Monday, December 06, 2004

A Kick in the Christmas Balls

I may have just hit rock bottom on the "I-don't-do-work-at-work" scale. I'm shopping. I just bought The Futureheads album on trusty Best Buy dot com and I am excited for its arrival exclamation point.

This is sort of the cherry on the financial sundae that was my weekend. I'm almost five-eighths done with my Christmas shopping (almost five-eighths because I found Kai's present and I'm going to pick it up on the way home from work today). Proving I have some sort of diagnosable psychosis, I went with my parents and little brother to The ChristmasTree Shoppe (extra "e" added to up the c-l-a-s-s factor). For those of you who've never been to a ChristmasTree Shoppe, allow me to elaborate.

Similar to its trashy cousin the dollar store, a ChristmasTree Shoppe is more of a $2.99 store. They're still chock full of every typical knick-knack, doo-dad, tchochke, collectible figurine, holiday cookie tin, and plastic beach toy you would find at a dollar store. The difference is in quality. Whereas a dollar store may sell swollen cans of chicken noodle soup, the ChristmasTree Shoppe offers you swollen cans of lobster bisque. Also, the store has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, making the name both confusing and annoying.

The ChristmasTree Shoppe used to be a blight reserved for the fourth or fifth day of my family's yearly trip to Cape Cod. These stores were once confined to New England, but like some kind of fungal tree disease they are slowly spreading down into unsuspecting Mid-Atlantic states and ruining the scenery. I can painfully remember my mother picking through every bin of suncatchers, wrapping paper, note cards, spatulas, and trial-size shampoos at not one but FOUR separate ChristmasTree locations (Harwich, Yarmouth, Dennis, and either the big one in Hyannis or the one near the bridge with the big windmill where you had to pay a quarter to use the bathroom). ChristmasTree excursions would last somewhere in the neighborhood of seventeen hours, with my brothers and I marooned on a bench outside the store when we couldn't stand to look at the porcelain dolls, picture frames, kites, small army guys, or clip-on earrings anymore.

So I don't know what it was that made me go. Kai was at her all-day bachelorette fest, I didn't want to make Chris suffer alone, and I thought maybe having reached adulthood would've kick-started some kind of biological compulsion to stock up on gift bags.

Wrong. Three vignettes from my ChristmasTree excursion:

1. I stand stupefied in front of a wall of nailpolish, all of which has separated into its component chemical layers. Caught mid-shake on a bottle of purple sparkles I'm considering buying for one of my Salvation Army kids who asked for make-up, I can't see the rabid woman behind me, about to smash my rib with a cart full of near life-size nutcrackers and sugar-free wafer cookies. "Have a Holly-Jolly Christmas" is playing. In the next aisle, a kid is asking, "Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Can I get this? Mom? Mom? Mom? Can I get this, mom? MOM? MOM? MOM?MOMMOMMOMMOMMOM? MOM? MOMMOMMOM? MOMMOMMOMMOMMOM?"

2. I've paid, and I sit on a bench at the front of the store, next to an old guy. We are surrounded by bags. He shrugs at me, understanding my anguish. My family is nowhere to be found. We could be here for weeks. I begin searching my bag for food, or a pocket knife and some matches should I have to sacrifice this old man and barbecue him on a fire made from $7.99 collapsible card tables. Suddenly, his face lights up. "I'm being collected!" he exclaims, and putters off with his wife.

3. Chris has joined me on the bench. We are sitting next to a life-size, inflatable Santa. Our family is still nowhere to be found. An unattended four year old (he seems at home here; I secretly speculate he may have been born in the store and was raised in Housewares whilst his mother made a particularly arduous choice between the white lamp with the cream shade, or the cream lamp with the white shade) loiters around us for a while, looking pathetic. He notices Santa, gives him several sharp uppercuts to the inflatable testicles, and ambles back to the nest I'm sure he's built in the toy section.

I did manage to make a couple of worthwhile purchases, which include a two-part gift for Brad, some Christmas cards, and cinnamon apple tea that's making this Monday morning much more bearable.

Kai called, and it's snowing in Yorktown. Vive la X-mas!

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