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It’s all at the mall with a holiday squall by Angel Perkins

December 14, 2012

With Christmas only 12 days away (gasp), the shoppers are hitting the streets, and each other, en route to find that perfect gift. Those that are smart (or lazy) will order their presents online and hope for the best — that thieves won’t destroy their lives by stealing their money (or their identity) and that the one perfect thing on that list is still available for purchase.
If they can make it through those trials, they then must hurdle the delivery people and hope that what they purchased will actually arrive before Christmas morning and in the condition it said it would be on the website it was purchased from.
I’m all about the “seeing is believing” and I hate to read the fine print so I’d rather risk my life and buy my gifts in person. And since it’s all at the mall, or rather at A mall (be it contained or strip) life and limb ARE in danger. While I agree that some of the merchandise on sale is worth fighting for, is it really necessary to bloody one another for the latest Smart Phone phone or Lalaloopsy doll? I mean really, is the gift recipient going to die or fall into a deep depression because they don’t receive it?
Being sparked to anger while shopping can do wicked things to one’s imagination and the cutthroat attitude is honestly contagious. Growing up in Saint Joseph County, the world of Marshall County and the cities of Nappanee and Wakarusa are like foreign countries to me. The simpleness, the kindness, the overall politeness, is somewhat unsettling.
I recently, with a fellow St. Joseph County native, discussed the similarities of one of the area small towns with the Stepford Wives, an interesting book and movie about people that had been replaced by robotic, perfected versions of themselves. Then we drove on to Mishawaka and I remembered the many things I disliked about the town and the small inconveniences and disorders that once irked me, instead upset me and induced pity from me for the residents that had to become used to this type of chaos on a regular basis. My daughter asked of her own prompt, “is this why we moved away from here?”
And it made me wonder if subconsciously the factors of the obvious social and behavioral differences did influence my decision. We avoided South Bend’s shopping splendors entirely and headed to the malls. The stores are worth the drive and because of the variety and selection, worth the hassle. But at this time of year, not only is everything you need at the mall, but also is everything you don’t need.
There were frenzied shoppers coming, going, and in the process of. In their vehicles they cut people off, bullied their way into the lanes and parking spaces, and many decided that though the light was red, it was their right to be sitting in the middle of the street until the next green light faced their way.
In the stores, they grabbed and snatched at boxes and packages and banged their carts into people and displays. They cursed, pushed, and manhandled one another and so many unhappy little people were literally drug by the hands it made me want to lose my composure on a mommy or two.
Thankfully, with all the hostility weighing down the people and racks of merchandise, there were little things we experienced whilst within the shopping herds that if noticed, managed to bring us completely — if only temporarily — out of the angry haze. At one point, a Salvation Army volunteer reached into his pants pocket and shoved some money in the little red kettle he manned, apparently not impressed with the donations given that evening.
Another time I found myself singing a holiday song droning from the store’s personal address system and only realized I wasn’t singing in my head or under my breath at the moment I heard another shopper mindlessly singing it with me from another aisle. And one time, a moment that brought my teenaged son out of a surly mood induced by the shopping madness. He caught sight of two little people, seemingly siblings, wearing their Sunday best and while their mommy was no doubt choosing which staged poses of them she wanted for their Christmas cards, they — hand-in-hand — skipped in a circle singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — cherubic smiles matching their voices.
If you look for it, amidst the Christmas squall you truly can find fleeting and subtle glimpses of what the holiday is all about, the existence of mankind — forgiven for their natural ugliness, and goodwill toward one another — despite who got the prized present first.

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