Saturday, December 16, 2006

A mall: to arms!

I'm no good in a mall. I'm too bothered by the crowds and too much the person they hope I'll turn into when pushing through the heavy glass doors and into the blast of heat and frenzy and commerce.

Like the esteemed local paper writer, I am too easily seduced. I am a sucker for illusion, never sure which shell hides the ball. I gasp in initial delight as the man in sequins saws my money in half, and line up to watch it happen again. They roll me and roll me again, depositing me at my door with an armload of things I didn't need.

How else can I explain the fact that I have a serving platter? I'm a recluse. Ask anyone. I never entertain. A sadly significant portion of the food I eat requires something called a "crisping sleeve" to properly prepare itself in the microwave oven. And yet I have a serving platter. I keep it in the oven, because in addition to not needing this item, I also have no room for it.

When it comes to gift-giving, I try to be creative and think about the person I'm shopping for. I don't like to give something out of duty. I also don't like to receive something that feels like it was bought in this spirit. Most of the time, I can think up something that I'd like to bestow on someone.

Unless I hit the mall. Once inside the orgiastic climate and the frenzy and the noise and the people people people, I feel so much like recoiling all the way home that I convince myself that the thing to do is to buy a gift for every person on my list as rapidly as possible so that I do not have to repeat this experience. This is the origin of nearly every crappy gift I have ever given.

Sometimes I just open my wallet wide, pointed away from me, and let the bills flutter out. Freeing them into what seems like their natural habitat. I watch them settle on something, and take it home.

Or I wander with my eyes and mouth wide open, gaping and gawking and grasping at the sheer quantity of merchandise. I discover I have the attention-span of a squirrel.

Watching most people shop is like watching a morbidly obese man eating, fascinating and a little sad. I doubt I am any different in this regard.

So this year, I have done nearly 100% of my shopping online. No one has shoved me aside, or taken the last of the item I'm contemplating from my hands.

I had to scale back significantly this year, as I no longer have the kind of money I used to, and the online experience has helped there, too. In person, I have a tendency to buy a couple of things for the same person, figuring I'll decide what to give them and what to keep or give to someone else at a later time. Obviously, this is not frugal. I have not done this at all this year.

With the help of the internet, I can now blow money unnecessarily on things like cds, books and dvds without becoming distracted by kitchen gadgetry. I already have three different options for making coffee, and that's way more than I need.

Anyway, back to the malls: when I used to do Xmas shopping in them, I would find myself the source of a slowly building rage. Something inside me would change, and I would glower uncontrollably at the special savings, the incessant blinking lights and garland draped from every available surface, the perky high-school kids charged with roping the rubberneckers into a sale using tactics eerily similar to carnival barkers.

I used to have to find the inevitable arcade and blow a few dollars on one of those ultra-violent fighting games (like Mortal Kombat) where I could inflict great bodily harm on others without facing charges.

Once, as I tore the heart from inside my opponent's chest, I screamed "Do you have that sweater in oatmeal NOW, you condescending bastard? It's for my mom!"

OK, not really.


Nikki Neurotic said...

I did a mixture of both...though, I think that only one gift was truly inspired the rest were from a list...or from sheer frustration of standing in the Old Navy of Harald's Square in a panic. Not too good, cuz when I got home I realized I should have gotten a different color.

Unknown said...

Malls are the scariest places on earth - especially after Thanksgiving. I do 99% of my shopping on Sometimes I'll go to the mall with a friend who is shopping but that's more to laugh at their frustrations over their own shopping experience while I buy exactly one thing - a cinnamon pretzel.

nmj said...

What's a carnival barker? Is it something evil?

Anonymous said...

This is your favorite "creepy lurker" telling you I would look awful in an oatmeal sweater. Haven't been near a mall yet and my shopping is almost done. Thank God for the internet.

The Moon Topples said...

Silver: Sorry your color choice was affected by the frustration. Hope they have a nice return policy.

Zorak: I thought you liked scary places...?

nmj: a carnival barker is not inherently evil. It's just the shouting guy who tries to entice you to spend money on this or that.

eljay: it was a hypothetical sweater. Don't fret.

Anonymous said...

I hate crowds too. I'd rather shop online.