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Thanksgiving is traditionally a day that we take to be with our families and reflect on all the good in our lives.

It's also become a starting line for a race that retailers hope we'll opt into — the race to get the best deals and throw our money their way in the service of showing our families a "nice" Christmas or other winter holiday.


The fervor is real. Image by Powhusku via Wikimedia Commons.

Some people take part in these rituals as a kind of consumer tradition, and on the surface, it's not that bad. After all, if they're enjoying themselves and saving some money and not hurting anybody, who really cares? And that's mostly a good point.

Except sometimes people do get hurt.

Because crowd control is a combination of an art and a science and because turnout can be unpredictable, dangling an enticingly cheap deal to consumers without regard for safety can result in tragedy for shoppers and workers alike.

It cost Jdimytai Damour his life in 2008.

Damour had just been hired through a temp agency to work in the Walmart stock room. His friends recall him as a "gentle giant," and "always lively." They used to call him "Jimbo."

Early that Black Friday morning at the Valley Stream, New York, Walmart store, one of the security guards hired for the event didn't show up. So the store manager called Damour up to man the front doors — even though Damour had no crowd training. The manager wanted a big guy up there. One co-worker recalled Damour saying, as the crowd grew frantic outside the doors, that he really did not want to be there.

Seemingly caught under the crush of feet and the door that was pushed completely off of its encasement when an army of shoppers overwhelmed barricades, Damour was reportedly trying to help a struggling pregnant woman when he was trampled. He was unable to be resuscitated by the time help arrived and was pronounced dead shortly after 6:00 a.m.

This isn't just a weird incident, either. Situations like these can be inherently unsafe.

Though Damour was caught in the stampede, the cause of his death was actually not internal injuries, but asphyxiation. How? There's a phenomenon called "crowd crush," explained in-depth in The New Yorker, which may to be blame. When bodies pack too tightly together and become almost a giant single mass that ebbs and flows as one, it can create conditions that squeeze your chest area to the extent that breathing becomes impossible. How does a crowd get so bad so quickly?

Humans in crowds communicate worse than ants.

Unlike ants and other animals that have developed internal systems for the front of their crowds to communicate with the rear of their crowds, for all of our technology, human beings have no such system. So putting ourselves in the midst of huge crowds is taking a big risk — we humans are bad at crowd behavior and many security companies hired to manage crowds aren't all that savvy about it either. When pushing begins, counter-pushing is inevitable, and in the wrong conditions, it can result in a kind of human wave. The force created from that is nearly impossible for a single person to counteract or extract themselves from, and if they fall and end up under feet ... well, may fate have mercy.

Here's a local news report detailing what happened to Jdimytai Damour.

So what does the public need to know in order to stay safe?

1.If you can avoid Black Friday shopping, why not? You'll be one less person adding to a crowd that can be unpredictable, you will have zero risk of injury due to a store that didn't take proper precautions, and your family will be happier with your presence than they will be with "stuff."

2. If you DO go, keep in mind crowd dynamics. Don't pack together too tightly. Don't push or push back. If you need to get out of a big crowd, it's easiest to get out by going in the direction the crowd is, but inching toward the perimeter.

3.I know most people out there won't find themselves in this situation on Friday. But if things start to get dicey (in any crowd crush), keep your elbows out and up to try to ensure your ribcage won't get crushed. Try like hell not to fall — hold on to someone if you start to feel faint. If you do fall, protect your head.

4. If you want to shop, go ahead and shop. Just watch out for others and help others and keep in mind what the giving spirit is really about.

May we all have a safe and happy time with our family and friends throughout the season!

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

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