Last Friday was my first Black Friday experience. See, my mom wants a DVD player for Christmas, but Pantaliamon and I can’t afford a good one -- but we noticed in a sales flier that Walmart had an Apex player for $50. Apex is -- in my opinion -- a great brand. Their first player on the market even included a “secret menu” where you could disable region coding. Any company that would fly in the face of the corporate decision to arbitrarily lock people out of content for the sole purpose of profits is okay in my book.

The catch was that the sale was only on between 6 - 11:00 am, after which time things reverted back to their normal prices. So Friday morning, Pantaliamon and I got up at 5 and drove out into the cold dark country roads in my mom’s neighborhood to head to Walmart. We thought that there wouldn’t be anyone there -- how insane we were.

From a mile away from the store, we spotted a line of cars, like a glowing electric snake coiling it sway into the parking lot. When we finally navigated the traffic to get to the store, it appeared that an army of rednecks had hauled itself out of the woods of rural Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania and decided that it was time to conquer the Hagerstown Walmart Supercenter. It was insane.

Inside, crowds assembled around a tower of Apex DVD players stacked up in the front of the store like Soviet mothers fighting over the only toilet paper delivery for a month. People clawed their way to the tower, salivating at the bargain. Pantaliamon decided to circumvent what little order there was and flank the tower from the northwest corner where there appeared to be little resistance. Of course, I had her back.

At that position, we found a guy handing out the players to everyone in stacks of three and four. It didn’t appear that he was even a Wallmart employee, but merely a hapless volunteer. Pantaliamon was given three players -- we kept one, and she handed the others to a thankful guy dressed in fatigues, an orange meshback ball cap, with a long brown rat tail dangling over his shoulder.

I couldn’t help thinking as we regrouped at the front of the store to plot our next move that DVD really has come to the masses. When we bought our player three years ago, people thought we were crazy -- VHS was king. Who wanted digital video? I tried to explain that the picture was indeed better, the discs didn’t degrade, and the extras were like a continuous supply of film school classes. Now every one wants one. Even my mom, who is happy enough to play back decaying movies she taped off of HBO years ago.

After the engagement at the DVD tower, it was clear that the mob was out for blood. There wasn’t a single square foot of floor space in the entire store that wasn’t occupied by a human being. Pushing, shoving, shouting and numerous thefts of DVD players and low-price television sets when their “owners” weren’t looking was the order of the day. Living in Washington, D.C., I am accustomed to large crowds -- particularly at grocery stores and shopping malls. You get used to it. But here in semi-rural Western Maryland, the people clearly weren’t equipped to deal with so many of their brethren competing for the same scarce goods. It was all out war.

It occurred to me that the Bush administration might consider taking a group of potential terrorists to a Walmart Supercenter on Black Friday. I’m sure if they saw just how savage Americans are in their natural element -- namely consuming cheap electronic goods -- then perhaps they’ll think twice about launching attacks on our country. Do they really want us invading their countries? People were disemboweling their neighbors over copies of the Sopranos on DVD -- what would they do to someone who wanted to force us to trade the Sopranos for prayers in a mosque four times a day?

I don’t even want to think about it.