Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shop Till You Pop

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so a popular Christmas song tells us.

I love the Christmas season. Come the first of December, a different kind of happiness takes over my soul, an unmatched feeling of joy, of loving, of giving. I know, however, that such isn’t the case with everyone.

On Thanksgiving Day, a friend asked if I was ready for Christmas shopping. Nope, not me. The thought of buying presents at this time of year kills any visions of sugarplums dancing in my head because people are crazy. I had no plans of going out into that jungle of shoppers to spend money on items that were marked up just so they could be marked down and advertised as “great deals.” To avoid such horrors and pain, I did my shopping in June. Smart thinking, eh?

But then the Christmas season blew into town with the colder weather, and that December happiness came over me, that unmatched feeling of joy, of loving, of giving.

I was ready to hit the malls.

Even though I already had gifts for everyone, there were so many other things I could buy. And so many “great deals.”

Saturday morning I packed the family into the car and set out for adventure.

At first, I didn’t notice the hostility on the road. Motorists cut me off and ran red lights like any other day. But when one lady blew through a stop sign, almost hitting me, and threw her half-eaten candy cane at my car signaling me to get out of her way, I realized, Today is different -- people like this woman have to get to the malls 30 or 40 seconds before me.

At the parking lot, those 30 seconds paid off for Candy Cane Lady -- she got the last parking spot in town. But, just as I was about to park in another country, I found a spot that had just become available -- right near the store entrance. Ha! I got into the store 50 seconds faster than Candy Cane Lady . . . and I got stuck at the edge of 3 million shoppers in a structure that only accommodated a few hundred max.

Children screaming, people pushing made me think this scene wasn’t the “meeting smile after smile” feeling that the song “Silver Bells” had in mind.

A wave of perfume crashed into me, making my brain throb. I could feel the side effects -- I couldn’t think. I pit-stopped my family in a corner of the store near a holiday display and almost got run over by a man carrying several shopping bags. This guy actually sped up, trying to ram me with his holiday treasures, telling me, “I’ll run over people like you.”

“Like who?” I asked. “Someone not clearing a path for you? Who are you?”

Before I could ram him with the object in my hands, my wife took our 8-year-old son from my grasp.

A few purchases later and well into the process of numerous shopping bag handles cutting bloody lines into my hands, I looked up through a skylight in the building and into the heavens and asked, “Why me?” I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself. I was livid. Why me? I finished my shopping in June.

I began making deals with store employees -- “If you show me a back way outta this place, I’ll give you all my purchases.” I even offered up my “next in line” spot at a register to a woman 300 people back so she’d turn off her dancing reindeer hat that looped the same “Jingle Bells” tune so often and so loudly that it was all I could hear. The sound of the kid crying next to me didn’t even register in my ears.

I didn’t care anymore. I crashed in the food court. Finally I got a break. But even a super sub sandwich couldn’t bring me back to life.

I watched families fight over what they were going to eat. Shoppers threatened other shoppers with plastic eating utensils to win the last table available for dining. People left trays of trash in tree planters because they didn’t want to walk a few more steps to the trashcan. I felt disgusted with humanity.

After finishing my lunch, I gave my wife the car keys, got up and got out of there. I walked home and brought up the Internet on my computer to finish the shopping I didn’t need to do in the first place -- ah, that December happiness was back, that unmatched feeling of joy, of loving, of giving.

Online shopping was uneventful -- a few clicks . . . done. But it was hassle-free.

When my family returned from shopping, they spilled into the house like a party that just arrived. But I knew their laughter and excitement and funny stories weren’t real. I knew that going to the malls at this time of year was not fun. It was miserable. There was no excitement, not like with online shopping.

No, I didn’t miss anything. Right?

-December 2011


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