Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Santa Hat Chronicles: 2010 is over.

Christmas is over. Not only has December the 25th come and gone, but the feeling and the expectation is gone too. Suddenly, it’s four days after and the stores are manageable. The streets are less crowded. Prices have dropped on a lot of items, and I get the feeling that despite the overwhelming sigh of relief from the retail stores there is still a lot of misery to be had. I know many people who over spent this season and now it’s beginning to sink in. The economy is still bad. This did not help. Nothing has changed except now Christmas is over, and everything that was supposed to be good went with it.
The weather has really sucked, and the heating bills will suck down more money than most believe. The credit card bills will come in about the same time as the heating bills and that’s going to mean default on credit card bills. There is no end to the cold weather in sight, and there isn’t going to be a Santa to ride in and pick up the tab for Christmas past due. Gasoline prices are flirting with the three dollar mark which means all those people on the road are going to be lighter in the wallet when they arrive at their mailboxes back home, to discover the double whammy is actually a monetary Ménage à Trois where the average person just trying to heat their home, get to and from work, and oh, have Christmas, is the one getting screwed. It’s going to be a brutal winter for a lot of homes, but at least the kids will have some neat toys to play with, huh?
The Y was crowded with people trying to burn of the holiday foods and I must admit I’ve eaten too much, drank too much, and exercised too little. The trip in wasn’t a very happy experience because this year, more so than the last two or three, seemed to be harder on people. People are a little more surely and a little quicker to cut each other off in traffic. Everyone is tried, and tired of being tired. This was supposed to be a good Christmas but where is it? Where is the feeling of cheer? Where is the climax that was supposed to follow the nearly two months of Christmas commercials that we’ve been living with since the first part of November? Not only did we over spend this Christmas but we also oversold it as well. There was this feeling of expectation that was dead by noon on the 25th.  It’s become an ordeal. It’s become something that is getting to be a bigger and bigger hassle each year, yet each year it is also more and more expensive, as if we are incapable of stopping the madness.
This year’s clean up seems to be bigger, too. Trash cans and dumpsters are overflowing again. The right-of-way beside the highways are littered with glitter and wrapping paper. There are also more people beside the road, staring at their vehicles and wondering what went wrong with the ride. It’s going to take a while for the initial clean up to be over, and then after two weeks there will be another round as the cheap plastic toys are broken, and are discarded in turn.  There will be a bigger lump in the landfill this year, and of all the things we could not afford, that is likely the most severe.

Christmas has become like a retail tax with the bills sent out in the form of advertisements. Movies, sporting events, television, radio, spam email, the internet, and every other form of media has been bombarding us with specials and sales and ads and last second deals and Black Fridays and Super Saturdays until they’ve squeezed out every lasts drop of cash they could get from those who might have had it, and a few who do not. Televisions are getting bigger and bigger, computers are getting smaller and smaller, and no one seems to know when to say when. I still have my ancient 19 inch color set that weighs three hundred pounds, but I have to admit to a certain amount of lust when I visit someone with one of those nice wide screen devices where a movie looks like a movie on a screen. But the idea of spending that sort of money for a television keeps me from it. I cannot pull the trigger on it.
My family, if we have our way, will be the death of Christmas. We got together and set a limit of presents and we feel better for it, I think. I know I do. My niece and nephew aren’t very happy about it, I’m sure about that, but I think this teaches them a lesson on what it takes to make money and how it’s important not to go overboard. But they are getting to the age they cannot believe there is any magic in getting or giving away material goods. Times are not good and they may get worse. If the young ones do not realize this by now we are all in more trouble than we can believe.
This Christmas was just plain sad. It was good and wet and gray. The weather was bad nearly everywhere, and almost everyone I know looked as if they had been burglarized while watching it on their new television. It doesn’t do any good to be able to afford something nice if in three or four months the economy is worse than it is now. If gasoline is still at the three dollar a gallon mark when hurricane season gets here this is going to get ugly, and quick. We’re a bad day at the stock market away from the word depression being great again. And it is still colder than it has been in a very long while.

Christmas is over. The Santa Hat has been washed and put away. All the fun I had while wearing it is gone, and with it, I fear, this year’s holiday season will take a toll that we have not felt before.

Take Care,
Mike

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