Wheaton’s Way

Vicki Wheaton

After dipping my toe into the Black Friday sales last week, I’ve realised I am not that kinda shopper. It really takes a certain type of person to enter such a maelstrom, willing to deal with queues, sweat, restricted spaces and lots of other people. This is not for the faint of heart, nor the claustrophobic. If valium was an over-the-counter medication, it would show a spike in sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

It all started very innocently. I was going to Tortuga in Governors Square to take advantage of its tent sale. I had gone in the past, but always in the afternoon after the main mad rush. It had never been that nuts, so I figured it would be the same at the start when the sale opened at 10am. How many people would really be looking for cheap booze?

Well, quite a few, it seemed. As I pulled into the parking lot, I could see a line of shoppers snaking along the pavement, baskets in hand.

Thankfully, a space opened up in front of me, as looking around I saw cars that had resorted to ‘pop-up’ spaces in the form of curbs and the main road.

Once parked, I skipped over to the end of the queue, pushing a cart as I went. I was planning to buy quite a lot of bottles, so this made sense. “Look at the bright one with the cart,” someone remarked. I smiled. Yes, I was a very intelligent person.

That was a short-lived feeling, as once I got closer to the tent, it was obvious it would be madness to try and manoeuvre the four-wheeled behemoth down the narrow aisles between the tables. I sorrowfully abandoned it as I stepped down into the tent area, ready to run the gauntlet.

Bottles of vodka and rum were right at the entrance, so I started grabbing like I was going through a bad breakup. There was going to be the Christmas party at my house, then Christmas Day, and how about New Year’s Eve? As panic set in that I might not have enough, more and more bottles went into the basket I had managed to procure, causing the handles to cut into my arm. I had barely made it around the first corner.

Next was the wine. Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet, Pinot Noir… I didn’t recognise any of the labels and didn’t know which ones were a really good deal. Clemens Guettler of The Wharf fame was a few people ahead of me. I strained to see what he was choosing, as if anyone knew what good wine was, it was him.

The crowd behind me was pushing me forward, so I just picked up bottles at random – whatever was within arm’s reach. A heady mix of reds and whites got deposited into the cardboard box I was trying to push forward on the tarmac with my feet. My right arm had lost all feeling as gravity tried to take my basket of spirits from me.

Just when I thought I had enough to take me through to Dec. 2021, my friend Cesar Cruz who works at Tortuga came by with cases of Champagne.

“Hey, Vicki! I can’t believe we are nearly out of these, but then they are such a great deal!”

Alert! Alert! Great deal on Aisle 4!

“Oh, really?” replied the moth-to-the flame.

“Yeah – two bottles for $60. They are a steal!”

“I’LL TAKE A CASE! NO! TWO CASES!” I gulped, my mind no longer my own.

By now I had a basket of rum, vodka and gin, two boxes of wine I’d barely spent any time deciding upon, and a couple of cases of Champagne waiting for me at the cash register.

It took another 30 minutes to get inside the shop and pay for my purchases. Thankfully, a member of staff could sense the will to live ebbing from my body and stepped in to help carry all the boxes.

The employees impressively kept their cool in the situation, as waves of customers continued to pour into the premises like a scene from ‘Fantasia’s ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’. Massimo Consolini, a veteran of the local service industry and head of Tortuga’s Wine Division, was right there in the trenches, ripping bottles out of boxes and placing them on tables, only to see them disappear as quickly as they had been placed. He was in the zone.

In the end, I did get some great prices and I’ll have to create celebrations to justify all the Champagne I’ve recently acquired; I’m just not sure I’ve got it in me to go through that again. Ask me next year.

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