A Black Friday on the Border

Our resident "gabacha" talks about letting go of the particular American tradition

I had to laugh this week when a friend posted a status update on Facebook that the shorter border wait times are going to mean booming Black Friday sales for San Diego merchants. I'm an American citizen, I have a full-time job in San Diego, and I've enjoyed a rich, full life in Tijuana for the past 3 and a half years. Never looked back. Not once.

And so I guess I should hurry up and get in my car right now since I can go risk my life in a shopping mall on Black Friday without first having to wait three hours to cross the border. I just have to buy these awesome Gucci silver metallic leather boots I saw a month ago at Saks Fifth Avenue, and there's no way I'm paying $1100 dollars for them. I might risk getting strangled at Victoria's Secret with a pair of thong panties, but damn those sales are so worth it!

VIDEO: Even Britain joins the Black Friday craze

But seriously, the last thing I want to do on the day after Thanksgiving is cross the border. Much less go to San Diego. I can see it now, traffic backed up on the I-8 all the way up the exit ramp of the 805. Maniacal drivers frantically darting around to pass others on the narrow right hand side.

And don't even get me started--the insanity of people driving northbound on the 805 between San Ysidro and National City? Everybody else is just driving along normally, and here comes somebody behind you going like 90 mph and tailgating and flashing their lights at me--like I'm doing something wrong by only driving 75? I already feel like I'm risking my life every time I have to go to work. I can't imagine why I would do this again on Black Friday.

Caos en una Walmart de Estados Unidos.
Caos en una Walmart de Estados Unidos.

Indeed, the border wait times are dramatically shorter now. After the final $226 million dollars in funding came through in January 2014, the contractors could finally finish the San Ysidro border crossing. They opened up all the new lanes in late September, and it has been smooth sailing ever since.

What used to be torture--a 3 hour wait with no end in sight--is now 20 minutes in the regular lanes. And for people like me who live in Tijuana and work in San Diego, that's been a huge relief.

Crazy shoppers in Britain
Crazy shoppers in Britain

And it is ironic now that every once in a while we "special" SENTRI Pass holders end up in a longer line than anybody else. Ah, c'est la vie. What are you gonna do? I'm still glad to have my SENTRI pass.

And yeah, I get it that there's no place to shop here in Tijuana for a lot of good stuff that you can get in San Diego.

Baja Californians drive to San Diego all the time for clothes, for toys and electronics, for computers. For spinach and kale. Yeah, kale. According to an economist at Colegio de la Frontera Norte Alejandro Díaz Bautista, shoppers from Baja California regularly spend between $140 -$300 dollars every time they go to San Diego. I know what he means. I don't know what I would do if I didn't live on the border, if I had to live without all the amazing Vietnamese restaurants in San Diego, without Whole Foods, IKEA.

And you think we would have learned something by now about how to be thankful for what we already have--after months and months of violence, terror, unspeakable sadness. Tens of thousands of little children running away from brutality and torture in Central America, a black teenager shot dead in the street by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, forty-three idealistic young teachers from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, in training to work in underfunded rural Mexican schools in remote villages in their state, accosted by the police and handed over to a sadistic gang to be murdered.

The only thing I really want to do in a mall on this Black Friday is go march through the shopping mall with the demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, holding a candle and praying for peace.

VIDEO: Ferguson protestors take Black Friday shopping

And so for today, I'm just going to spend this Black Friday in my house in Playas de Tijuana listening to music, catching up on reading and missing out on all those good sales.

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