Suffering from Shopper Syndrome
January 17, 2003
Welcome to the last column of November, and you all know what that means: Christmas shopping.
I have been in a near-fatal car accident; I have had five root canals; I even got married. In my wife's home state. With only my sister and her family on my side of the aisle against all her family and friends if trouble broke out (it didn't).
But there is one event each year that traumatizes me more than all of the above, and that is shopping between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25. I do admit to the occasional road rage, to the venting of frustration now and then.
But put me in a store in December, and I become a maniac.
It starts slowly, my anger building as I circle the parking lot like a runner in a 10-kilometer race, seeing the same scenery dozens of times, before finally finding a spot at the farthest possible point from any door.
That gets me in a wonderful mood.
So after hiking across the asphalt - it's December, remember, so the odds of snow and cold are at least 90 percent - I enter the next circle of hell.
It is not claustrophobic in a mall in December. That's reserved for submarines and small airplanes, and the occasional mine shaft. It is vicious.
Children, on a sugar buzz and excited to see Santa, dart about at knee level between people carring more packages than a herd of bellboys.
Adults, most in no better of a mood than I, grumble as they watch their charges and charge watches.
And that's in the main traffic area. Enter a store, with narrow aisles, and it gets worse.
Want to avoid that by going to a big-box retailer? It's no different.
I have found myself wanting to slam my shopping cart into someone idly standing in an aisle, blocking all traffic, but then I stop myself and remember the poor person is probably in shock, with that thousand-yard stare one sees on a battle fatigue victim.
I try to keep my energy going by humming a little ditty to myself, sung to the tune of the fast part of the Olympics theme:
"I hate this, I hate this, I really, really hate this..."
Eventually, and often to my surprise, it ends. Presents are bought, and now all I have to do is wrap, tape, tear, cut, curse, stack and deliver.
And, I hope, see the smiles when the presents are opened.
Darn it, they'd BETTER smile.