Last Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, people started lining up at 7 to await the Boise Towne Square mall's special 1 a.m. opening for so-called Black Friday.
Not 7 p.m. ... 7 a.m. In other words, thousands of Idahoans blew off Thanksgiving dinner to get in line to go shopping.
News coverage showed that once the mall opened, a mass of people pressed so hard toward the doors that one fell out of its frame. "When shopping hurts," the Idaho Statesman headlined its story. Check out the video here.
But just when you're tempted to think that our nation has hit a nadir of mindless materialism - not so fast. The same Statesman front page on Saturday, November 24, featured another story, this one telling of the festive yet low-key lighting of the downtown Christmas Boise tree. People held candles aloft and helped Mayor Dave Bieter count down to the moment when the tree lighting marked the official start of our city's holiday season. Many people also chose a card from the tree's lower boughs, each one printed with wish-list items from the Women's and Children's Alliance, which helps families torn by domestic violence.
So which scene truly represents not just the holiday spirit, but the essential character of our nation circa 2007? The pessimist in me says the Mallville tableau reveals the true America, where shopping is our top recreational activity and our highest aspiration. The optimist in me believes that - despite its much smaller attendance - the downtown tree lighting still captures our nation at its finest: reflective, generous, joyful.
I do know that I will do most of my holiday shopping downtown and at my neighborhood shopping centers this year, and I will avoid the mall.