Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Is That Inflatable Snowman Holding a Rifle?

Over the weekend, Thomas and I did a little shopping at the local Wally World. As we stood in line with a carving pumpkin and some Halloween candy, Thomas asked me what, quite frankly, might be my new favorite question, ever:

"Why is that inflatable snowman holding a rifle?"

Sure enough, there was an inflatable snowman displayed on a shelf. He wore an inflatable hunting cap, and carried an inflatable rifle, which was trained on an inflatable reindeer. The last part was merely coincidence, but I could easily see the entire tableaux winding up in a neighbor's yard. Heck, I could probably tell you now which  yard. We shook our heads at the silliness, paid for our stuff, and went on to our next stop, Big Lots. We needed to pick up some more lights for Mom's Halloween yard display.

When we got  to the store, we were thrilled to find the lights on sale. In fact, all of the Halloween decorations were on sale, and had been moved up to the very front of the store, because the "seasonal" area of the store had been decked out with Christmas trees and tinsel. The leftover macabre merch had no place left to go but out the door.

At Target, it was nice to see that the pumpkins hadn't already been clearanced into oblivion, but that was probably only because so very few items remained. The stragglers had been consolidated, though, and light-up candy canes and glittering greeting cards were already encroaching upon their former territory.

We managed to find the fog machine and liquid we needed, and made our way through the mall to Penney's, where I wanted to grab some tights to go underneath my costume. The weather had suddenly switched from Summer to Winter, completely bypassing Fall, and I had no desire to freeze my trick-or-treats off on Halloween night. Walking through the connecting hallway, neither of us could help but notice the illuminated "icicles" dripping from the ceiling.

"Gosh Darnit!" (Okay, so Thomas didn't say exactly that, but this is a family-friendly blog) "Christmas decorations?!" And sure enough, the store's Ladies' department was already swimming in styrofoam snowflakes.

"You know," I told him, "when I worked at Barnie's (a now-defunct coffee shop inside the main area of the mall), we were appalled when the mall maintenace guys started putting the Christmas wreaths up on Halloween. Now, we're doing good to even make it to Halloween." We went home, carved a jack-o-lantern, and watched a marathon of haunted attraction and creature-building television shows.

This morning, I had a few minutes to kill before heading into work, so I stopped by the strip mall next to my office building. Ross had a tiny rack of picked-over Halloween items, and probably a dozen tables and half a dozen shelving systems filled with stocking stuffers and barware, each designated as "holiday" by a glitzy red sign. Bed Bath & Beyond didn't even pretend to have any Halloween stuff left--not even on sale--and I soon found myself surrounded by crystal-encrusted mistletoe and gingerbread candles.

Now, I don't mean to come off as down on Christmas. I love Christmas. Every year on the Day after Thanksgiving, I do my Black Friday shopping, then come home to wrap presents and decorate the tree. The first available Saturday after Thanksgiving, I fire up the oven and bake cookies and breads while Miracle on 34th Street and Christmas Vacation play on the television (last year, Galaxy Quest somehow made it into the mix, too, but I think that's just because the cranberry walnut cookies took too long in the oven). I drink egg nog lattes even though I have no idea what egg nog actually is. Thomas and I set up our Christmas village just like my family always did when I was a kid. I get a Christmas dress for Vigil Mass. A little part of me still hopes Albert the Elf will stop by for a nibble of pumpkin bread.

I adore the entire holiday season...during the holiday season. The problem is when the holiday season preempts other holidays. First of all, it's just downright weird seeing the Baby Jesus next to a life-size, animated skeleton with glowing eyes and special-action fogger. My mind goes into a very trippy place when I shop for headstones and cobwebs while "Good King Wenceslas" plays overhead. One of these things is not like the others, and my poor little overworked brain can't justify what it's taking in.

Secondly, the longer the holiday season lasts, the fatter I get and the less money I have. See, Black Friday circulars have already begun circulating. The sales are beginning, and try as I might, my genetic makeup absolutely prevents me from resisting a good sale. Normally, I can turn away from 20 and 30-percent off events, but the holiday season brings with it 50 and 75-percent off prices, free gifts with purchase, and special bonuses just for coming in the store! All that free and cheap stuff nearly breaks me every. darn. year. Plus, since Thanksgiving (a day when I normally don't pig out, oddly enough) gets passed over before it even arrives, holiday cookies, cakes, pies, and coffee drinks get a head start. I can avoid buying them, but it seems rude to turn down a homemade snack from a proud coworker, or a pre-rehearsal nosh from a sweet choir lady. If I only had a month to get through, I could maybe handle it, but it's only October, and it's already starting! We're looking at over two months of penny and calorie-counting, and I'm stressed out just thinking about it.

Lastly, and most importantly, the longer the holiday season, the meaner people get. I hate that. You'd think it would be the opposite, since this is supposedly the time for joy, peace, and love, but it's not. It's the time for fighting over parking spaces, clutching your handbag a little tighter out of fear, and forgetting that the world doesn't revolve around you. I felt it start today, and that's really what prompted this entire rant. Trying to leave the strip mall, I had two (TWO!) drivers honk their horns at me, not because I was driving recklessly or not paying attention, but because I existed. As I pulled out of my parking space, I heard the first horn. The driver was at the other end of the aisle, but didn't want me to pull out because she'd have to wait ten seconds for me to drive away. However, she had no problem making me wait for a couple of minutes while she blocked the aisle and held a conversation with the people she was dropping off at the door. Immediately after that, I encountered the other horn as I yielded at a yield sign to a driver who had the right of way, and was physically blocking my path. The car behind me didn't view the laws of physics as a good enough excuse to keep her waiting, again, for a matter of seconds. Those feathered tophat ornaments weren't going to buy themselves, I guess.

Last Black Friday, my car was nearly hit, and a pedestrian nearly flattened, by a driver who felt the need to speed around me to get the parking spot I was about to turn into. She flipped us off and cursed at us as they passed, causing several onlookers to shake their heads and shrug their shoulders. No one had a clue why the driver felt so entitled to that spot, or why she felt it warranted attempted vehicular homicide. Back in my retail days, I was yelled at for not smiling enough, for not being the store they'd meant to go to, for not making the line shorter, for not playing the song they wanted to hear. I've been made to cry on more than one occasion, and once had to have mall security walk me out to my car after I received a death threat. The reason: I'd told a large group of customers that they needed to make their final purchases, as the mall was closing and I didn't want them to be locked in. It was nearing midnight on Christmas Eve, and the store had already technically been closed for nearly half an hour.

Apparently, the holidays are upon us. Santa Claus has already started making cameo appearances in commercials, and it's only a matter of days before that annoying Target lady shows back up. 'Tis the season of brotherly love, and 'tis going to be that season for a heck of a long time. If you take nothing more out of my tirade, please, at least take this much to heart: We're all in this together. Try not to be a jerk.

Thank you, and Merry Hallogivmas.

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