Everything I need to know, I learned shopping

In the fog that is my memory, there may have been one other time I’d done this. However, this year I decided once again to take part in what some consider to be the ultimate holiday activity, the Tryptophan 5K Snore. No, really, the After Thanksgiving Shopping Frenzy. I’m surprised Hallmark doesn’t have a card for this occasion.

While picking up some good deals, I learned a few things.

Patience is not a virtue. It’s a necessity. Having reached the target destination, I began searching for the gifts on my list. This took longer than expected because where the movies use to be, a grocery store had sprung up. Who comes to this kind of store to buy frozen peas? After literally wading through a sea of shoppers, I stumbled upon the DVDs. Then the real fun began. I snaked my way back through automotive, lingerie and housewares, and finally found the end of a checkout line. Resigned to this fate, I figured I’d burn a couple more vacation days before I got out of there.

Murphy’s Law. When you think things can't get any worse, they will. Try keeping your place in line after downing two large coffees before getting started shopping. A few folks around me actually thought I was leading an impromptu line dancing class. They even tried to imitate the grimace on my face as my situation intensified.

Newton's third law of motion, slightly skewed. You’ll remember this from walking the crowded high school halls as an underclassman. “For every action there's an unequal and totally disastrous reaction.” Once in line, avoid pushing, even inadvertently. This can get you kicked out of it quickly, as I discovered. In my defense, though, I was an innocent bystander, who got pushed. I’ll say this about her. She swung a mean purse for a plucky older woman. The bag of frozen peas from the grocery section helped with the swelling around my eye.

Good things come to those who wait . . . too long. The really great stuff gets hogged up by those who have nothing better to do than start camping out at these stores the day after Halloween. Does Al-Qaeda finance these people? Don’t they have jobs, responsibilities or a conscience?

The best defense is a good offense. When it comes to this, I'm one of the most offensive. Believe me, boiled eggs, broccoli, and navy beans with onions makes for something more than simply a late-night Thanksgiving snack. When that old patience starts to wear thin, this is your trump card. Covertly played, you can advance in line as others vacate their positions to . . . step out for some air.

If everybody else jumped off a bridge . . . Yeah, Mom! I hear you! In other words, don't be like the rest of the crowd. Bring an extremely small child with you on this bitterly cold, early morning, crowded, shopping trip. I guarantee this will help you stand out from the rest. Especially when the small one gets tired of shopping after only three hours. Rest assured your fellow shoppers would dearly love to show their appreciation for this bit of wisdom on your part.

Don't be like the rest of the crowd - Part II. Go ahead and breastfeed the little tyke, right there in line. Don't worry. The swaying dance you do really isn’t necessary to attract more attention to yourself.

The kindness of strangers may surprise you. I had three DVDs to buy. Hardly a good handful. While standing there, this woman said to me, “Surely you’re going to get something else to make this more worthwhile, aren’t you?” I told her it already was because they were for my granddaughter. We chatted lightly until a friend of hers came and rescued her. Five minutes later she came walking back up to me and said, “I just couldn’t let you stand here, with the little you’ve got, when there are shorter lines elsewhere.” With that, I followed her to this mystical place on Earth where there actually were short lines. Shopping like this was good.

Maybe she was generally a thoughtful person. Maybe it had something to do with her being from a small town and this was her first experience with big city shopping. Or maybe it was the true spirit of the season. The giving of oneself.

Whatever the reason, it made me feel like I’d gotten my first Christmas present of the year.

© 2007 Michael Wicinski


Father's Day Essay

Sure, it was last Sunday, but I wrote an essay for an open invitation from our local paper, The Commercial Appeal. I didn't make the "print" version, but I did make it to the "dot com" version. To read my take on what I learned from my father, just go here. I'm the fifteenth one down.

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