December 01, 2006

Going Postal: The Joys Of Christmas Shopping

There are 23 shopping days until Christmas, 24 shopping days until Kwanzaa, and, for our Jewish friends, a stunningly short 15 shopping days until Chanukah.

Last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, was apparently the busiest shopping day of the year so, arguably, it should be all downhill from here on in, right? Yeah... sure.

The fact of the matter is that December is the single worst time of the year to go shopping unless, of course, you get your giggles out of stupid drivers, slow traffic, over-crowded stores and rude people bumping into you at every move. All of the sudden I'm starting to really admire the porcupine. Yet despite the many hours of Animal Planet Catherine and I have watched over the past weeks, I have yet to grow quills so, instead, I'm thinking of just becoming enochlophobic.

I dread having to go out shopping in Los Angeles during the holiday season. As if the traffic isn't bad enough during the rest of the year, it morphs into a non-stop Road Rage Revue during December. I'm angry before I even park the car at the damn mall.

Fortunately, over the years I've managed to develop methods to slightly avoid the holiday shopping anxiety. The first is catalog shopping. As a very tactile person, I'm not a huge catalog shopping fan, but I make the effort during the holiday season. Mysteriously, I seem to have found myself on many a catalog mailing list. As a result, it is not uncommon for me to pick up the mail on any given day in December and have ten to fifteen catalogs waiting for me.

Though I usually throw the catalogs directly in the trash throughout the year, during December I pile them all up in a corner until it is a mound teetering on collapse. At that point, I grab a pen, sit on the couch and over a period of days scroll through each of the catalogs, circling items and ripping out pages that might make meaningful gifts. What I'm left with are about fifty torn pages of gifts I can easily buy online.

My second means of avoiding Holiday Homicide is the gift closet. I thought this was a brilliant idea when I started it. You see, I kind of do my holiday shopping throughout the entire year. If I see a gift that might be good for somebody, I buy it and toss it into the gift closet. Right now I must have a good 40 or 50 gifts in there - some earmarked for certain individuals, others generic go-to gifts.

So why am I complaining? Because inevitably I will not have the right gift for each person. I'll flip through all the random catalog pages time and again, then stand staring into my gift closet like the empty refrigerator, continuing to open it over and over, desperately hoping the food I want will mysteriously appear. Those magical gifts never appear though. Just like the fact that I have 200 channels on my television, but never anything to watch. Want me to do another comparison? OK, how about this... Looking in my gift closet is like going to the Cheesecake Factory, the menu is so crowded with everything one could ever want to eat that I can't find anything I'm hungry for.

So what happens? I go to the stores. And I cruise the aisles. And I finally settle on some stupid, somewhat meaningless gift. And as I wait in the absurdly long line to pay for it, staring at the person on the cell phone in front of me who is ignoring the fact that it's her turn to pay, I try to keep my cool. Maybe I even sing Jingle Bells to myself. Or hum a few ba-rump-ba-bum-bums. I love that song. And maybe between the frustrations, I can sneak out a smile, wish a couple of "Merry Christmases" and squeak a little holiday cheer out of the event without wanting to choke too many people. And if all goes right, perhaps when I look in my gift closet next year, it will have all the perfect presents waiting for my loved ones.

Excuse me now, I need to grab my semi-automatic and get to some serious holiday shopping.


Anonymous said...

Last week was my first trip to the Los Angeles area. I don't think I could ever handle that traffic on a regular basis. I wasn't even at rush hour and the 405 made me nervous. yikes.