Every year I tell myself I’m going to endure Christmas without getting stressed out or homicidal and every year I fail. This is without doubt the most miserable time of the year. There isn’t anything good or holy about it. If there is a Hell on this earth it looks, feels, and sounds a lot like Christmas. There is nothing worse than Christmas. Were I not a student of history I would believe that Hitler invented it. If I were to write fake news I could sell the idea that it’s part of the Nazi culture invented to torment people. If I could erase anything from the American culture Christmas would be on the top of the list, the bottom of the list, and everything in between.
Christmas is that time of year I have to plan my life around what happens in the places I normally shop. I went in today and bought enough dog food to last us two weeks. There’s no sense at all in trying to get into, much less out of, any retail store for the next ten days. I went early in the morning, to avoid the worst part of the crush and it was still crowded.
My first stop this morning was to go price a pair of boots for work. There was a dozen or so people shopping and one salesperson in the store. One. Maybe the rest quit. Maybe the rest of the committed suicide in the breakroom by drinking eggnog laced with poison. All I can tell you is the one salesperson to be found was being held hostage by three generations of Christmas shoppers in the form of an older woman, a woman who seemed to be her daughter, and a screaming infant who had a fountain of snot pouring out of its nose and the sound of the damned being butt raped by reindeer issuing from its mouth. The entire conversation repeated itself endlessly, much like the infant’s screaming. Yes, that is the boot in the sales paper; it is the same size, it is the same model, it is the same color, it is the same brand, it is the same price. That was what the Lone Saleperson was telling the mother. It don’t look the same. This was the mother’s position. Mama, it’s the same. That was the daughter. SCREAM! That was the infant. I listened to this conversation repeated three times and left without boots. I need boots. My old boots leak and my socks get wet. But no. I cannot have boots because it is Christmas.
Buying fifty pounds of dog food and some razors to shave with, as opposed to razors used to opening up my wrists and bleeding to death waiting in line to buy fifty pounds of dog food and some razors to shave with, became an ordeal. Not just an ordeal but a Christmas generated ordeal and it’s the Christmas mindset that causes it. People have to have something for Christmas right now. At this very instant, there has to be a Christmas thing. They have to get to a store right now. They have to buy it right now. They have to have what they want right now because on Christmas Day someone will want something that very day and the world will be diminished, their existence will be diminished, and the whole of their world will cease to be good if their ideal of that day isn’t fulfilled by buying what they want when they want it. Everyone else and everything else can just go get fucked. This is Christmas.
So there I am, dog food and razors, and all the checkout lines are filled with people with carts filled with stuff for Christmas. Cheap plastic decorations that will break this seasons and thrown away, cheaper plastic toys that will be broken and forgotten before the new year, and the resources to live comfortably are being flushed down the toilet of commercialism in the name of Santa Claus. But the line isn’t moving. It’s frozen. I can’t back out because there’s five people behind me. I do not realize it but a woman has brought a bunch of stuff to the cash register and then went back to get more stuff, stranding everyone and the cashier. A supervisor comes and cancels the transaction. The line creeps forward. The woman ahead of me is buying a dozen bras. This is the first thing I have seen all day that has nothing to do with Christmas. I’m amazed that she needs to many. But then again, I realize I have no idea how many bras a woman might need.
The woman who stranded the line wades back into the front of the line and she’s angry she’s been cancelled. She doesn’t realize it, but she’s within my personal space. As she’s railing against the inequity of the whole world and retail not waiting for her, she turns towards me and then it hits her; I would love to watch someone choke her to death by force feeding her tinsel. If someone took her down and violated her with an oversized candy cane I would feel somehow vindicated. If someone made her wearing bright red stockings for a bra I would feel better about life. She can sense this in me.
But she’s bought more stuff than she can carry. The two trips she’s made means she’s got eighteen plastic bags worth of cheap plastic shit made in China by slave labor and she has no way to transport it to her car before it starts its journey into our environment in some shape fashion or form. She looks at me, with my fifty pounds of dog food in my cart and asks, “Do you still need this cart?”
As far as I know, this is the first time I have ever said those two words out loud in a store to someone I didn’t know. I’ve crossed a line I did not know I could be pushed or dragged or compelled to cross in public. Suddenly, I’m one of those people trying to make a left turn from the far right lane. I’m all of a sudden the same type of person who drives fifty miles an hour in the parking lot. I’m one of those people who disregard all forms of common courtesy because Christmas, you know? Any other time of the year I would be trying to help this woman carry her stuff but right now I want to push the cart with fifty pounds of dog food over her ankles until she has to crawl out of the store screaming like an infant in a boot store.
“I am so sorry I said that.” I tell the cashier and I can tell she’s seen too much of this. She looks at me and nods, as if she wants to agree with me but cannot. She cannot afford to surrender to this sort of madness with more than a week to go in retail. The guy behind me cannot stop giggling about it but I’m embarrassed. I’ve lowered the bar. I’ve increased the insanity.
I’m back home now and this is the day that I began to hate Christmas this year, more than ever before. I hate the waste and the hurry. I hate the way it makes people. I hate the sorrow and the disappointment. I hate the music and the movies. I hate everything about it and it doesn’t take long for me to realize I always have and I always will. But mostly, I hate what I said today because more than anything, it makes me a part of Christmas.