It was bad enough that by 2 a.m. Friday, Dan Cobler had been outside Best Buy in the rain since 8 a.m. the day before, missing his Thanksgiving turkey, mashed potatoes and cobbler at home.
But it was going to be worse after picking up a Toshiba laptop and a couple TVs at a big discount after the store's 5 a.m. opening, because he then had to get ready for work at Balfurd's in Tipton.
By the end of his shift, he would have been awake for 36 hours straight.
Black Friday shopping
What won't people do for a bargain?
Black Friday is a tradition for the Cobler family, whose six siblings took advantage of bargains to get presents for their parents and to bond with one another.
While Cobler and his brother had a tent to stay out of the elements, Tom Thompson of Altoona, wrapped in an Eagles blanket, wasn't as lucky. He sat in a camp chair, sodden as the leaves on the floor of the woods on Brush Mountain beyond Logan Town Centre, wearing an expression reminiscent of rotogravure photographs of soldiers in Civil War encampments.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Pamela and Sherman Bailey of Akron, Ohio, get some shopping done while in the area visiting family Friday afternoon at Unkel Joe’s Woodshed.
Yet he, too, was OK. He had a lunch box with sandwiches, an extra coat and an extra pair of shoes, and a friend had brought him Thanksgiving dinner to see him through the ordeal.
"It's my first Black Friday," Thompson said.
He'd long wanted to try it, and this year it turned out to be almost a necessity, because his computer crashed last week.
His savings were major: The laptop he wanted was going to cost just $189, a savings of $160 or more.
Though first in line, Thompson hadn't arrived first. Instead, he got the top spot by peaceful negotiation with Cobler and his brother, to everyone's advantage. They all wanted a Toshiba 189 laptop, and the store ad said there were three available.
It didn't matter who among the three went first, as long as the other two followed.
The Coblers were expecting three other people to join them and wanted to be able to camp with them, so they let Thompson go first in line to clear the way.
Such cooperation extended along the line, with everyone honoring places others had secured, so people were confident enough to vacate their posts for a while to play touch football and street hockey, get warm in their cars and make runs to a convenience store for coffee.
It seemed to help that Best Buy installed a rope railing to define the line, hired security and was planning to hand out vouchers at 3 a.m. to confirm the rights earned by those who had waited in line.
"It was pretty orderly," Thompson said. "Everybody [knew] their place."
It wasn't that way at Kohl's.
There, a line formed to the right of the main entrance, snaking around the corner of the parking lot, but about 2:45 a.m. others began congregating on the other side of the main entrance Within several minutes, as opening time drew near, that clot swelled and elongated to create a new line that rivaled the original in length - even as others watched from the parking lot in small groups.
When the doors opened, people from both lines and the parking lot converged on the entrance.
Many interlopers got in before many others who'd waited patiently in the original line. Some called out in protest, but that's as far as it went.
Not everyone who came late rushed in: One family stood back and waited for the crowd to thin.
"Some of these people have been standing in line for hours and hours," said a woman in that family, as overheard by a reporter. "It's very unfair."
A store manager said he couldn't talk on the record about the situation.
Teresa Robertson was first in that original line at Kohl's, arriving at 8 p.m. Thursday, sitting in her car until Mark Dodson and Leanne Colvin of Louisa County, Va., showed up two hours later.
When she saw them, she dashed to the door.
She wasn't taking any chances: A traumatic Black Friday experience 12 years ago ensured that. She had been waiting in a line then to buy a scooter for her daughter, but a woman in front of her bought all 12 and Robertson got nothing.
But she didn't need to worry about the Virginia couple, she learned. By the time Kohl's was ready to open, they were bantering like long acquaintances.
Dodson and Colvin wanted a Dyson "Animal" vacuum, because they have a golden retriever with a shedding problem.
Robertson wanted a hair straightener for her daughter.
Maybe the hair straightener could help solve the dog's problem, Robertson joked. Maybe the vacuum could straighten the daughter's hair, Colvin replied.
At Logan Valley Mall, Zac Dobbins and Darlene Carter of Hollidaysburg endured a much less hardcore Black Friday.
They arrived an hour before the 5 a.m. opening of EB Games, so Carter could save $100 on an Xbox for Dobbins. They were sitting snug and dry and warm against a wall in the well-lighted concourse.
"I didn't like Black Friday," Dobbins said. "[But] I wanted to see what all the commotion was about."
It was more of the same in Cambria County.
Cindy Mihalick of Windber was on her second shift of shopping after patronizing a midnight sale at Walmart. She was still recovering from that, she said.
"Never again," she said.
She got hurt after waiting 14.5 hours at the front of a line to buy video games.
"Everyone rushed," she said. "It was horrible."
She didn't even get the games she wanted: they were gone by the time she reached the display.
She had better luck later at the Galleria in Richland Township, buying a computer hard drive at Staples and children's clothing at J.C. Penney's.
Vickie Ley of Vinco found a few bargains, too, but decided to skip the 5 a.m. "mad rush."
"It's all just too crazy for me," she said.
Black Friday was quiet, according to police chiefs Ron Heller of Logan Township and Richard Books of Allegheny Township, whose jurisdictions include the area's largest shopping centers.
"There were very few incidents," said Heller, adding that his officers made their presence known at stores where lines were long.
After dealing with a disturbance last year, Toys R Us hired a dozen or more private security officers, and they did "a great job," Heller said.
Allegheny responded to a fight call, but found no fight, Books said.
There were long lines at Target and Walmart, but no problems, he said. There were a couple accidents, however.
The Altoona police docket showed no arrests related to Black Friday events.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038. David Hurst and Phil Ray contributed to this story.