T-minus 24, And Counting…

For those of us who are a bit trepid during the holidays to venture out into the melee that is so deftly disguised as a jolly shopping season, I thought I’d share with all of you my 24-hour countdown to Christmas Eve—which incidentally is also entitled, “D-Day At Walmart Beach” or “How I Managed To Survive Shopping.”

First, readers must know that I am a humanitarian at heart—Willing and able to make the world a little bit nicer place, and so armed with these altruistic and somewhat naïve thoughts, after work I dropped off the food box to my elderly friend who receives a food box each and every month. It is with her, like most granparents, where I have learned my vast treasure trove of knowledge concerning how hard life was and subsequently, how to walk to and from school in a driving, gale-force snowstorm..without shoes...in June...while fighting Communists...and going up hills...both ways to and from the fabled sod-constructed schoolhouse…

After about an hour of idle chit-chat concerning such fascinating and probing topics as what kids did for fun in the dark ages as well as what life was like before dinosaurs, she insisted I be fed. So another hour after consuming no less than half a pressed turkey, one can of beets and about 72 ounces of sauerkraut—and feeling a bit woosy, due to said sauerkraut—I managed to be on my way to conduct some shopping....not the last minute variety, but close enough for our purposes here.

You see I’m not an admitted or certified sane person, and even in the furthest reaches of my warped and instinct-for-survival laden mind, I thought it would be an exciting venture into the true “unknown”, seeing as how I usually had my holiday shopping well wrapped up by now…

...Therefore I braved my way through the nearby Costco for a friend that needed a ham. Upon entering I froze like a deer in the headlights, seeing nothing but panic, confusion, capitalism and barbarians at the gate in front of me. Like the time as a teenage Boy Scout I was clinging precariously to a cliff, the still small voice inside was screaming for me to cut my losses and made an organized retreat to the door…Being a bit foolish, and poltiely shoved by the rather shy throng behind me, I ventured into the vast shopping abyss.

Nearly being run over by several shopping carts wielded deftly by determined women who could give any NASCAR driver a run for their money, I succeeded in finding one of the few reamining hams and after successfully wrestling it from a man who could only be best described as a Gollum—with said disposition—I was again, like a salmon, seeking to find my way home and was frantically swimming upstream towards the registers against all odds.

Finally leaving that evil-yet-glorious consumer paradise, having done only minor damage to my bank account—one ham, two 30-lb drums of mayonnaise, four vampire books, FIVE GOLDEN RINGS...2 dozen croissants, three pounds of bacon, one beef jerky, and a large kayak and a paddle—I spent the next 40 minutes exhibiting my evasion and escape skills from the parking lot. As I sat at the streetlight, thinking that this experience certianly wasn't ample enough for those of us who get claustrophobic (or were gladiators in their previous lives) I decided to venture into a Barnes and Noble. Figuring narrower isles and less inventory may just give me the sick thrill I was seeking this evening and still somehow couldn't find in my normal life of wrestling radioactive crocodiles or leaping from airplanes without a parachute…

Throwing elbows, giving body checks that Gretzky would be proud of and occasionally having to kick shins like a third-grader, I finally found what I sought. (Well, it wasn't exactly what I sought, as that usually tends to be enlightenment and wisdom) But in this case, with fear of loosing another unit of blood due to my shopping injuries I found that a few last-minute books sufficed. Once again attempting to extract myself with minimal harm to the remaining vulnerable and tender areas of my battered body, I made my way around, over and under the throngs of shoppers to the register. Now having emptied more of my bank account, thus single-handedly helping our sluggish economy, I escaped from the frying pan only to REALLY have my Thunderdome experience at a nearby Walmart on this, t-minus 24 hours to merry ol' Christmas Eve...this is where it got interesting and for a brief few minutes my life literally passed before my eyes.

As a child I had heard the fables of such dreadful shopping nights. Stories that were often softly spoken around campfires in the lone reaches of the wilderness or on Halloween in order to strike fear into our hearts. Stories of shopping, where those brave souls are suddenly and inexplicably lost forever, and their missing ghosts haunt the isles of stores gone by…I was pretty certain that I was about to embark on a manifestation of such a dreaded story from my youth.

There I was, in my element where the thin line of excitement blends innocuously with sheer terror, and dipped in fear and danger I inserted myself into the madhouse that was consumer-based holidays. Packages of various items were being ransacked off the shelves, a-la a rye bread store run by Frau Hindenburg in Dresden, Germany during late1945...

Nothing less than seeing the riders of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping up and down the toy isles could have convinced me that the end drew nigh…Here was American consumerism at its finest. Of the Seven Deadly Sins, I’m quite certain I was witness to at least three of them running amuck as panicked shoppers frantically grabbed armfuls of products and hastily deposited them into their large gaping carts. They say animals can sense fear and although I’ve never sensed it, after this experience I think I have a better concept of it.

Having repeatedly suffered injuries to the face, arms, shins and groin area due to shoppers that were much better trained in the skills of un-armed and caged combat, I managed to survive by hopping atop a produce island amidst a shrinking pile of Golden Delicious apples that were currently being captured and carried away to yonder holiday destinations to suffer unknown fates, either in pies or buried in a disappointed child’s stocking—I mean what kid looks forward to fruit? Might was well stuff it with broccoli, I mused while clinging precariously to my dwindling perch.

It was then that it suddenly hit me, the reason of the season, as I hung there remembering the fond times I enjoyed sharing bad sauerkraut and good conversation with the elderly woman I serve bringing her a monthly food box to her door.

There, with one of the smaller GD apples accidentally—but securely—wedged between my buttocks I decided I had enough of holiday shopping. Seeking the next opportunity to risk everything and leap to safety, I grabbed hold of a passing stock boy’s dolly that was laden to capacity with more high fructose corn syrup holiday happiness (see also: Twizzlers) and clinging to safety with him yelling words of encouragement, I made my way through the chaos, paid for my items and with no less than 12 plastic bags hanging off me like ornaments, I fled into the night...

Myself and all of us at HourDoc.com hope you all enjoy the Merriest of Christmases, surrounded safely by friends and family. I pray for those who lead and protect us during this time and that God will watch over them. And for those of you who do not share my beliefs on this Christmas day, I send to you wishes for a peaceful holiday season and urge all of us to remember that no matter what our religious beliefs may be, why the season is so marvelous.

So take a few minutes and do something selfless for another who may be in need. Let us not forget that we all can do amazing and small miracles for those around us today, tomorrow and beyond.

…and to all a good night.

--C. Cook

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