Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Black Friday Falls on a Wednesday

You have heard the phrase ,“ busy as a bee " or "busy as a beaver".  Perhaps even,  "busy as a one arm paper hanger" .  I'll add : "busy as a security guard at an Indian rummage sale. “
People ask me,   “What have you been up to since your arrival in India ?”   Well outside of my new hobby of Squash,  my old hobby of Golf , taking in Indian culture and my significant duties supervising our Driver, Maid , Cook and Gardener,  I do volunteer work from time to time.  (Okay,  so this was the first).  I volunteered to be a security guard for a second hand sale.
Bangalore’s Overseas Women’s Club has a rummage sale every year to benefit their charities.  Expats donate clothes,  housewares ,  old curtains,  appliances ,  and anything else that will fit into a box.    The items are sold for pennies on the dollar.  The deals are tremendous and more people come every year as word spreads.
Indians are particularly adept at making the most of their resources.   The high ratio of people to resources drives that fact.  It also fuels serious competitive spirit.   For example,  you soon learn that while standing in line,  you must keep less than 1 body space between you and the person in front of you.  If you don’t,  someone will make use of that space.   (Cars are driven the same way.) 
Combine the great deals at the sale with 500 spirited competitors and you have serious crowd control issues.   The ‘private sale’ for the volunteers’ staff (Drivers, Maids, etc…) scheduled to open up at 11am,  became the 10:15 open to everyone sale.  As the line grew,  the mob pushed and our security team was soon overrun.   We had to start the sale to avoid people,  including children,  from getting crushed by the crowd.   It was Black Friday at Macy’s times 10. 
Swarms of people filled the tent in a mad rush to get the prime goods.   During our retreat,  I was charged the task of holding the mob back so customers could be released one by one to the cashiers.  It's a good role for a tall, fat American.  Other security volunteers had the task of getting the customers to stand in line.   In the highly competitive Indian culture  “lines are for suckers”.   So is personal space.   Within moments of the opening,  I was belly to belly with the A-Players of Indian competitiveness.   Luckily,  the sale organizers passed out apples to the volunteers before the sale to keep everyone's sugar up.   I discovered that taking a cracking bite from the apple and chewing with my mouth open helped people keep their distance.   I chewed that apple down to the seeds.
I am delighted to report the sale was a big success.  The planned 4-hour sale was closed after  1-1/2 hours since nearly everything was sold.