November 24, 2006

Tis the season

Indulging my Andy Rooney-ish penchant for grumpy observations, I'd like to take a moment to say, without reservation, that people who put up their Christmas decorations at the beginning of NOVEMBER ought to be horse-whipped. (and yes, I saw a few up at that time. Jack-o-lanterns were still out all over.)

It's gotten so bad that Thanksgiving has become akin to the National Anthem before a particularly rowdy sporting event. Something that people barely sit still long enough to go through the motions before rushing on to the main event.

Now that Thanksgiving has past, I'm sure there'll be a small explosion of Christmas decorations popping up.

Hey, I love Christmas lights. I get a smile all over when I see a particularly pretty display or someone who obviously loves Christmas, judging from the lengths and expense they go to on their decorations. It's all lovely, fun, and a good thing.

But why the rush?

And perhaps someone can answer what may seem like a dumb question, but one which has always perplexed me.

WHY.... do people risk life, limb, and sanity to swarm lemming-like the big box stores today? I'm serious. Why would anyone do it?

Because the retailers have so successfully brainwashed them that they truly feel that they must wait until the day after Thanksgiving to rush out and contribute to the madness? And that they can't go shopping after that? I'm perplexed.

Is it because of the sales? OK, I'm always up for saving a few dimes. But do the sales end two days after Thanksgiving, never to come again?

What compels people to participate in what seems like some bizarre mass marketing induced frenzy?

The only ordeal I'll be going through this year for all of my Christmas shopping is stepping out bringing the nice packages in when they're delivered to my porch.
I have the pick of thousands if not millions of on-line merchants, nearly all of which offer the same or better discounts online, as well as free shipping. (usually if over a certain amount).

Today shoppers will fight snarled traffic, angry shoppers, stores torn up with merchandise scattered everywhere, frayed and frazzled clerks, long waits at the checkout, and endless indignities and frustrations. And almost every store they visit offers all their stuff online, and unlike brick and mortar stores, they always have whatever color or size you need available. And most of the time, the online stores actually offer more merchandise and a greater variety, including many items available online only.

If you go to the mall without a specific item in mind for that special someone, or even if you do know what they want, you're in for a lot of wandering around. (I think they call it shopping.) Now some may enjoy this, and it's been my experience that many of the fairer sex actually have elevated it to an art-form.

But there remain us clods who simply think shopping is a means to an end. Namely, that the idea is to go where you need to go and get what you need to get, preferably in the shortest amount of time possible, and then you leave.

If this is your style, online shopping couldn't be better. Say someone wants an unusual item. Maybe a pirate ship, let's say.

You could go to the mall and drive all over the area for days trying to find one.

Online, all you need to do is type "pirate ship" in any number of shopping comparison sites, and in a split second, you'll get hundreds of listings, all sizes, shapes, costs, materials, and quality, and once you settle on one, find the best price.

This would be a good place to remind readers that if they're going to buy anything through Amazon, if they click through the link in the sidebar and then make their purchases, your long-suffering blog host gets a tiny cut. Please consider it.

And a neat benefit to searching this way is that you often come across cool stuff that you otherwise never would have.

I once found a great present for any young guy or girl who is into dinosaurs.

The idea was to let a little dinosaur hunter actually "discover" a real T.Rex tooth.

Before you sent in the order, you'd have to figure out where you wanted to hide the tooth. You could bury it in the woods or ravine or backyard, anywhere. But then you'd have to send in the directions to find it to the people sending the tooth. For instance your directions might say 15 paces from the walnut tree and then two feet across the creek and two steps to your left. They could be as simple or complex as you wished. Then, you'd send in these instructions along with the little dino hunter's name and address.

Then the outfit would send them a personalized official looking letter from the "Dinosaur Recovery Bureau" in the mail, complete with official sounding language and signed by a paleontologist. It all looked very impressive. The letter explained to the child that by the use of very high-tech dinosaur detection equipment, the bureau had detected a T.Rex tooth in the area around the child's house. The letter then asks the child if they might have their help in recovering this valuable fossil.

It goes on to explain that if they find it, they'd get a Certificate of Appreciation and as a reward for their valuable assistance, they could keep the tooth!

So I buried the tooth about a month and a half before Christmas, and by the time the date rolled around, you couldn't even tell the ground had been disturbed. (and yes, I was worried that the ground might be frozen... luckily, it wasn't.)

Let me tell you, it was pretty interesting to let a little guy follow a "treasure map" and decide where to dig. Then you get to dig down and maybe hit something and say to great effect, "What's that?!!!", and they get down and dig out the big life-sized realistic looking tooth from the ground. Very cool.

Of course, it didn't all go smoothly. The little twig I'd stuck in the ground to mark the site had long ago fallen over or gotten knocked over by an animal, so I had no clue exactly where I'd buried it. (sigh) I ended up digging a hole big enough to install an good sized in-ground pool, suffering flop sweats as the time ticked by without finding the tooth. My anxiety increased especially with the audience of adults who were all awaiting this great discovery and with every passing second the excitement drained away and the thought that yours truly was quite the genius to bury the thing and then not be able to find it increased, and me getting progressively frantic but laboring mightily to hide it from the little dinosaur hunter, who by the way, was obviously having his doubts too. But hey, adversity builds character, right? Well, maybe not.

(and yes, the shovel finally struck something solid, exclamations were made, and the tiny paleontologist was able to gradually reveal the "fossil" to "Ooooo's" and "Ahhhhh's" all around.

And you can find toys and gifts from specialty stores that aren't in the area. If you'd like to get something educational for the kids on your list, there's a wealth of very cool stuff available online that you'd never find around here.

Given the advantages of shopping online, it's even more hard to fathom why people still act as though it's their solemn duty to subject themselves to the post-Thanksgiving stampede.

Can anyone explain it?


At 11/24/2006 2:18 PM, Blogger Calypso said...

I wouldn't be caught dead out there today. It's the fever of materialism & is related to the compulsion to buy an SUV if you don't need one, or too much house. It's also related IMO to how our self-esteem seems to be tied to what we have, how insanely busy we are, etc. to make ourselves feel important.

For the sake of my child I have become increasingly and conscientiously non-materialistic. We observe limits on gifting each other but never pass a Salvation Army kettle without throwing a bill in if we have one. If my son is grateful for what he has, he will always be happy.

Anyway, I'm confused about whether the tooth was actually found?

At 11/24/2006 8:07 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...


I'm sorry if that wasn't clear, but yes, eventually, the shovel did hit something hard, and the long buried T-Rex fang was discovered, much to my great relief. All's well that ends well.

At 11/25/2006 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's called America!


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