It’s that time of the year. November drags itself to its gray, windy, wet conclusion. December waits around the corner. Retail Christmas has taken over the stores. In our house, the Advent wreath has been unearthed and awaits its first candle. The nativity shelf is ready for the animals, who will be the first to arrive at the manger. The very air shivers with hushed anticipation of the holy season. And today I observed a cherished annual tradition: I made the Last Trip to WalMart.
I have mixed feelings about WalMart in general. It’s not my favourite place and I don’t shop there a lot, as I find it crowded and overwhelming, but I’m also not one of those people who boycotts it on principle. It is convenient if you need to get a lot of different things quickly, so I do shop there on occasion — less since the local WalMart moved further away from my house, but I’m by no means unfamiliar with the aisles of the neighbourhood WalMart.
But what really horrifies me is WalMart in December. Stores in December in general, actually, seem designed to suck all the Christmas spirit right out of me, with the pushy crowds and the tacky “gift items” and the endlessly looping Christmas muzak. I’ve been a lot easier to live with since I’ve discovered that you can replace the lyrics of that most inane of all seasonal songs, “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime” with “Simply Having a Frontal Lobotomy.” But there’s still the danger that I might hear the Chipmunks, or something equally nauseating.
I get my Christmas shopping done early (and lean heavily towards gift certificates and online shopping) not because I’m incredibly well-organized (hah!) but because I actually love Christmas, and the last thing I want is to have my enjoyment of the season beaten to a pulp by four weeks of fighting for parking spaces, standing in line, and watching angry consumers fight each other for the last “must-have” toy on the shelf. (Remember the Furby? Wow, that was a lasting investment in your child’s future happiness, wasn’t it??)
WalMart, to me, is the retail experience magnified a thousandfold, so all the things I hate about Retail Christmas are intensified by WalMart Christmas. This year, WalMart has further gladdened the hearts of consumers in St. John’s by announcing that they will — oh, joy! — be open 24 hours a day — from December 1 to December 24. Because you just might want to rush out at 3:00 am and pick up that Furby!!!
But as of today, I no longer care. The last items for which I knew I needed to go to WalMart — multiple copies of a snapshot, six pieces of bristol board in assorted colours, and a photo album — were purchased at 5:40 p.m. The line-ups were mercifully shorter than they have been the last few times I’ve been in there. Perhaps everyone’s holding back in anticipation of the post-midnight shopping frenzy they’re about to embark upon as of this weekend. To me, the whole problem is academic. I have exited the doors of WalMart for the last time in 2007. I shall not pass this way again — although, in an emergency, I might send Jason to WalMart for something we really need!
Now I can start to get into the spirit of the season.