Christmas is Coming
Christmas season, my favorite time of the year, is about to begin. This also means the start of another fast and furious season of shopping madness. I guess that it takes all of that pain and suffering to achieve a memorable holiday, but rarely is "getting there half the fun" when it comes to preparing for Christmas or finding those presents to buy.
To survive you must endure early sales, long lines, panic buying and facing the mayhem of mob violence (trying to find a sales clerk to pay!). Not to mention the music.
Where did the singing muskrat version of "Jingle Bells" come from anyway? Even the best holiday music can become tedious when you hear it for the hundredth time. It adds that special insult when you are waiting in line, dressed in winter attire and overburdened with items to purchase in a store heated to 90 degrees. Yet despite all of the fuss and bother the holiday often ends with wonderful memories; if you manage to survive.
The ritual of mall shopping begins with a dance. It is much like a waltz where one attempts to find a parking space to partner with. Invariably some elderly person is spotted walking through the full parking lot back to his car.
In seconds the predators appear; like lions following a wounded zebra, desperate drivers trail their prey trying to guess which car will be the one departing so that they can grab the spot.
Eventually that person will return to his car. He will fumble for his keys and enter; then he will sit fidgeting for minutes behind the wheel while the pack of anxious drivers nervously awaits his departure. They jockey for position like race cars at the start of a race.
But wait, he doesn't depart, he grabs his medication from the glove compartment and takes it. As he exits his car he is amazed by the looks of hatred coming from the drivers lining up at his parking space. What in the world are they so upset about anyway?
If you find a place to park, it is usually a sure sign that at least one of the items you planned on buying is no longer there. This will usually result in a new trip to another full parking lot in the region.
The stress of shopping can make that alcoholic beverage on the lunch menu look very attractive; have I mentioned the extra steps that local law enforcement takes this season to hunt down drivers who take that attractive drink and then drive?
A word of advice from a former prosecutor and a defense attorney with over two decades of experience: Don't Do It.
Of course, the really smart shoppers are never tempted to drink while they are out Christmas shopping. Why? Well, they aren't out Christmas Shopping; they finished their shopping months ago. They are "Aliens" that exist among us; elite and superior beings who always have their Christmas Cards finished and mailed by the day after Thanksgiving.
They are never found standing in line and their shopping for gifts was done by May 1st at the latest. If these are truly human creatures then they must possess very unusual DNA that demands an orderly, planned existence. They probably regard the rest of us, procrastinators all to some degree, as a defective part of the human race; resembling them in appearance but little else.
I suspect they spend most of December smirking at us. While we wait in line and drive madly in circles, they are probably sitting on their couches sipping adult beverages and laughing at us. Hard to blame them.
We mortal beings can be found out and about on Christmas Eve shopping until the stores close.
Oddly enough, you can sometimes find some very nice bargains that way. Some stores trying to get inventory sold often will make real cuts in prices late on Christmas Eve.
I can recall one time where I had the good fortune to be shopping for a last minute gift when the store announced a 60% off sale on certain toys, including ones that had been previously discounted. I ended up with bags full of great gifts and didn't spend much at all. Our young sons got really spoiled that year. Score one for procrastination.
I also recall shopping when I was a kid when malls and stores were fewer and far apart. Those were the days when department stores still had window displays of Lionel Trains. Crowds would line up just to walk by the window and look.
There were few - if any - stores open on Christmas Eve past six o'clock. When that time passed the shopping centers and store parking lots instantly became empty and quiet. I also remember Christmas shopping trips in snowy weather; yes it used to snow in Maryland before Christmas.
The shopping experience isn't complete without getting a tree. This can be a great time, or a huge pain. One year we took the kids and trekked the fields of a Christmas tree farm, hacksaw in hand.
We walked together as a family, enduring bitterly cold winds while hunting for that special tree. We found it. After cutting it down, we hauled it back to the car and then brought it home. For two days we let it soak up chemicals to make it more fire resistant and last longer before we brought it in and set it up.
Our family quest for the tree made it special. After we got over the colds we had all gotten, we really enjoyed it.
That real tree has the very best smell. It gives the whole house a piney fragrance that evokes memories of holidays past and of childhood.
Yet, if you are already stressed to the max, tired and exhausted from holiday preparations and that last minute rush at work, then it may just be too much work. Real trees do not last long. They shed needles like crazy and dry out to become fire hazards.
Cats find them fascinating. They like to try and climb them. This can have a disastrous effect on glass ornaments and strings of lights. Obviously it is a new toy for them, so your rebukes and verbal warnings are clearly another example of human silliness. Of course trees are for climbing! And for birds.did Santa by chance bring any of those along this year?
Then too there is that four letter word, always present and lurking in one's thoughts even if it never appears - Snow. That's the subject of my next column.