Black, Black Friday

Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, the mall. There are certain locations that journalists understand they shouldnit venture to for their own safety, but still they go. And still... I paid a visit to the mall. On Black Friday.

For those that donit follow U.S. buying trends, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Itis also an insanely busy shopping day filled with sales to entice buyers out of their homes and into the stores - and itis the day that many stores finally start making enough money to show a real profit.

Getting In
Probably the best way to get to a mall during the holiday shopping season is by being airlifted in along with a tactical strike force. You can avoid the traffic and races for car spaces, and you also have the heavy guns to clear a path through the shopping mayhem for you.

Unfortunately, I drove in alone and had to fend for myself. Through a stroke of luck, I actually found a parking space on the side of the mall I wanted. It was the only open space I saw during my adventure, and yes, it was a race to the spot. I won.

The parking lot from my car. No open spaces anywhere.

Holiday shopping tip: If you are visiting the FlatIron Crossing Apple Store, park outside of Dickis sporting goods store. Itis a straight shot across the showroom floor to the Apple Store. When the Dickis people offer you a sale flyer, be sure to let them know you are just passing through on your way to look at iPods and Macs. They love that.

This is not how to spend a holiday weekend.

Surveying the Landscape
Once inside the mall, I found that there really wasnit much holiday cheer. Okay, thatis not completely true. The Apple Store and Victoriais Secret are next door to each other, and shoppers in both venues seemed to be smiling. A lot.

When you see this, the Apple Store canit be far away.

The mall was packed, which is to be expected, I suppose. It was, after all, Black Friday. Instead of wandering from store to store, battling my way through the crowds, I took the least painful, and far more pleasurable, route directly into the Apple Store.

The Apple Store was packed, just like the rest of the mall.

Sure, the Apple Store was just as packed as the rest of the mall, but at least everyone inside seemed to be in a good mood. And Iim sure that somewhere in Cupertino, thereis an Apple accountant thatis in a pretty good mood, too. iPods were sailing out of the store faster than I could count them.

Lucky for the shoppers, there seemed to be plenty of iPods to go around. But Iim betting that wonit last long - unless Apple has a bunch of magic elves cranking out iPods faster than humanly possible.

The Apple Store had plenty of iPods on display.

On a side note: Based on the number of people talking on their cell phones, I wonder how we were able to function as a species before being graced with this portable communication technology. If an alien race were to describe us, they would probably say something like "Itis a hairless bipedal species with only one arm. There is also a tentacle-like protrusion from the torso that attaches to the cranium - most likely used for communication and mating rituals."

A rainbow of iPod flavor.

Another holiday shopping tip: If you have a hyper-sensitive sense of smell, be prepared. The mall shoppers smell like a mix of stale cigarettes, heavy perfume and babies. But in a bad way.

Getting Out
Climbing to the top of Mount Everest is not a success, even though it is an amazing accomplishment. Making it to the bottom of the mountain alive after reaching the summit is the real success, and so it is with visiting the mall.

Finding your car is the first thing you need to do. Actually itis the second. First, you need to walk back through Dickis. When the greeter at the door asks if you were able to find everything okay, say something like "No. The blue iPods are out of stock." Now go find your car.

This is between crowd surges, but still reason enough to leave the mall.

Keep in mind that once you find your car, there are several others circling around like vultures waiting to swoop in and pick the flesh from your bones. Or in this case, just take your parking space.

Getting into the flow of traffic requires strength and aggression, and the meek will fail and wait endlessly in frustration. But merging with the traffic holds little consolation, since you still have to get out of the parking lot. I kept repeating "That which does not kill us makes us stronger," but it wasnit much help.

What did help was the realization that Cyber Monday was only a couple of days away. No parking lots, no crowds, no lines. Pure shopping bliss.

And one last holiday shopping tip: Make sure you have a full tank of gas before going to the mall. Getting back out of the parking lot is like trying to get out of a Broncos game. If you live in Denver, you know what I mean. If you donit call a friend that lives in Denver. Theyill explain it to you.