It’s that time of year again – time to listen for the tell tale sounds of the jolly old man as his voice carries across the new fallen snow, time to race to the window and throw up the sash.
I’m not sure what Sash is, but I told my wife not to make any of it for Christmas Dinner, because everyone is always throwing it up.
And no, I’m not talking about the arrival of the obese elf in a red suit, I’m talking about the arrival of that other guy bearing gifts, the UPS man. Or FedEx… whatever you like to use.
So I was in a local pharmacy the other day, spending my hard earned money locally, buying local pills from someone who shipped them presumably from a manufacturer out of state, when in walked another local business owner. We made small talk in line, and I asked her a seasonally appropriate question:
“So, have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?” And she laughed and said no and asked the the same question.
“I’m pretty much done with the shopping part, I’m just waiting for the UPS guy to do his job and bring them”, and I laughed a hearty laugh, and realized she wasn’t laughing at all. In fact, she looked positively ready to explode. Her eyes bugged out and the color drained from her face, and her lips were pressed so firmly together, she began to resemble one of those large grey alien creatures always described by hillbillies who report being anal probed, except with a typical bouffant popular with southern ladies.
I looked at her in surprise and shock. After all, she shops out of town, even our gift ornaments from the last several years have come from the white house, and looking around, I don’t see any Presidents around to purchase those from. I tried to reason with her. After all, there are none of the places in town that I bought gifts from. No REI store. No Shutterfly. No Ann Taylor Loft. No North Face Outlet. Zip, zero, zilch.
I really got the impression from her that I should be picking my gifts from a list of available local shops, instead of actually getting people the things they want and need.
The drug store I was in, for example. They don’t just sell prescriptions. A lot of the floor space is taken up by what my father would call “dust collectors”, little ceramic pieces of kitsch and framed antiqued-looking signs with sayings like “home is where you go and they have to let you in”. Yep, I’m sure people I know would enjoy that. Evidently it’s a booming business, because they usually ignore the sick people wanting their meds so they can dust the kitsch and refill the drink machines.
The bookstore next door to the drug store is another example. I usually don’t go there, because it seems half the store is taken up by bibles and religious stuff, with a few shelves of fiction that people actually want to read, and some “local interest” things, and the other half of the store is greeting cards and kid’s books. I asked them several times if they had things, and they always say “We can order that for you”.
Order that for me? I go in a bookstore to buy a book now. If I wanted to order it, I would go on Amazon. And they censor their stuff. A friend of mine went in to buy a few things, and they refused to order it because it offended their delicate religious sensitivities. I’m sorry, but when you’re in the book selling business and someone orders “the story of O”, you sell them the book. That’s like the pharmacist refusing to sell the Plan B pill (or as the popular girls refer to it, Plan A). It’s not his job to dispense morality, if it was, he’d refuse to sell Adderal and Ritalin to “parents” who didn’t realize controlling a kid can sometimes be hard work, and instead just want to zombify the little bastards so they don’t bother them during Big Brother.
And that’s about it for truly local stores. Most of the rest of my available shopping choices are big-box retailers like WalMart (all hail the land of the first-of-the-month pajama people!), Belk (a southern clothing store), and other national chains.
Sure, I know that by shopping Belk or WalMart (hail to thee) or Hibbet Sports or Piggly Wiggly, I’m keeping the employees in a job. But don’t act like that money stays in town. WalMart’s profits go back to Arkansas, with a few cents a day going to the child slaves laborers in Vietnam for making and packing the stuff. Belk – who knows where Belk’s profits go, but I suspect it is some of the same thing.
Look, I buy 90% of the stuff I want in town. I don’t want for much. Food for the family, and gas for the car. Most of our entertainment and whatnot comes from cable and video games and movies, all piped into our house by the wonders of cable. But I’m not limiting my winter-solstice-shopping experience to shoes, women’s dresses, wines, and religious books.
So happy holidays to you, and enjoy your shopping whenever and wherever you want to do it.
Just please, please: If you REALLY want to shop in your pajamas, do it from home, okay? Wal-Mart has a web site now.