"I think I'll pop out and buy a pair of jeans."
I goggled at this remark. Not that buying a pair of jeans is a very remarkable thing for a person to do on an autumn afternoon. But on Black Friday, the day on which bargain-maddened multitudes were seething about, spraying mace at security guards and savaging each other to get at the goodies?
"You must be nuts," I said, tactfully.
"Well, it would be useful to have a second pair," my husband said.
"But -- but -- "
"It can't be that bad," he said.
"Oh, it can!" I cried, beginning to feel that it was my duty to stop his afternoon from taking an unhappy turn.
"It can! Only a person who loves to shop and lives to get a bargain on cheap Chinese stuff and doesn't mind circling a parking lot for 20 minutes just to fight with someone else for a space should go shopping today!"
He smiled at me.
"You are not that person!"
"Be civilized!" I cried. "You can buy jeans online, you know! Look!"
I rushed to my computer and began typing rapidly, but it was too late. With an insouciant jingle of his keys and a careless "It'll be fine," the madman was off.
It is lunacy, isn't it? Not just the idea of one's retail-hating husband deliberately stepping into the vortex on the busiest shopping day of the year, but the whole paroxysm of the "holiday shopping season."
It is folly for a populace drowning in debt to keep spending -- and it is errant madness for people to swarm like starving rats over piles of products of dubious value that are available for sale all the time.
Incredibly, if the shoppers interviewed by the Washington Post are any guide, a new note of entitled petulance has crept into the attitudes of these shoppers.
"I think it's unfair and unjust," a woman who had sent her son to his grandparents' for Thanksgiving so that she could go to Walmart was quoted as saying: "It's infringing on your quality time with your family."
"I think they want to bring the people here and make them tired," complained a man who would wait eight hours in line to buy a computer. "It's veiled punishment," he said.
It's unfair, unjust, a punishment? No, it's commerce in which people freely engage. They may be mad to engage in it, but nothing apart from their own voracity actually compels them.
About an hour later, I heard the crunch of gravel and went to the window. It was my own madman, returning. I watched closely as he got out of his car and approached the house. He wasn't obviously limping. There were no tear tracks down his cheeks from pepper spray. He held a parcel under his arm.
"Are you OK? Was it awful? Did you get Tased?"
"It was fine," he said mildly.
"Really?" I couldn't believe it. "And you actually got what you wanted?"
"Yes," he said, sounding a little surprised. "Guess what I paid for a $60 pair of jeans?"
I could not guess.
"Eight bucks," he said. "Pretty cool."
Meghan Cox Gurdon's column appears on Sunday and Thursday. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.