As I ascend the escalator to the Target located at City Point Brooklyn, New York, on Black Friday in the year of our Lord 2017, I realize I am slowly being lifted into Heaven itself.
I reach the top of the escalator and press on through the threshold. I am greeted by two angels in red named “Steph” and "Chris." They work here as greeters.
“How does it feel to usher people into Nirvana, this, the place I have been dreaming of all my life?” I ask Steph.
“Please step to the side, you are clogging the entry way,” she responds.
The sounds of the city fade away, replaced by the distant squeals of seven-year-olds who unwrapped their candy before checkout. The soothing calm of "20% off," "70% Off," "$50 Gift With Purchase" ease my real-world anxieties. Directly ahead of me is Clothing. To my right are Housewares. To my left, Electronics.
And then I spot her, a velour-clad middle-aged woman hoarding six or seven eight-foot-tall artificial Christmas trees and owning it. And I realize: The greatest gift Target has to offer, and the only real reason to come here rather than shop online after the weekend, is its people-watching-worthy customers:
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1. Christmas Tree Lady
Why does she need so many trees? I can only assume she, too, has decided to make this store her permanent home and is making a beautiful gesture by decorating it for Christmas. I smile at her. She is dressed head to toe in maroon velour and wheeling a large palette behind her, the trees balancing on top. An employee trails her, frantic to keep the trees from falling off. Striding confidently, with a strong jawline and head pointed toward the fluorescent sky, she is obviously the Queen of this place. I want to be her. I make a mental note to keep up with the styles of my new home and veer to the clothing section to buy a maroon sweatsuit.
There are so many clothes. At once tired of and offended by an endless mountain of sassy Tweety Bird T-shirts that read “Because I SAID so!” I decide to head to the Electronics department. Because I SAID so, I whisper to myself, still smarting from the shirt’s rudeness. And then I bump into what appears to be a walking TV box.
“Excuse me,” says the box, when I realize it is a small child.
2. Tiny TV Boy
He is approximately four-and-a-half feet tall and appears to be about 8 years old. He is carrying a gigantic TV box with the extreme ease of a TV repairman or Radio Shack associate. There are no parental-looking figures nearby, so I assume he is the Doogie Howser of the TV repair field. “Do you need help with that?” I offer. He declines and disappears into a sea of people lining up to buy a signed copy of Anna Faris’s new book. Was Tiny TV Boy ever really there? I wonder. The overwhelming red glow of the place is getting to me.
Desperate to find out what really happened with Chris Pratt, I queue up with the others. Am I allowed to care about celebrity gossip in this Utopia that is Black Friday Target? I decide not to let it show on my face. I try to project the image of someone just interested in Anna Faris because of her acting skill. As I am arranging my expression, I see a hot guy looking at an electric toothbrush.
3. Hot Guy
Hot Guy is really hot. He’s not just hot in a Brooklyn, homestead-y way. He’s hot for any borough. Any city. I try to act cool. I drop Anna Faris’s book and quickly put my nose into the most highbrow thing I can find: Tyler Perry’s book, Higher Is Waiting. Hot Guy seems unable to decide between an Oral B model and a Sonicare. By way of a conversation starter, I think about telling him about the time I had a panic attack in my dentist’s office. I reconsider as I get closer and notice Hot Guy is with a Hot Girl. I hear him call her "Sage." How can I compete with a “Sage,” who eats vegan and reads Tarot cards? (I'm assuming.) I’m afraid of the future and already had two milkshakes today. I retreat.
Sad and demoralized from my brief but passionate love affair with Hot Guy, I contemplate leaving Black Friday Target altogether. Should I abandon this Shangri-La that I have only recently decided to call home? Could I? Will there be other Hot Guys hiding in Electronics or Food? There's no way out, though. There are customers swarming "% Off" signs all around me. This is my 40 days in the desert. Just as I am deciding to curl up in a ball on the floor of the grocery department near an elaborate display of Fage yogurts, like a beautiful mirage, I see a sign that reads STARBUCKS COFFEE in the distance and order a Caramel Macchiato. I will love again.
I decide to continue my journey through City Point Target.
And if you were lucky enough to enter this domain yourself, I hope you met some of these other favorites of mine along the way:
4. Candle Experts
They will appear as two regular women, dressed in Uggs and oversize sweaters from Madewell. Do not be fooled. They are in disguise. They are candle experts. They know everything about them: Soy Wax vs. Bees, Cotton Wicks vs. Wood. Be warned. If you yield to their siren song, you may never make it out of the Home Section.
5. A French Bulldog in a Bow Tie
Not a human customer per se but an important part of my experience—and I'm sure this bulldog has significant influence over his human's spending (the bow tie is proof). He will be dressed in the finest formal wear. You will ask him for what event he is dressed. He will respond with a lick.
6. Swedish Tourist Family
They are preternaturally beautiful. They float past you on a cloud in the Grocery section. They are buying sheets.
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7. Your Friend
If you can believe it, you will meet people you already know. It's a little awkward because you are so obviously here to gawk at other strangers, but be grateful that they also made it to the Heaven. They will be buying a Crock-Pot.
8. Sale Seeker
Of course, you'll spot at least one stereotypical Black Friday shopper-in-chief. They will push. They will elbow you if you are too close to the item in their sights. And they will walk away will at least four bags full of loot and success dripping from their smug face.
9. Impulse Buyer
This is a person you will meet in the checkout line. You will have been waiting approximately 20 minutes before reaching the front of the queue. This person appears to only be buying a DVD copy of the 2004 Film Catwoman starring Halle Berry, but as the register gets closer, she'll pick up every copy of People magazine and flavor of Orbit gum this section of the line has to offer. You understand.
And with that, I wave goodbye to City Point Target, returning to the bustle of the city. I am still wondering what happened with Chris Pratt.