Some people do it in January. Others leave it until much later in the year. No, I’m not talking about the shameful breaking of New Year’s Resolutions. It’s Christmas shopping. You can certainly tell it’s Christmas. The women featured on the covers of men’s magazines are all wearing red thongs… ;)
What is it with Christmas shopping that makes it become such excruciating torture? Never mind about jail sentences for convicts, send them out with a difficult Christmas shopping list on December 24 instead. That’ll sort them out.
Perhaps those traumatic feelings are caused by the way in which the festive season has been taken over by retailers; continually pushing their Christmas offers in our faces from as early in the year as possible. “There are only 242 days of our Christmas sale remaining…”
Your Christmas shopping story…
After beginning your Christmas shopping ordeal expedition, you invariably end up in a shopping centre full of chain stores. You enter a shop and walk around, hoping that something will pop out and hit you in the face, saying “I think I’ll be an ideal present for Auntie Mabel. Buy me!” Whilst browsing the tat on offer, the shop offends your ears with a horrendous selection of cheesy Christmas music to get you in the ‘spirit of things’. However, all it seems to do is irritate you to the point where you want to grab a piece of tinsel and hang the shop manager from the end of it…. “Chipmunks roasting on an open fire…” Bah humbug! You walk out and into another shop, where you encounter a refreshing change: this store is playing non-festive music… “why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?” (that probably has something to do with the box of Trill that I emptied into your back pocket this morning)
1 hour later
Having left it to the last minute (a month before Christmas) to shop for Christmas presents, you find yourself buying items at twice the price that they were three months ago. Sure, the shops have “SALE” plastered all over their windows, but it’s certain that the stuff that you’re interested in isn’t reduced.
We’re in a recession, so you’re looking for a bargain (defined as something no-one really needs at a price you can’t possibly resist) and the shops are quite happy to push all sorts of stuff at you. Being under pressure, you’re considering everything, including the sort of crap that ends up down the charity shops two days after Christmas, or the female pampering packs that are left to rot in the receiver’s bathroom cupboard before being passed back to you three Christmasses later. You can bet your bottom dollar that eBay will be full of that stuff on Boxing Day (so, a great opportunity to shop early for shit presents for next Christmas!).
3 hours later
You’re beginning to lose the will to live - you’ve bought presents for so many people. But you still have to find something for that difficult person who seems to be impossible to buy for. Auntie Mabel - a woman who doesn’t eat chocolate, has a hayfever allergy, changes waist size like a puffer fish watching a horror film and doesn’t have any hobbies, favourite foods… or a bath! To frustrate you further, whilst scouring the shops for a gift for Auntie Mabel, you spot brilliant ideas for those people that you have already bought for!
5 hours later
You enter Poundland for the fifteenth time. Whilst walking around with a bewildered look on your face, a member of staff, wearing a silly Christmas hat, approaches you to try to assist you. “Are you ok, sir? Can I help you at all?”. The guy acts so jolly that you instantly hate him. So, you turn to him and say, “Yes, I’m looking for a present for a 3 foot tall midget with webbed feet and eyes that look in different directions. Can you suggest anything?….. hello?”
6 hours later
After another hour of looking, you’re now dribbling profusely and leaning to one side with only one eye left open. Then - miracle - you spot that there’s £10 off a George Foreman grill. Perfect. Afterall, it’s been a while since Auntie Mabel had a Lean Mean Machine in her house…
You snatch the box off the shelf with both hands, causing a stack of other grill boxes to avalanche down onto the elderly couple standing to your left. Your focus remains intact as you turn around to search for the checkout. You spot the checkout far away in the distance and, inevitably, there is a queue. It’s not a small queue either - the line of people snakes around every aisle, from one end of the store to the other. So much so that whilst your eyes follow the line, your head rotates 360 degrees around your neck.
After three months of walking, you locate the end of the queue and join it. Infront of you is a little old lady and, after joining the line, a group of teenagers join the queue behind you. Standing there, promising yourself that you won’t leave it so late to do your shopping next year, you get battered from all sides by wafts of pungent smells. First, the little old lady’s perfume, ‘Musty Barn’, enters your nostrils, hammering on your sinuses like a woodpecker on a tree. Then, as your headache builds, you get hit from the back by the stench of teenage deodorant. The so-called ‘Lynx effect’, presumably because it sinks its teeth into your neck area and suffocates the life out of you. Why is it that teenagers feel that spraying an entire can of deodorant on to themselves makes them extra attractive to young ladies? Yes, they probably do seem attractive; if the girl in question is wearing a gas mask or has a heavy cold.
Thankfully for you, standing in the line, all that practice in your bath at home has paid dividends. Not only are you the world record holder for holding your breath underwater, but it means that you are able to survive the nasal bombardment.
7 hours later
Having bought your item, you stagger out of the store, navigating your way through the Christmas clowns, stilt walkers, jugglers, thieves, murderers and men in tight shorts (yes, there’s always one, even in winter). Then you spot one of those ‘wrap for charity’ stalls, where, for a small donation to charity, a little kid will wrap your present for you. You decide that it’s worth a pound of your money to get them to wrap the present that you bought for your Great Grandmother earlier. So over you trundle. “Hello, can you wrap a present for me, please?” you ask. “Yes, sure, where is it?” he replies, with a polite smile. He isn’t smiling for long, as you open your shopping bag and reveal a giant cactus…
8 hours later
Exhausted, you head off home and find yourself summing things up with a Churchillian line: “Never, in the world of shopping, has so much effort been given by someone, for so little!”
Christmas shopping can be horrendous. It should come with a public health warning and a free shot of valium. Perhaps the answer is to get pissed on mulled wine beforehand? Just don’t throw up in Poundland… (would it cost you a pound if you did?)