Bryan Davis stands outside his temporary home.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Stow the negative comments about Bryan Davis, who was the first in line for this year’s Black Friday sales event at the Best Buy on Monroe Street. And last year’s. And for the five years before that.
Camping in front of the store since last Friday, along with 20-year-old son Michael and 31-year-old brother Keith Hannah, Davis has heard the same tired vitriol over and over again from passersby.
That the 36-year-old Toledoan is stupid. That he’s lazy. That he’s unemployed.
Of course, the snide remarks are always said about him and the others when they’re inside their tents, and never to them when they’re in full view.
“To be honest with you, we’re three big black dudes,” he said with a laugh. “They’re going to keep their comments to themselves. I’m not a violent person, but think about it.”
But what the general public doesn’t know is that Davis isn’t stupid. Ask him about gadgets or how much money Apple received in a settlement against Samsung, and you find someone plugged into current technology trends and news.
He’s also not lazy or unemployed. He works for the city of Toledo at the Water Treatment Plant, where he just received a promotion.
Davis is using three days of paid vacation from his job to save money. Lots of it. He figures more than $1,000 on purchases of a 55-inch smart LED TV, a Dell laptop, a Microsoft Surface tablet, and a 14-megapixel camera with built-in apps.
So who’s stupid now?
“I’m saving a thousand dollars in one week,” he said. “Some people don’t even make that on their [weekly] paycheck.”
At this point, Davis’ great Black Friday adventure is over. Best Buy planned to hand out item tickets to customers beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, and two hours later he and others would be walking out with their new purchases.
But when we talked on a sub-freezing Tuesday morning, Davis, the tents, and the barricade Best Buy managers had put up around them marked the only semblance of the line to come: more campers, followed by a queue of anxious and grumpy consumers stretched a half-block past the store.
And to think that Davis was worried he missed out on the deals he wanted when a buddy called to tell him about early Black Friday lines at an Akron Best Buy and another store in Pennsylvania.
“I was nervous,” he said of out the early arrival of campers at that Best Buy. “This is a tradition to me. I’m always first.
“But I got here Friday and there was no one here. So I just made the decision to set up.”
Some suggest the rampant consumerism of Black Friday ruins the meaning of Thanksgiving. If so, Davis said it’s the stores that are to blame and not the customers.
“Back in the day, if you did Black Friday, by 5 or 6 o’clock [a.m.] if you didn’t have what you wanted you gave the rest of the day up. Now they’re having these 12 o’clock sales and then a 4 a.m., and at 6 a.m. just to keep people shopping.
“We said eight years ago that there wasn’t going to be a Thanksgiving anymore. We could see it coming. And now Black Friday is no longer Black Friday, it’s Black Thursday at 6 p.m. Retail kills a lot holidays.”
For what it’s worth, this annual commitment to the once-a-year bargains isn’t easy. Particularly for Davis, Michael, and Hannah.
They sleep in tents pitched on a concrete slab, they charge their gadgets in a generator in Davis’ car, they go home daily to shower, and they use neighboring store bathrooms when nature calls.
There’s the cold weather, though a thermal sleeping bag, heavy downy covers, and warm clothes more than adequately combat that problem.
Then there was the idiot earlier this week who decided it was funny to drive up and down the parking lot in front of their tents late one night and repeatedly blare the car’s horn.
All for a late-November ritual, Davis said, that other family members and friends support.
“It’s a tradition now,” he said. “After seven years it becomes a tradition. I don’t do Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving anymore, I do it on Saturdays. That’s my Thanksgiving. It’s basically everyone all together in my house.”
So Saturday, Davis plans to sit in front of his new 55-inch TV, eat turkey, watch the OSU-Michigan game, and give thanks for what he has — considering what he went through to get it.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.