Thanksgiving is leftovers, Christmas looms, and here in the middle, I see the shadows of shopping circling around me like vultures in gift wrap. Guys like me dread this time of year. Why? Because we hate full-contact sports for which we don’t understand the rules.
Football, I know. Boxing, I know. Wrestling, I know.
The rules of engagement for Christmas shopping – no clue.
Store shelves are cluttered with all manner of talking whozits and whatzits, aisles are jammed with manic shoppers with a bloodlust for Hungry Hippos and Zhu Zhu Hamsters, and they’re all converging onto the exact spot from where I’m trying to escape.
Football was never like this. At least after the guy on top of you slugged you in the ribs once or twice, there were referees to pull everybody out of the pile and line us all back up again.
The number of bodies were limited and the pushing and shoving lasted no more than five or 10 seconds at a time. Then we all helped each other up and took a breather while a new play was called.
That’s because football is a much gentler, politer, more refined sport than Christmas shopping.
Football players are unarmed. Shoppers carry weapons. Shopping bags can be lethal, especially if said shopper just came from the power tools department. If you survive the thwacking from the loaded bag, the bruises last for weeks.
Shopping carts slammed into the back of one’s heel are particularly irksome. Probably two-thirds of all leg injuries treated in emergency rooms over the holidays are caused by shopping carts.
One of the newer innovations in the arsenal of torture is the cell phone. Cell phones do not leave many marks on the victim’s body but the psychological havoc they wreak is devastating.
Millions of shoppers fight their way through crowds, bellowing into cell phones or clumps of electronics apparently surgically attached to their ears. The conversations threaten to drown out the crying kids forced to sit on Santa’s lap and the thumpety-thump-thump of “Frosty the Snowman” over mall speakers:
“Whatchya doin’! I’m shopping! Hey, watch it, man, that’s mine! Nah, some fat guy in front of me found the T-shirt Jimmy wanted, so I snagged it from him! Dude, you ought to see him now! He just picked out the ugliest sweater in the world!”
So I put the sweater back and decided to get Mom a gift certificate instead.
These Twitter-and-talk shoppers also synchronize to hunt in packs at different stores:
“Yeah, it’s $39.95 here. What do you have there? $43.50. Ruby? $38.95? OK, Ruby gets three of those there. I get the carrying cases here for $2 less. Hey you with the ugly sweater, move it! OK, I’m back. Had to whack some amateur shopper out of the way with my cart.”
Here’s a suggestions to the commissioner of the National Holiday Shopping and National Defense Training Association:
Next year, stock all stores with NFL officials. If a shopper is whistled for clipping the heels with shopping cart, for example, he or she will have to put one toy back on the shelf and back up to the end of the aisle before shopping resumes.
Better yet, my buddy Tim suggests a little hockey justice. If a crazed shopper uses a roll of wrapping paper like a stick to swat away rivals, an NHL referee will place the thug in a penalty box, leaving her cart unattended for all other shoppers to pick through on their way past.
That way, guys like me would understand shopping and it would become as civilized as hockey.