Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
A CHRISTMAS EVE TRADITION
It is Christmas Eve and I am wandering through the CVS pharmacy. I walk slowly, my eyes darting to and fro, while my lips move in silent prayer for some acceptable gifts to appear miraculously on the barren shelves. A lone employee stands by the front door with her arms folded, a four pound set of keys hanging from her hand, and a scowl on her face which clearly shows just how thrilled she is to be working at 9:05 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
“Sir,” she calls out, failing in her attempt to instill some holiday cheer into her voice, “It’s closing time. It’s past closing time. My kids are home waiting for me. Aren’t you going to buy something? Anything?”
How did I get into this situation? This year was going to be different. This was the year I was going to get my Christmas shopping done early and be able to relax with my family on Christmas Eve.
The idea occurred to me way back on Thanksgiving. Sitting around the dinner table at my folks house, the conversation turned to holiday shopping. Gift requests were made, spending limits were set (soon to be ignored, of course—viva la VISA!), and trips to the mall were planned.
I noticed they talked as if all this shopping would take place during the last days of November and the first weeks of December. Curious behavior, I thought. Why are they doing this so far in advance?
In the middle of the discussion, one of my relatives boasted, “I’m already finished with my Christmas shopping!” Seven jealous people immediately pummeled her senseless with turkey drumsticks.
As I surveyed this odd scene, a light suddenly went off in my head. It dawned on me that if I, too, did my Christmas shopping early, I wouldn’t go through the last minute panic which has become as much a part of my holiday tradition as the family heirloom fruitcake. (This fruitcake, by the way, has a greater density than plutonium and has been passed on from generation to generation since before the Civil War. During the non-holiday season, we use it to block up the car while changing a tire.)
I realize this holiday shopping tip is not exactly a revelation to most people, but to those of us born with a mutant “procrastinator” chromosome, getting things done ahead of time is a foreign concept.
So, later that day, after I revived from my turkey induced coma, I made a list of what I would purchase for my family and friends. Wow, a shopping list! I had never made one before. I was so excited I actually thought about going to the mall the next day. But no, as every media outlet on the planet reminds us, the Friday after Thanksgiving is “The Busiest Shopping Day of the Year.” (I think it’s listed in the Constitution. The Second Amendment reads in part, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the fourth Friday in November shall be designated the busiest shopping day of the year.”)
Since I react to over-crowded malls the same way a claustrophobic reacts while on a submarine cruise beneath the polar ice cap, I decided to wait a day or two. No big problem, I figured. I still had the better part of a month to get my shopping done and still avoid a last minute panic.
Over the next couple of weeks, I made two attempts to buy some gifts. On the first occasion I couldn’t find a single parking space at the mall, and as I circled around and around all those millions of cars and billions of people, my breathing became shallow and I broke out in a cold sweat. (The submarine was about to submerge.) I hurried home to wait for a less crowded day.
On my other shopping attempt, I spent two hours in the electronics department watching the Giants’ football game on a wall of 24 televisions sets. When I returned home, the only things I had purchased were a cordless drill and a socket set for myself.
I still felt confident. There was a week left until Christmas, an eternity compared to my usual holiday planning. However, during that last week, a few unexpected commitments cropped up, I fell asleep on the couch a few times, and the next thing I knew, I was walking out of my office at dusk on the 24th muttering, “How did the time slip away so fast?”
Well, it’s too late to ponder that mystery now. I think the CVS employee has gone into the back room to recharge her stun gun, so I’d better purchase some Christmas gifts now. I hope my family doesn’t notice that I’m getting them the same thing as last year. Tomorrow morning, at the present opening festivities, the theme will once again be “Chia Pet-mania!”
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