By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Nov 26, 2010 at 6:10 AM

I had only been sleeping for a few hours when my alarm pried me from dreamland early Friday morning.

It was 3 a.m. and my phone was filled with missed calls and text messages from friends inviting me out for some late-night post-Turkey revelry.

I had called it an early night in anticipation of Black Friday and its door busters, those early morning sales at big box stores that have become as big a national tradition as Thanksgiving itself.

Now, 30 minutes after rolling out of bed, here I was pulling into an already nearly full Target parking lot in Bay View; a vague sense of terror crept into my heart as I gazed upon the hordes of people descending on the store.

We have all heard stories of people being trampled at these things and as I looked at some of the robust shoppers getting out of their cars I felt a deep and sudden fear for my life.

But having spent the last two years watching movies on a TV that weighs about 300 pounds and has a strange multicolored line running through the top of the screen, I was looking forward to scoring one of the flat-screen LCD televisions that were being sold for nearly half price. If I were to die under the Crocs of some obese woman in a track suit, then so be it.

Of course, by the time I made it to the front of the store and saw the line of huddled shoppers wrapped around the building I knew I was screwed.

There was even a guy playing with those hippy sticks you see in the parking lot at a Phish concert. How had this miscreant managed to beat me here?

The people at the front of the line, who kept busy singing Christmas jingles, had been there for hours. The guys I ended up next to at the back of the line had already stampeded through a Kohl's in Greenfield which opened an hour earlier.

Mike Shaffer and Joey Glen gave me an idea of the disaster that was about to ensue.

"It definitely was a mob scene at Kohl's trying to get through the aisles and what not," said Glen, "Shameful moms everywhere."

Glen and Shaffer lucked out and snuck in a side entrance and were able to grab their $25 down comforters before the mob descended.

"This is such a small Target though. This is not going to be pretty," Glen said. "A lot of people don't know what they want they are just here for the sport of it."

"That's why I'm here," chimed in Shaffer, who at more than 6-feet-tall and 200 pounds was still dwarfed by some of the sinister soccer mom types jostling for position.

It was 20 degrees out but with steady winds felt much colder.

Two women in front of me, sisters Maria and Carla Perez, looked underdressed for the weather in sweat pants and hoodies.

I considered giving them my coat and winter hat, but screw it, Thanksgiving had been over for more than three hours.

"I wish we were still in Florida," groaned Carla.

With that, the line started to rustle. Cheers erupting from the front, could be heard faintly from my distant post.

As people who had waited in their warm cars started heading toward the door the from the parking lot, shouts of "no cutting" echoed in the early morning sky.

"I am surprised they don't have cops here," Glen said.

When I finally I got into the store there were already people with two televisions to a cart heading back in the opposite direction.

I would have ran toward the electronics department, but the aisles were too crowded and I am not a jerk.

A sea of people swarmed around the electronics kiosk where clerks bravely took requests and handed out hot ticket items. In general people were pretty well behaved. Some incidental shoving was as close as it got to the bloodbath I had envisioned.

But I didn't wake up at 3 a.m. and freeze my butt off in a parking lot to have my faith restored in humanity. I did it because I wanted a ginormous TV and I wanted it cheap. But when I made it to the front of the scrum, the TVs were all gone. I had been dream-busted. Truly this had turned into the blackest of Fridays.

I walked around sulking as people frantically cried out for the location of the $3 sandwich makers.

There were still plenty of good deals around, from cheap blankets and kitchen appliances to towels and DVDs. But the fact was I blew it. It was the TV or nothing. As I complained to my dejected comrades I heard rumors of a guy who had camped out in a tent at Best Buy for two days to make sure he was the first in line.

Inspired, I headed to the outdoors section to price out camping gear and get ready for next year.