Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Counting the Days 'Til January 2nd


The candy grows stale in the pantry. The pumpkin rots on the porch. Then why, pray tell, does the eeriness remain? It remains because dreaded figures keep haunting stores, both far and near. Three figures, in fact, that embody a season awash in terror—a terror far worse than what the spookiest ghouls could conjure on Halloween. I shudder to even mention their names: snowman, reindeer and Santa Claus.

Big surprise, huh? As you may have guessed, Professional Sourpuss Left is not a fan of the holidays. But allow me to clarify my griping. I don’t dislike the core ideas behind the holidays. Giving, sharing, gathering with family and friends, commemorating significant religious events. I bow to all the winter holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s and any I might’ve missed. These are all worthy occasions that deserve to be celebrated.

Therein lies the bone I wish to pick. As our society (d)evolved into its modern form, few of the core ideas behind these celebrations survived. We’ve chosen to focus on social homogenization, speed, status and price. In doing so, we’ve stripped these holidays of their essences, the fundamental reasons why we celebrate them. What remains is one big hysterical bash—draped in ornaments, candles, blinking lights, ribbons, balloons and streamers—that stretches from late November to early January. It comes and goes so fast and is “celebrated” so furiously, it runs together like several colors of paint. Six months later, all you have left is a gray blur you can barely remember. I call it “the holidaze”.

How’s this for irony? These holidays, initially dedicated to communal or spiritual concerns, now concentrate almost exclusively on personal and material issues. That, at the very least, is true of the Big 3. Thanksgiving: food and booze. Christmas: presents, food and booze. New Year’s: booze, booze and booze. We can’t consider the spiritual side of these occasions because we’re stuffed to the gills, drunk and drooling over all the goodies we netted from rich old Uncle Kenny. Which holiday? Doesn’t matter, we seem to say. As long as there’s beer, at least three desserts and presents, it’s all good. Not.

I suppose I should apologize. I probably shouldn’t be singing the blues in this season of red and green. Maybe this is a result of my having worked in retail for so long. Retail veterans tend not to fa-la-la, if you know what I mean. Nothing kills holiday cheer quicker than a December spent toiling in a department store. The horrors Charles Dickens imagined for Scrooge in A Christmas Carol pale by comparison.

I hear the snickering and scoffing. Those of you who are, most likely, are the Uninitiated. Lucky people who have never worn a name-tag or piloted a cash register. Come, you blessed souls, walk a mile in my tattered shoes. Share with me a page from my rookie year, the Christmas of 1994, and taste the trepidation through which I lived. Picture an overcrowded, understaffed general merchandise store one week before December 25th. To make it more palpable for you, I’ll put it into the musical format of a traditional holiday standard:

On the 7th day before Christmas, retail gave to me. . .an asshole throwing his maxed-out charge card at me.

On the 6th day before Christmas, retail gave to me. . .two brats shoplifting Sega games and an asshole throwing his maxed-out charge card at me.

On the 5th day before Christmas, retail gave to me. . .a whining shrew returning a Flowbee with a 3-year old receipt, two brats shoplifting Sega games and an asshole throwing his maxed-out charge card at me.

On the 4th day before Christmas, retail gave to me. . .four adult men wrestling over Power Rangers, a whining shrew returning a Flowbee with a 3-year old receipt, two brats shoplifting Sega games and an asshole throwing his maxed-out charge card at me.

On the 3rd day before Christmas, retail gave to me. . .a 25-foot long checkout lane! Four adult men wrestling over Power Rangers, a whining shrew returning a Flowbee with a 3-year old receipt, two brats shoplifting Sega games and an asshole throwing his maxed-out charge card at me.

On the 2nd day before Christmas, retail gave to me. . .a manager who wrote me up for saying “Merry Christmas” to a customer who turned out to be Jewish, a 25-foot long checkout lane! Four adult men wrestling over Power Rangers, a whining shrew returning a Flowbee with a 3-year old receipt, two brats shoplifting Sega games and an asshole throwing his maxed-out charge card at me.

One day before Christmas, retail gave to me. . .12 trashed aisles I had to clean up before I could leave at midnight, a manager who wrote me up for saying “Merry Christmas” to a customer who turned out to be Jewish, a 25-foot long checkout lane! Four adult men wrestling over Power Rangers, a whining shrew returning a Flowbee with a 3-year old receipt, two brats shoplifting Sega games and an asshole throwing his maxed-out charge card at meeee-eee-eee-eee!


I hope my little ditty helped you innocent ones visualize the “Apocalypse Now”-like horror in your minds. Pity, truly, the retail drone at year’s end.

At the end of the day, plain ol’ griping never got anyone anywhere. You’ve got to take a proactive approach and DO something about it. Hey kids, why don’t we do the holidaze differently this year? Why don’t we do the opposite of Emeril and turn it down a notch? Holiday shopping wasn’t meant to be a pissing contest. Isn’t one truly considerate gift, one you spent quality time physically going out and selecting, better than a truckload of crap you found online? Isn’t it? Either I'm going deaf or the crickets are chirping extra-loudly this season.

Imagine how novel a more modest holiday party would be. Instead of weeks of frantic preparation for a Disneyesque pageant that lasts less than 24 hours—BIG FOOD! BIG DRINK! EVERYONE YOU EVER MET SINCE THE FIFTH GRADE!—downsize it. Plan a smaller, more personal and heartfelt gathering to which you invite just your closest family and friends. One that doesn’t require bowl game-watching and boozing as a competitive sport. One that focuses on being together and sharing the occasion. It could be a holiday party your guests might actually remember next July.

If you’re going to go that far, why not go all the way? During your downsized holiday party, set aside a little time for collective consideration of those core ideas behind the holidays. True, these “heavy” topics often make some folks uncomfortable. In order to avoid that, you might ask them to recall their favorite or most unique holiday experience ever, or perhaps the earliest holiday experience they remember. Everyone likes to reminisce—especially those family members my mom affectionately calls “the old farts”. Still, you have to plan ahead for party poopers. Say one of your guests questions the validity of this activity. What should you do? “Hey,” you respond kindly, “it ain’t just about presents and food, right?” Only a doofus would disagree. If this person happens to be a doofus, just cram some fruitcake in their yap before they can spout off again.

I think I’ll close this off with a brief consideration of my favorite winter holiday. You won’t find it listed on any calendar, because officially, it isn’t a holiday. But it should be. January 2nd, the day things return to whatever passes for normal. I call it Holiday Recuperation Day. Stay home, turn the TV off and the answering machine on. Ignore all doorbells. If anyone knocks, to hell with them. Spend this day in quiet contemplation. In layman’s terms, this is called “sleep”. Rest you, merry gentlepeople.

As inviting as this proposed holiday might seem, I will acknowledge that many of you out there would find the idea distasteful. You're the “energetic” type, someone who would never “waste” Holiday Recuperation Day on recuperating. Fear not. I have a suggestion for you, too. Why not spend January 2nd pulling all the festive outdoor decorations down off your house? Including the blinking lights that have been ruining your neighbors’ sleep for the last six weeks? This will enable you, for the first time in years, to spend Spring just enjoying the weather.

4 Comments:

Blogger Doggie Extraordinaire's Mom said...

Amen! I downsized the holidays last year because the effort vs. reward was so uneven. Thanks to downsizing, I am finally enjoying the holidays again! How you work in retail during such a season is beyond me. I won't even go to the mall during peak shopping times and I grocery shop after 10 PM just to avoid the idiot masses.

Horray for downsizing! Now if only you could convince people to downsize weddings, maybe I'd attend one of those ridiculous events of late. People have really re-invented the ceremonies that used to be meaningful but have turned into some kind of showcase of your ability to embrace garishness. What's up with that?

1:28 AM  
Blogger sthupit girl said...

it's so sad, eh??

But that's not why you shouldn't celberate them... infact since you realise where things are going wrong, when yoou realise how pathetic people are getting... you shud be their savior!! ( underwear on your pants and a cape ;) ) you shud make a conscious effort, to see that people see that holidays are about what they stood for and not for what they are taking them to be...

I've stopped making sense, a long time back.. 'just passing by, hope you dnt mind..

adios!

7:40 AM  
Blogger Mona said...

I agree 300%. I totally believe in outwitting the commercialism of it all and sticking with the sentiment. Thanks for the great posting.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Le chameau insatiable said...

excellent song !!!!
i hate the holidays too.
i hate them, i hate them, i hate them. i have no words for it, it drives so crazy.

2:52 PM  

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