Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Christmas Eve Tradition

Christmas Eve is tomorrow, and I already know what will happen. (Not because I’m psychic, but because it happens every 24th of December.)

Tomorrow evening, at approximately 9:05 p.m., I will find myself wandering through the CVS pharmacy. I will walk slowly, my eyes darting to and fro, while my lips move in silent prayer for some acceptable gifts to appear on the shelves. A lone employee will stand by the front door with her arms folded and a scowl on her face, clearly indicating just how thrilled she is to be the shift manager on Christmas Eve.

“Sir,” she’ll call out, failing in her attempt to instill some holiday cheer in 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?”

Why does this scenario play out each and every year? That’s easy: I’m an idiot.

It began four weeks ago, on Thanksgiving Day. Sitting around the dinner table, the conversation turned to holiday shopping. Gift requests were made, spending limits were set, and trips to the mall were planned.

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 and undercooked turnips.

If you have your Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving Day, it is, of course, a sign of severe emotional problems. (In my world, procrastination is a virtue.) But I do remember clearly thinking on that day — despite the tryptophan overdose — that it might be a good idea to do my Christmas shopping early for a change. If I could get it done by, say, December 22nd, that would eliminate my usual Christmas Eve panic.

So, later on Thanksgiving Day, after I revived from my turkey-induced coma, I made a list of what I would purchase for my family and friends. 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.”)

In early December, I made two attempts to buy some gifts. On the first occasion I couldn’t find a single parking space at the mall. After burning half a tank of gas driving around in circles, I gave up and went back home.

On my other shopping attempt, I did find a parking space, but then proceeded to spend two hours in the electronics department watching the Giants’ football game on a wall of 24 television sets. When I returned home, the only things I had purchased were a cordless drill and a socket wrench. I’m guessing my wife won’t appreciate either in her stocking on Christmas morning.

I still was certain I could get my shopping done during the final weekend before Christmas. However, some unexpected commitments cropped up, I fell asleep on the couch a few times, and the next thing I knew, December 24th was on the doorstep.

Theoretically, it’s possible I could do some shopping tonight. But remember that “procrastination is a virtue” thing? No doubt something will come along this evening and distract me — something very urgent and crucial, such as the television being on. 

So tomorrow night, as I scan the CVS shelves, if it’s similar to last year, the shift manager will slip into the back room to recharge her stun gun. When she emerges with fire in her eyes and 50,000 volts in her hand, it finally will prompt me to make some purchases. And on Christmas morning, as my loved ones gather around the tree, for the 17th year in a row, the gift-giving theme will be “Chia Pets and Slim Jims for everyone!”

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