Granted, I usually ended up buying things like corkscrews, hand warmers and novelty coffee mugs, but the adrenalin rush was not to be missed.
These days, I take a more organized and proactive (some might call it anal) approach to holiday shopping. What I do is this: during the weeks running up to Christmas, if we happen to be in a store and my wife points at something and indicates she might like it, I make a firm mental note and quickly write it down before the leaking sieve I call a brain drops the thought into the great waste bin of my mind. This way, when I do have to begin shopping, I can just go into town, visit the location where the potential gift was, buy it and return home.
This is a foolproof method for eliminating the stress of holiday shopping, and it has worked every year. Except this one. This is due to a new policy the shops seem to be experimenting with called “Hide the Merchandise.”
It started with the jacket.
Last weekend, my wife and I happened across a display of jackets that appealed to me. The jackets were stylish and reasonably priced but, being a weekend, the store was crowded and the staff were busy serving people who looked more wealthy than us. So I proposed to return the next day when it would be quieter.
When I returned, however, the entire store had been rearranged and the jackets were nowhere to be seen. When I enquired, I was told that they had been on sale and the sale had ended.
“Okay,” I said, “so then where are the jackets?”
“Well, we pulled them; we don’t have them anymore.”
“Then can you give me the part number so I can order them on-line?”
“They won’t be on-line, either; once the sale is over, the merchandise is pulled from the stores, and the web.”
“You mean they are now absolutely unavailable anywhere for any price?”
“That’s right. Unless they go back on sale.”
“And when might that be?”
“Well, there’s no way to tell that, is there?”
The logic she seemed to find in this eluded me. I left the shop disappointed and baffled, and unaware that this was a sign of things to come.
Today, I began my Christmas shopping in earnest and, armed with my list, I headed into town. At the first shop, I maneuvered to the proper location, looked at display rack where the diamond tiaras (my wife reads this blog, so I can’t say what I was really after) always resided and found that the store been rearranged. There were no diamond tiaras anywhere; they seemed to have completely disappeared. So I went in search of the Jet Ski.
Now, I considered the Jet Ski a slam dunk; I didn’t even have to write down where to buy one as I could hardly avoid tripping over them when my wife and I wandered through the stores these past weeks. But today, not a Jet Ski to be had. Anywhere.
And that Romantic Getaway to Lego Land I had seen advertised? Also gone and nowhere to be found. So I returned home, defeated and—uncharacteristically—empty handed.
So now I have less than 20 days to come up with alternative gifts, locate and acquire them and haul them back to the flat. But in a way, I’m looking forward to it. It will be a return to those bygone and carefree days when I embraced the holiday buzz instead of doing everything I can to contain and mitigate it. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” louder than the crushing stress of pending shopping that sits on your shoulders like an 800 pound gorilla. So maybe I should just go out at the last minute to elbow my way through the mall with other panicked shoppers, dodging between them to get at the last tea cozy or staple puller. What a great way to feel the true Christmas Spirit!
Yes, it’s time to embrace Christmas Fever and dive headlong into the swirling maelstrom of the holiday.
I just hope my wife likes the corkscrew.