Eastern Wake: Opinion

Column: Ready for the hectic season?

By Johnny Whitfield

Johnny Whitfield
Johnny Whitfield ehyman@newsobserver.com

I hope you’ve had plenty of time over this long Thanksgiving weekend to rest and let your body and spirit recover from a hard-charging year. If you didn’t, well, I pity you for the next five weeks.

We’re entering that obstacle course known as the Christmas season and the next five weeks will be a tortuous blur of hustle and bustle. Already passed, as you read this in print, is Black Friday, that hellacious shopping day that follows the overindulgence of food with an overindulgence of a different kind for those people looking for special deals or hard-to-find Christmas gifts.

If you didn’t finish your shopping that day – and who really does? – you’ll spend the next five weekends going to your favorite stores, visiting and revisiting the local malls and shopping centers. That’s the kind of torture I wouldn’t wish on my greatest enemy.

There’s always plenty of parking at most any business, unless it’s Christmas season. I’ve endured that indignity in the past, following shoppers out of the mall in my car like some kind of pervert just waiting for them to get into their vehicle and free up a space for me.

I’ve often thought it would be fun – though downright mean-spirited – to walk out of a mall with an armful of packages, put them in car and then turn around and walk back into the mall. Of course, I’ll never do that because, it’s Christmas shopping season for them as much as it is me. We’re all in this shopping purgatory together.

Of course, maybe 1 in 100 of you who read this are like my mother and her two sisters. They were year-round shoppers and a fall trip to the outlets near Burlington usually helped them wrap up their gift buying for the season. While all the poor schmucks like me were battling crowds and overfilled parking lots, they were at home wrapping gifts and organizing for the next year.

There’s another theory to this shopping spree we go on each year and, ashamed as I am to admit it, I’m usually aligned with this school of thought. You’ve probably heard the theory that all the girls in the bar get prettier at closing time, right? Well, the same thing applies to shoppers who are busily scurrying about on Dec. 23 and 24. Any gift will do at that point, so long as it fits the budget to a reasonable degree.

Every Dec. 26, I promise myself I’ll be a better shopper next time around. You can believe that promise from me about as faithfully as the other big lie I tell each year about the diet I’m going to start on Jan. 1.

I have discovered one helpful tip to ease the anguish of shopping. As my family will tell you, I’m a list maker. There’s almost as much joy in making a list as there is in crossing items off the list. Heck, sometimes I make lists of the lists I need to make.

Christmas time lends itself to lists. A list helps keep you from forgetting about all the people you have to buy for. No more last-minute gifts for the kids’ teachers because you forgot all about those people. Add ‘em to the list in October or November, and they are sure to get something from you this Christmas, even if it’s just something as cheesy as a pencil with an apple-shaped eraser.

Lists also give you the chance to brainstorm ideas, which is especially useful when you’re buying for hard-to-buy-for people like Uncle Harold. The man must be nearly 99 years old now and he has everything he could possibly want except for his hearing and that’s too expensive to buy for a Christmas present anyway.

Spend a few minutes thinking about ol’ Uncle Harold and you’re sure to come up with some kind of idea. Once the gift item has been settled all you have to do is go to the store, ask the clerk where you can find that item, then mosey on over to the checkout line. Ba da bing. You’re in. You’re out.

But you can’t even reach those milestones if you’re too tired, so, before it’s too late, rest up. You’re gonna need your energy.

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