Overwhelmed by holiday shopping

Just walking
into a retail
ment between
requires me
to hold a
with myself.
Monday, December 1, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:37 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 28, 2008

Although I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that the Little Drummer Boy take the season off for some R&R, I’m sure that by December 24 I will have wished I had. It’s just something about that constant drumming…. Oh well, I suppose it could be worse, like the sound of Rush Limbaugh’s voice droning on and on…. The problem is that one of my best friends can’t get enough of that song. She’s the kind who carols from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day.

This annoying situation reminds me of how often opposites attract each other. How often do night people marry morning people? Why is that so many teetotalers wind up with drunks? Is it that some of us just like to make each other miserable?

And speaking of misery, only a person who hates shopping as much as I do could experience this kind of misery during the biggest shopping season of the year. Shopping seems to bring out the worst in people. Every now and then, a friend in the retail business will prevail upon me to help her out when some of her employees bolt for the door. I’ve tried several times to give it my best, but I never make it to Christmas Eve. Retail salespeople seem to have special qualities that I don’t share. I have a hard time dealing with folks who border on a nervous breakdown because they can’t find that certain something that some certain person can’t live without.

Just walking into a retail establishment between Thanksgiving and Christmas requires me to hold a conference with myself. In the first place, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer mass of ‘stuff,’ piled on top of counters, hanging on the walls, cluttering up the floors or filling up carts. I don’t know if I squander more time fighting my way through the aisles or standing in line trying to pay for the one item I went in to purchase. I especially try to avoid stores that have a toy department. Children squealing while demolishing the merchandise, and parents struggling to drag their kids out of the store, make me vow never to walk into a store again.

And now that all the shops are megastores containing more stuff and accommodating more people, it becomes ever more difficult to locate anything and find a place to pay for it. Every year I renew my effort to purchase everything I need before Halloween so that I won’t have to go to the store before the following year.

When I look back, it doesn’t seem possible that as young women, my sister and I deliberately waited until Christmas Eve to do all our shopping. We lived in the city in those days, and spent the entire day downtown, going from shop to shop and returning home in the evening to wrap all our treasures. It’s hard to imagine now, that we were absolutely thrilled to be caught up in the crowds that pushed through the streets.

Since then, shopping has lost not some, but all of its thrill for me. I don’t even shop by computer or television. For one thing, the acquisition and accumulation of goods has lost most of its attraction. A large part of it is, though, I prefer not to have to deal with service personnel when things don’t work, which an awful lot of things seem not to do. Just listening to the horror stories some go through dealing with customer service people who live in other countries and the repair people they are allegedly engaging is enough to make me discard my non-working equipment and do without.

One of the realities of modern life seems to be that most things that were relatively simple have become more complicated. In bygone days, things came in about three sizes and colors. Now choices in everything are virtually unlimited. Take faucets, for example. When I recently had to replace faucets, I was shocked at the number of selections. It was only that I couldn’t convince myself I could do without them that finally forced me to make a decision. My friends look at me a little queerly when I tell them indoor plumbing has lost some of its allure.

It’s inevitable that I should be surrounded by friends who not only love to shop but are always attempting to badger me into sharing the experience. In the end, this works out well, because lately my favorite places to shop are my friends’ homes and closets. I encourage them to shop, so that when they buy more than they need, which they invariably do, I wind up reaping the benefits of all the extras they have acquired. As things stand right now, I will never have to buy clothes or jewelry ever again.

For once, I’m reaping a benefit from attracting my opposites. Too bad I can’t say the same for people who never put anything back where they got it or women who can’t go to their closet without putting on fresh makeup or those who enjoy listening to the Little Drummer Boy.

You think maybe I could confiscate his drumstick?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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