The Christmas season just past was both one of beauty and serenity but it was also, as we know, at moments a time of stress and ugliness. While my experiences this year never included being trampled by a mob intent on bargains, being pepper sprayed by someone who wanted a video game more than I did (that would be almost anyone), or getting into a ramming match over a parking space, I did experience some tension over the past several weeks. Last week it seemed as if no one had gone to work and they were instead driving around and jostling in packed mobs in almost every store I went into. I know, I was driving around, but I don’t have a job to go to. As for jostling, it’s not my favorite contact sport to begin with so I leave when it starts. That’s why I do as much of my shopping (such as it is) on line.
There were some moments during this period that shone with the milk of human kindness (mixed metaphor alert–but I’m too tired to care. Send in your fixes to the comment section.) In the first one, I was one car behind a car parts tractor trailer making a left turn into the car parts store lot from a two-lane shopping center road. A traffic light in back of us backed up a line of cars so that the truck could not hit the right angle between the oncoming cars which had left a too-small gap for it (You might get out some toy cars and trucks and work this out for yourself. I could post a video using some cars and trucks but I don’t have any little cars or trucks and I ain’t that good with video. Sorry.) As a result, the truck missed the entry cutdown in the sidewalk and started to run up on the curb. It stopped, and with considerable skill, the driver backed up, got the proper angle since the traffic blocking him from doing so had moved out of the way, and pulled the tractor-trailer assembly smoothly into the limited available space. The remarkable thing about this whole encounter is that all the drivers waiting for this skilled truck driver to make his way into the parking lot made room for him to do so and sat patiently while he got hung up. (I was, as I said, in a position where I wasn’t going anywhere anyhow so I contributed nothing to the resolution of this traffic dilemma. I suppose I could have blown my horn and become the biggest jerk at that location.) It was a beautiful moment. Srsly.
Then I lost my mind and went to Costco on Friday the 23rd about noon to pick up our Christmas card pictures and buy a pumpkin pie. I decided I would be calm and not worry about being crushed by one of many carts flying around the lot and store packed to the gills with merchandise since my health insurance is pretty good. I parked somewhere near Centreville (if you’re not local, this is a slight hyperbole–Centreville is about 8 miles from the Manassas Costco. Just a little literary effect for my readers. Hope you enjoyed it) and made the long walk in, successfully and narrowly avoiding being run over by car and cart alike. I procured and paid for our pictures and jostled my way to the pumpkin pie case, elbows flying with the rest of my compadres. I then made my way slowly and carefully to down the teeming aisles to the checkouts, which were stacked up with people buying provisions for all the local orphanages for the next six months.
I had decided to stay calm so I got in line behind two ladies who were obviously from an unnamed rural area to our west and were having a hilarious conversation about the culinary talents of an unnamed relative.
“Yeah,” one said, “She’ll cook up a possum and think she’s really done something. She offered some to me and I told her I’d never be hungry enough to eat that.”
The other said, “I heard she uses roadkill because she’s too lazy to shoot one herself…”
I suppose at this point they noticed I was listening real hard and turned around. “You’ve only got two items,” the first lady said, “and we have our supplies for the orphanage for the next six months. Why don’t you go ahead of us?”
I was a little taken aback at being caught eavesdropping (I love to do it–especially when people are having a verbal fight. A couple was arguing across the roof of their car in the Bloom parking lot a couple of days before I lost my mind and I perhaps was watching and listening a little too intently because the man looked at me and said, “What are YOU looking at?” I wanted to say, “Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1976, directed by Martin Scorsese,” but figured that it was neither the time nor the place for a seminar on one of my favorite movies. I moved on and bought some bananas, which seemed the right thing to do.)
Anyhow, I thanked the ladies profusely and told them they represented the best of the Christmas spirit. I stepped around their pile of stuff on the belt and have my pie to the cashier. She had heard the ladies’ kind offer and said, “And you will be paying for these ladies as well, I take it?”
I was speechless until I figured out she was joking (I’m quick like that) and laughed. The ladies played along. The first one said, “Well, I’ll go back and get me ten more cartons of cigarettes.” For a moment I thought I had contributed to the slow death of an entire orphanage from second-hand smoke but realized she was probably joking. We all had a good laugh (nothing funnier than a carcinogen-dealing product!) and I took my pie and receipt, wished everyone in the general area a Merry Christmas and started on the long trek back to my car with a lighter heart and a springier step.
The last magic moment this season (in public–there were plenty church and at home–for example, Alyssa adopted a pony in my name. I always wanted a pony! Now I have one! But he lives on an island in the Bay. Oh, well…I hope he’s happy) occurred when I went to Bloom about half an hour before they closed on Christmas Eve to buy bacon for our traditional Christmas breakfast. A young woman was standing at the front entrance pleasantly reminding incoming customers that the store would be closing in thirty minutes. I got my bacon quickly and started past the nice young woman. She smiled a brilliant smile (kind of like Rachael Ray’s, Alyssa) and said, “Merry Christmas, sir!” I returned the greeting and told her I hoped Santa would be good to her. She said she hoped he would be to me, too. I said I didn’t have much hope because I had been very bad all year. (This too was hyperbole. I have been very good this year and in fact got only one lump of coal in my stocking and that was for a speeding ticket that was dismissed.) She laughed and said she was sure I wasn’t that bad. I walked out into the parking lot feeling good that there are patient, kind, helpful, thoughtful, funny, friendly people in this world, and for my part, pretty young women with nice smiles and silvery laughs. Hope you experienced something like I did this season as well.