HUB IN THE HOOD: Surviving Christmas
Oh Holy Night Indeed!
Christmas. Need I say more? Immediately you see visions of sugarplums, candy canes, clearance racks, skim milk peppermint lattes and women engaged in a tug-of-war over the last Wii in stock. There are a few groups who have been trying to take the “Christ” out of Christmas for years. I say leave a little Christ in there because we need all the help we can get! Just when I thought the holidays were forever marred by commercialism and a plethora of rudeness, I have observed several examples which lead me to believe there is hope for humanity after all.
AMPLE SAMPLES MAKE HAPPY SHOPPERS
Yesterday I had to run into one of those ginormous super wholesale warehouse stores. I had an agenda, so I plotted a route that would make my stay short and sweet. Did I say sweet? Once inside I was lulled into a false sense of Christmas comfort by one of my favorite Christmas tunes, which was dancing over the store’s PA system. To make matters worse (or better) the smell was intoxicating! Naturally, like a mouse in a maze, I searched for the source of the scent only to discover a wonderland of free samples in the grocery department. FREE! You put the words FREE and FOOD together, I am yours to stay. It started with a neatly packaged portion of warm, fragrant cinnamon roll – which I quickly accepted with a smile. This was followed by a tiny Styrofoam cup of Christmas Blend gourmet coffee, followed by a sample of peanut brittle, which – if you bought it – came in a lovely decorated tin. Then I moved on to savor some smoked ham on a toothpick, a miniature sandwich containing brie and pomegranates, another mini cup of Sumatra coffee, a non-fat blueberry smoothie, another roll of ham, a piece of buttery croissant the size of a quarter and one giant ravioli stuffed into a condiment cup.
Did I mention that free food has an amazing effect on people? Stick twenty of us on a crowded subway and no one says a word. Stick twenty of us in a brightly lit warehouse and feed us nibbles of free food and suddenly we’re all laughing and talking, complimenting one another’s shirt. It is a social phenomenon, and I have a sneaking suspicion the wholesale buy-in-bulk industry knows that. I watched as smiling patrons trundled out with pallets of peanut brittle and crates of pomegranates. They know our weaknesses. As for me, I ambled out into the freezing rain about an hour after my arrival happily pushing a cart of things I really did not need. Curses.
PUT THE “FRANK” IN FRANKENCENSE
The situation was bleak. It was Thanksgiving night around 8 PM and the temperature outside was steadily dropping. I had successfully escaped the family feast to embark on my quest for a flat screen TV – which was promised at a price so low it made my eye teeth hurt. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed the line at BestBuy was already wrapped around the building. A woman of determination, I set my jaw and trotted to the back of the line. I counted heads: I was number 312. Only four more hours of waiting to go. Sometime during hour 2 I saw the store manager emerge from the staff door in the rear of the building. I flagged him down.
“Sooooooo, first come first serve? And if so how many flat screens do you have in stock, including the ones in the back?” I was kind until the last part, where I might have sounded a tiny bit menacing. The manager, a tall mustached man, gave me a weak smile.
“We only have 15 of every sale item in stock.” he said in hushed tones. As he scurried back into the bright, geeky warmth of BestBuy I did the math. Five minutes later I was in the warm interior of my car ordering a coffee at a drive-thru. Nothing beats knowing your odds, and in this situation I knew better than to waste precious time standing in line for a sold-out TV. Thank you manager man. Ask questions; be frank… It might save you a few hours and a tryst with an angry mob.
GIVE TEAM MOM A NEW MEANING
Once again the situation was grim. It was Black Friday and I was standing in line at WalMart, waiting to nab an Xbox bundle for a price so good I wondered what was wrong with them. As the masses waited in a long line I noticed one woman in particular. She was sitting on the cold curb and had a sale paper from every store spread out around her. I wanted to chuckle, thinking she was a fool to believe she could make two of those sales, much less all of them. And that is where I would be wrong.
Less than five minutes after my snarky observation, two minivans pulled up to the curb and stopped mere feet from the Sale Paper Woman. Six teenagers poured out of the first van and seven poured out of the second. Like a military formation, the teens took their place in front of the woman as she began handing out packets with sale papers, money and lists! Her voice rang clear as she carefully instructed each person on where to go and what to buy. They moved like clockwork. I was lost in admiration, as were the line-lubbers around me. How did I forget to delegate this stuff? Next year I’ll have to bribe some help!
JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE SANTA DOESN’T MEAN I WANT TO SIT ON YOUR LAP
You’re probably wondering where this is going. There are two kinds of Santas; those who take the job seriously and those who don the beard so they can act weird. I have the utmost respect for professional Santa, and I admire their ability to suffer through the whining, begging, screaming, noisy, hyperactive and impatient children who come his way. I have often wondered if some level of purgatory included an endless stint as a mall Santa. These gentlemen make Christmas look good, for all its flaws.
Then there are the freaks and pervs who think wearing a Santa suit gives them the right to make thinly-veiled holiday references to attractive women and wary shoppers. For example, the kids and I spent one recent afternoon checking a few items off our list. In one store we encountered a Santa who seemed to be promoting store credit cards. He stopped ringing his bell when he saw me and I wasn’t fast enough. As I tried to steer the children to the left of this Naughty Nicholas he started an overt conversation with my ten year old daughter.
“Ho ho ho there little miss! What do YOU want for Christmas?” he said too loudly. My daughter, whom I would describe as a jaded but intelligent 35 year old stuck in a ten year old’s body, was completely nonplussed. She gave him “the look”. He, however, was looking directly at me. Did I mention this guy had to be pushing 60? Ew. As we continued walking he continued his soliloquy, reminding me that he knows if I’ve been naughty or nice…REALLY?
Some of my fellow mom friends have also recounted stories of lecherous Santas. One woman I know has a daughter who just turned 14. Thanks to the hormones in chicken, her daughter looks like she’s 17 and has a body that makes me wish I had eaten more chicken. My friend complained that even when her daughter is completely covered in clothing and goes without any makeup whatsoever, they cannot go anywhere without males of every age staring at her. Imagine her dismay when a recent trip to a mall invited the unsavory stares of a badly-dressed Santa. The Santa in question was pushing 40 and was standing in front of a department store. As my friend and her daughter walked by, Santa stopped mid-sentence.
“Hey young lady! Come sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what you want for Christmas…” The daughter kept walking but the mom did not. My friend stopped, turned toward Santa and shouted very loudly:
“FOURTEEN! FOURTEEN! DO YOU WANT TO GO TO JAIL? SHE’S FOURTEEN YEARS OLD YOU PERVERT!” That got everyone’s attention, including security.
So please remember to appreciate and respect the Santas who make Christmas respectable. Lord knows they need some positive feedback. On the other hand, beware the salacious Santa who leers at pretty young things from behind his beard. In fact, call them out on the carpet. Like my good friend, help keep Christmas clean and respectable. As we all strive to survive another holiday season let us remember that there is still good in the world. Whether you’re standing in line or grappling with a stranger over the last size M cashmere sweater, remember to spread cheer and compliment one another’s clothing. We can be competitive and conscientious, hurried and happy, flustered and fabulous. Now, go forth and be merry…and have an Elfin’Great New Year!