Christmas Shopping Strategies

This is one of my short stories from my book, Angry Birds and Beehive Hair. After you read this and you have a laugh, buy the book to get more laughs.

Pssst: See the link to the right of this blog with the image of my book cover and click on it.

I mean, after all, the holidays are coming up and you have to spend time with relatives whom you really don’t want to spend time with, right? This book will help pass the agony of the hours or–God forbid–days that you’ll never get back.

Hey! This book also makes a good Christmas or Hostess gift!


Christmas Shopping Strategies

Here’s my strategy for parking at the mall. Yeah, yeah, leave it to a woman to give anyone parking advice. Trust me, I’ve seen some bad parking in my day, and I can tell you that I have never driven into a parking spot that was clearly someone else’s at the ready. (E.g., the guy with his blinker on and the wife standing in the empty spot, waving him in like he’s a Cessna 182.)

Yesterday, which happened to be a Saturday, my husband, Dave,christmas shopping chaos and our two oldest sons, and I decided to go to Woodfield Mall, the largest mall in Chicago, to buy Christmas presents.

As a woman who loves to shop, I want everyone to know that this was not my idea. I knew better.

As we were driving toward the mall, I told Dave, “Don’t get crazy on me trying to find a parking spot.” I should have heeded those words, since I was the one who wanted to throw my ice scraper and umbrella out the car window toward the bastards who jammed up an entire parking-lot aisle while waiting for a family of ten to pack their brood up into a car the size of a Miata.

I wonder what people think when they see a large group of people getting into a tiny clown car with about fifty packages in tow. Do they think this troupe is just going to jump right in and blast out of the parking space so they can mosey on in? These very patient people also had a lot of time on their hands because, although I didn’t actually time it, I would guess the driver waiting for this group of people to leave sat there for about fifteen minutes. I’m pretty sure his left blinker bulb burned out.

When parking at the mall on a weekend around Christmastime, and especially the weekend before Christmas, find the stores you know won’t have a lot of customers, like Firestone Tires. I don’t think anyone has tires on their Christmas list. If they do, they’re idiots.

So stores that draw a small crowd are the first strategy in looking for decent parking. This will probably not help much, because most people just want to get into the mall without having to walk half a mile in the cold. They’d rather get inside before their skin starts to separate from their skull due to the freezing temperature, their lips turn a lovely shade of slate blue, and their eyes freeze shut.

When parking in front of the little-used store fails, timing is everything. You can be like my mom, who liked to drive around the same few rows until a spot opened up. We could be driving in circles for hours on end, but it wouldn’t matter. This particular parking area was what she was familiar with and that was it. It didn’t matter if you were getting car sick or going into labor. She wasn’t going to stop until she found a parking spot right there.

“Please, Mom. Just slow down the car to a crawl, and I’ll roll out so I can end my knee-weakening desire to vomit.”

Okay, so let’s say you’ve actually made it through the mall doors. Now what? First and foremost, I suggest staying on the outside of the crowd barrier. Be like a mouse and walk along the outer edge of the mall corridor. People who walk up the middle are going to run into the biggest pet peeve on the planet. That would be people who stop on a dime while you are walking right behind them to

  1. take a phone call (because most of us don’t have the uncanny ability to walk and talk at the same time);
  2. text (see number 1 above);
  3. attend to a screaming child in a stroller, or worse, attend to a child who is breaking out of the stroller and making a run for it; or
  4. last but not least, window shop.

Unless I want to smell your hair, I’m really not interested in getting that close to you. I’m on a mission here. I’m at the mall to get the items on my Christmas list: a chia pet, live goldfish, and golf tees. No one is going to stop me.

All of a sudden, I become Scrooge-like, my Christmas spirit melting like Frosty the Snowman on Maui’s south shore. This whole Christmas-shopping experience is making me want to just go home and drink wine, for a whiner I’ve become.

You still have time to get your Christmas shopping accomplished. It’s only December seventh. However, from now until December twenty-fourth, any mall, store, boutique, Target, or Wal-Mart you decide to meander into will be in disarray. People knock you over, run their shopping carts over your foot (which you just had hangnail surgery on), and that Patty the Potty Doll your three-year-old absolutely has to have is out of stock. You’ll encounter not friendly elves at the register, but mean, snarling “I’ll put your face through a meat grinder” elves who rip the money out of your hands and shove that beautiful cashmere sweater you spent your week’s pay on into a plastic bag.

Ah, I love Christmas.

Do you have that list of the twenty or so people you need to buy for because your family refuses to have a grab bag? If you don’t have a list, I’m afraid you’re screwed. The odds of you doubling up on a gift for someone or, worse yet, forgetting someone entirely is about 90 percent. As I walk along the mall in my super-secret strategy of sticking to the outer limits, I find plenty to distract me, like improper dress codes, people sleeping in massage chairs, and having to duck to avoid being hit in the head by those whirling helicopters. Having a list is a must.

After an hour or two of shopping, I finally managed to get my first few gifts, after ramming through crowds of people and arm wrestling an eleven-year-old for the last Xbox. Now, it’s time to get into line—behind thirty other people. Did I mention the store is, like, eighty-five degrees? You are wearing a winter coat with three layers of material to keep you warm in minus fifteen degree weather.

In situations like this, I never wear my winter coat while Christmas shopping. I wear shorts. Shorts and a T-shirt. I know what I’m getting myself into, and I’m prepared for the extremes in temperature, especially if I have to wait in line for an hour to purchase two items. I remember my best friend telling me that after she had waited in a long line sweltering, she finally approached the cashier, who then proceeded to give her the third degree.

Cashier: “Let’s start with your phone number, shall we?”

My friend: “(630) 555-1212.”

Cashier: “Is this all you’ll be purchasing today?”

My friend (wiping sweat from her forehead): “Yes.”

Cashier: “We have a buy-one-get-one-free on this item, if you’d like to go back and get one more?”

My friend: “No. I would just like to check out.”

Cashier: “Would you like to save 10 percent today if you open up a credit card with us?”

My friend (becoming agitated): “No. Thank you.”

Cashier: “Oh, I forgot to ask. Can I please have your first and last name so we can put you on our e-mail list?”

My friend: “Suzy. Suzy Snowflake.”

She was overcooked. She snapped. I think the last thing people want after waiting in line that long with five layers of clothes on is to be asked what the theory of relativity is, because that’s how long it takes to get through the typical questions a mall cashier asks you.

After leaving the bright lights and the third degree, I needed nourishment. The no-brainer is to find a restaurant in the mall. I checked three of them; they all had a forty-five minute to one-hour wait. I didn’t know if my tapeworm could withstand a wait that long, but I really didn’t have a choice. So I stood there in line while chewing on my purse strap. Leather gets pretty tasty after a while.

This was where my mall strategy failed. What I should have done was eaten first and then tackled my shopping. Nobody wants to eat at eleven in the morning, but everyone wants to eat at one in the afternoon. So while Dave and I stood in line for a table, we texted the kids to come join us.

I got my Christmas spirit back. Sitting down with the kids and eating a pretty good meal with a glass of wine was an antidote to my Scrooge-like mood. Having some laughs with the kids and my husband didn’t hurt either. It was a great lunch, except for that kid who kept peeking over the seat of our booth.

What do you do in situations like that? I mean, you would think the parents would stifle the kid and make him turn around and eat his food. Instead, they goaded him on and laughed at his antics as he peeked over our booth.

It was cute at first, but then I wanted to poke him in the eyes like Moe does to Curly. You’ve thought about doing the same thing too. Admit it. I restrained myself, but I did give the kid’s parents my famous stink eye as we left the restaurant.

Don’t worry. I still had my Christmas spirit and successfully navigated the shopping mall without throwing a tear-gas canister to clear out the population so I could shop in peace. That wouldn’t be very jolly of me, would it?




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