could be this clueless.
“That’s not at all what Black Friday is about, dude,” someone said.
“I knew that,” I said. I did not know that. “Duh,” I added.
“Right, well let’s see you explain that to security, buddy.”
Oh no they wouldn’t. Not this time. I may have made the same mistake once, or twice, or a dozen times, but this wasn’t going to be one of them. The truth was on my side. The truth, and the makeshift smoke bomb I’d fashioned out of charcoal lighter fluid, plastic wrap, and stray cat fur gathered over the course of several months. They wouldn’t see it coming, and they wouldn’t see me going.
With one quick, sharp, confident movement that lasted for over half a minute, I pulled out the smoke bomb, dropped it on the ground, picked it up, fumbled for my lighter, struggled to start it, succeeded in starting it, and then held it to the plastic wrap. The plastic wrap was slow to start but quick to melt, covering my hand in a stream of hot goo. I did not quit. I continued to hold the lighter to the plastic-wrapped ball of cat hair, all the while maintaining uninterrupted eye contact with the shocked crowd of people. Finally, the plastic wrap disappeared entirely and the cat hair instantly caught fire. It generated copious amounts of thick, black smoke.
It worked. By the powers of Holy Sky Ninja, it worked! I was fully engulfed by the smoke, just like the movies promised I’d be. By the time smoke dissipated, I’d be gone and the foolish fools would be none the wiser.
The smoke dissipated.
Strangely, something must have malfunctioned. I didn’t find myself magically teleported to the comfort of my own home. Instead, I was still exactly where I’d stood seconds ago, except now I was covered in toxic-smelling soot and my eyes were tearing profusely. Worst of all, the crowd was equally as unteleported as I was. Even more worst of all still, several members of the store’s security team were now approaching me. Moments later, they encircled me inside a square that they formed.
I knew the battle was lost.
I’d be getting arrested once more.
Thankfully, I’d had plenty of experience dealing with that, too…