December 4, 2020

A Holiday Survivor by Brendon Marks


Well, I survived another holiday shopping season. Each year I am more convinced than ever that it will be my last. Somehow, some way, I am sure that I will die of an overdose of holiday-ness. As each year passes, the odds increase dramatically, and yet I take no special joy in the fact I may be proven correct.

When a man wakes up on December 15th it is comparable to waking up in the center of a minefield with a 300-foot radius. He has two chances of escaping without suffering death or bodily injury. slim and none.

In the first place he has not purchased a gift yet for anyone who is important in his life. He bought a roll of glow-in-the-dark toilet paper for the office party, but that doesn’t count.  He has 240 hours left and they’re slipping away fast. He recalls that ten of those hours will be spent putting up the decorations that were supposed to be up two weeks ago. Another eleven hours will be broken up into twenty-two half-hour chunks spent walking from the nearest parking space to the store.

Anyone who has a parking space in the first twenty rows actually left their car parked there before Thanksgiving and rode the bus home rather than give up the space. The parked cars are used only for dumping locations for purchases. The designated shoppers commute between the car and the mall dropping off packages each time their load becomes burdensome, while the designated collectors drive up periodically, transfer the packages from the storage cars to the transport cars and take them home, to be wrapped and piled under the tree.

Or so it seems. There is no other way to explain why there is never, ever an empty parking space within one-quarter mile of a store between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

And the stores are opening earlier and earlier every year, especially on that most joyous of all shopping days, the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year my wife talked me into going to one of those sales. I won’t mention the name of the store, because they refused to pay me for the ad, but I know you would recognize it.

Experienced holiday shoppers will laugh at my naivete, but I was a rookie. Based on my knowledge of what time most people arrive at work, I would have guessed that I might be tenth in line at that hour of the morning. I arrived a half-hour before opening time to find at least 3000 people there ahead of me. There were four lines, extending at least 350 feet into the parking lot, and if I could have seen the front of the line, I’m sure I would have seen tents.

People were coming out of the store with their shopping all done, before I got through the entrance.
Pandemonium reigned inside. Shoppers were actually running down the aisles to be sure they weren’t too late. I saw several arguments over empty shopping carts, not to mention merchandise. The most successful shoppers were two-person teams; one would run ahead to claim the merchandise while the other fought their way through with the shopping cart.

Even though I needed no cart, I still had trouble navigating the mass of humanity to my destination. I am sure that no child under the age of twelve would have survived. I gathered up my items and proceeded back to the checkout lines. Fortunately, all fifteen cash registers were open, with at least fifteen people in every line. Merchandise was flowing out the front door so fast that I was surprised that the vacuum did not suck in the back wall of the store. But I think that if it had, no one would have noticed.

After paying for my purchases, I still had to get out of the parking lot. The fact that I had arrived so late meant that I was parked farthest from the store, therefore closest to the exit. At first you might think that was good, but not so. Hundreds of other shoppers were also trying to get out of the exit, so they were backed up from the street, well past where I was parked.

And because each and every one felt their need to get out of the lot far exceeded mine, not one would allow me to back out of my space. Finally, a really latecomer (at nearly 6am) wanted my space, so he let me out, in spite of the horn blowing behind him.
Next year will surely be the end of me.

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