Ode to Holiday Shoppers

The holiday shopping season isn’t quite the same during the pandemic. Sure, it’s fun to have packages arrive at the door daily, but it lacks some of the magic that happens when we interact with strangers. Here’s a short essay I wrote a long while back about that.

If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably already feeling overwhelmed by the holidays. There are cookies to be burned, relatives to avoid, presents to re-gift. If nothing else, you’re behind on your shopping. How could you not be? Some stores opened at 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. Eager consumers packed their coolers with leftover turkey sandwiches and lined up in tents the night before. Apparently shopping, something you can do 365 days a year, has taken on the status of a Star Wars release? Next year, they’ll be lining up costume.

Look, there’s Santa, and Mrs. Claus. “Who are you? Rudolph?” a newscaster will ask a lanky young man dressed in brown fur with antlers on his head.

“Dasher. I’m Dasher,” he’ll say. It will make the 11:00 Local News.

Behind him, a short young woman in a brown leotard and fishnet stockings will volunteer, “I’m Vixen.”

The newscaster will wrap it up for the moment, but be back with an update at the end of the broadcast. Meanwhile, Dasher and Vixen, who’ve never met, will get to talking. There’s not much else to do in line.

“I was going to come as Linus,” Dasher will tell her, “just so I’d have a blanket, but I didn’t want to roll in dirt and then have to stand here all night.”

“That’s my favorite Christmas cartoon,” Vixen will say, “then the Grinch, and I always cry at the end of Frosty.”

“Me too,” Dasher will think, but keep to himself. “Nice boots,” he’ll say instead.

Without them, she’s 5’1″, she’ll admit. “I should have worn flats,” she’ll decide at 2.

Dawn will come (does dawn come at 4 a.m.?). Dawn or not, the doors will open. Dasher will think about asking Vixen for her number, then change his mind. Who needs a new girlfriend just before the holidays? They’ll say goodbye as the crowd surges toward the opening doors. And that will be end of it.

Except it’s Christmas and magic happens. Inside the store, Dasher’s list of electronics he planned to buy for himself will not seem so important anymore and he wander the aisles aimlessly for an hour. He’ll end up in small appliances and stare at a $15 foot bath for 30 minutes before he decides to purchase it. In line, a re-released CD of holiday tunes by Engelbert Humperdinck will catch his eye. He’ll purchase both items, then wait at the exit for Vixen.

“Merry Christmas,” he’ll say as he hands her the foot bath. They’ll go get some pancakes and exchange numbers.

“I have a boyfriend,” she’ll tell him, “but he doesn’t get me.”

The morning paper will report, “Holiday Shoppers Line Up Again.”