The frenetic pace of mall madness increases unabated throughout December. The shopping itself takes on such dimensions that with many people the material supersedes the spiritual aspect of the holidays.
But before the shopping can even begin, there is the business of finding parking at The Mall.
Holiday shoppers know when they
are nearing this location because traffic becomes as thick as an ant colony,
and jockeying for position starts in earnest. Inevitably, a type "A"
personality loses patience and aggressively pulls out on the shoulder of the
road, speeds ahead, then forces his/her way into the regular stream of traffic.
This individual manages to gain perhaps four or five car lengths to ultimately
beat the traffic light, forcing other drivers to slam on their brakes and come
to an abrupt halt. A cacophony of horns proceeds to announce the general
Arriving at the mall, one is treated to a breathtaking sight—an unending sea of automobiles. There is quite literally not a parking spot to spare. And so begins the art of cruising for a space. This can be compared to the choreography of a ballet. Automobiles pirouette and arabesque around the lot.
Inevitably, there is a car waiting in each aisle for someone to pull out. Often there are two vehicles set to swoop down like vultures. The poor driver who must pull out of the spot has a serious dilemma: which way to go? One or the other of the waiting drivers must be disappointed, only to drive off angrily, perhaps offering the middle finger salute. Definitely not showing proper holiday spirit! (More like the gunfight at Okay Corral)
Drivers keep cruising, ready to dive like kamikaze pilots when they find a likely target--barely avoiding fender benders--a holiday miracle in itself. No matter how many spaces exist, there are never enough.
Another technique involves following those who are leaving. Sometimes these shoppers are merely putting away their packages and return to the Mall for further exploration. Then there is the individual, fully aware someone is waiting for his/her parking spot, who decides this is a good time to sit and light up a cigarette, fiddle with the car radio, or begin a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life with someone they've conjured on a cell phone.
Most amazing of all are those who decide to grab the closest parking spot. I'm talking here about nabbing the spaces set aside for the handicapped. These artists fall into several categories. First are those who have no physical impediment whatsoever but park illegally because they don't want to continue cruising. We have no trouble spotting them as they run out when the police start ticketing. The second category: those who somehow obtained handicapped stickers yet can move like gazelles, either had some impediment but are over it and kept their stickers, or obtained them illegally in the first place. There seem to be a growing number of these talented artists who we may refer to as prima donnas.
With so many people claiming the right to place handicapped stickers in their automobiles, I am waiting for the time when non-handicapped signs will be issued instead.
After managing to obtain a parking spot and reaching the Promised Land of the Mall, we are greeted by a chorus of Hallelujah from the sound system. Unfortunately, by this time, we are almost too weary to shop.
When Hannukah and Christmas come and all the gifts are finally handed out, matters are not in the least resolved, as a good portion of those gifts will end up being returned soon after. (The heaviest shopping day of the entire year is December 26th) So just when we think our holiday shopping is finally done, it's only just begun!
Then there's the matter of re-gifting. That's the most bizarre ritual of all. This refers to presents that don't come with any clue as to where they were purchased. Even Sherlock Holmes would scratch his head in perplexity.
These are gifts that no one in their right mind would want to keep: purple plaid socks, perfume that would make a skunk turn up its tail in disgust. Well, you get the picture! So what does one do with such odious presents? Naturally, we save them and give them to those who have given us their re-gifts. You know you've gone full cycle when one of your re-gifts is gifted back to you.
So how do we avoid mall madness? More people than ever are turning to online shopping. A good friend told me the other day that she has neither the time nor the health to shop other than via the internet. So what are good gifts that won’t put you in hock for the rest of the year and can be purchased conveniently?
I would like to suggest that books are excellent gifts to give. You don’t have to run around. You can make your selections in comfort. And you don’t have to spend your life savings. There’s a perfect book for everyone, whether a bestseller or something from an unknown author. There are a multitude of useful nonfiction titles: perhaps a cookbook, a book on home repairs, or history. Fiction provides many choices such as romance, mystery, or adventure. Children’s books are more appealing than ever.
Naturally I’m going to recommend some of my recent books. If you find climate change disturbing, you might want to read the faction novella THE BURNING:
If you’re into mysteries, have a go at my latest thriller
For teens, try my newest release WITCH WISH:
Finally, my holiday gift to you is a humorous mystery story published online for free by Sunlit Stories, to listen to and/or read:
What are your feelings regarding holiday shopping? Do you shop online or prefer to shop in person? Do you give books as gifts? Do you consider books good gifts? What books would you like to recommend, either your own or those of others? Thoughts and comments most welcome!