Tagged commercialism

Christmas Rant | Retail Woes, Ugly Blow-Ups & My Grinch-Sized Heart

I want to hurt people.

No…let me rephrase that. I’m not a violent person. Really. It’s probably hard to believe I could hurt anyone. Just look at me. I’m a four-eyed, sweater-clad twenty-something with a graduate degree in poetry. So let me put it this way: I want to hurl shopping carts at people—but not really hit them, just come close enough to send them running in the other direction, preferably out of the shopping mall all together and back to their cozy suburban dwellings.

It’s the time of year that gets me. I become loudly disgusted in humanity: prone to fits of Tourette’s-like cursing, erratic driving, and sometimes when no one is listening, I revise the words of popular Christmas tunes to sing about murder, prostitution and all-around mayhem. It’s cool. I would never do anything about it. It’s just a thought.

I know. I realize it’s a hell of a time to be ornery, especially for someone like me—noted to have an almost tragic “hippie optimism” and a deeply rooted humanitarian-style set of personal politics. But let me explain.

It isn’t the grinning array of elves and Santa knick-knacks, nor the multi-colored strands of lights outlining every house. In fact, I enjoy the décor. Well, all but those obnoxious ballooning blow-ups strangling the lawns of Greensburg. Talk about overdoing it. I thought lawn balls were lame. But now we’ve got puffy Snoopys and snowmen, carousels and over-fed Santas… Look, people, chances are if you’re a suburbanite like me, your green space is already limited to a patch of scraggly yellowing grass, maybe a shrub or two, but most certainly not enough room for a life-size team of googly-eyed reindeer. Just sayin’.

Thanks to the NYTimes.com for this pic.

I’m still trying to figure out the whys of this. What happened to me? What happened to my Christmas?

Retail is the most obvious scapegoat. I like to blame the years spent holed up in a 12 by 12 room, on-camera, counting money in a grocery store’s cash office. For years, it was nothing but me and seven endless hours of looped Christmas music (a day) counting someone else’s dirty money. I only ever emerged when called upon to handle extra-bitchy customers. More than likely, our system was declining their gift cards, or they wanted to return their holiday turkeys and hams before they had a chance to enjoy them. Hey, customers can be smart. They found them for two-cents-per-pound cheaper at Shop ‘N Save or Community Market. And I’m supposed to give a shit. Because now, I have to throw these things away. Yes, for public safety reasons, Giant Eagle automatically assumes all perishable returns—no matter how well they are sealed—were injected with cyanide or simply left to grow bacteria in your backseat for days.

“But wait,” a customer might point out, as I’m disposing of their 20-pound mistake. “Are you sure you have to pitch it? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it. I just found it cheaper somewhere else.”

And yeah, this sounds heroic like maybe they even care that people are starving right next door, but even after I tell them “no-can-do,” they’d pocket their refund like the Scrooges they are and prance out of the door proudly, mentally patting themselves on the back for their two-dollar savings.

Replacements for “My kid made the Honor Roll!” bumper stickers (geekologie.com)

So I’m bitter, maybe. But anyone who has ever worked retail knows that people only grow nastier during
this joyous season. Good will toward men—my ass. It’s probably the stress of shopping, organizing, sending out horrifically worded Christmas letters bragging about their children making honor roll. Thank god my mom never sent out those letters. The most she’d have to brag about would be my growing pile of melodramatic poetry scribbled on notebook paper or how this school year, I wore something other than boy’s JNCO jeans and skater shoes.

But the closer it comes to Christmas, I do lighten up. I swear. It’s just the initial onslaught of a premature-Christmas that gets me: the over-eager shoppers barreling through aisles without regard to the human race, the limited parking spaces, the garbled holiday tunes playing over every store radio.

This year, it was November 7th when I got my first taste of it. NOVEMBER SEVENTH, people. C’mon. I hadn’t even finished my Trick-or-Treater-candy overage and already I’m bumping elbows with crowds of puffy-coated holiday shoppers fighting over gaudy, discounted tree ornaments, and all to Dolly Parton’s rendition of “Jingle Bells.”

I was just trying to buy some damn acrylic paint at Michael’s.

Christmas threw up… (Thanks alleewillis.com)

But it’s got to be more than my seven-plus years working at a grocery store. I think it’s the hypocrisy of it all. We’re supposed to be celebrating a holiday that imposes good values: kindness, generosity, and an appreciation of what we have, the simple things. Yet, there’s nowhere I can turn without catching a stark glimpse of Christmas—the twiggy wreaths hung on doors shiny with metallic paint and stuck Styrofoam birds; the phony LED icicle lights hung from eaves, glowing an aura so fake I can describe it no other way but “death”; and let’s not forget the screaming children everywhere, pointing and crying for the latest video game or Lego’s set.

Maybe more than all this, I’m pissy with myself. Because at some point, we all realize the sham. It’s not hard to sit there and point out the materialism, the chaos, the wide-eyed consumers scurrying for more coupons and sales flyers, but I do it too. Sure, I make many of my gifts, put more thought into them than I should, really. I refuse to buy gift cards and spend too much time trying to find the perfect gift. My idea of a Christmas horror story would be getting a gift from someone I didn’t anticipate and leaving them empty handed. How sad is that?

I don’t know what happened to Christmas for me or anybody
 else. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. Whether I want it to or not, it’ll come every year. And like the Grinch, I’ll stand at the edge of my mountaintop, or more aptly—my soapbox, swearing to myself, a little black heart beating inside my chest. I’ll watch the world frantically preparing for the season and think of hurling those shopping carts.


But truly, I’d like to believe that, like that same Dr. Seuss tale, if all the decorations and presents and roast beast were to disappear, the world would still be singing. But I’m not going to jail for grand larceny to find out.

*Christmas Rant from my reading at Awesome Books on December 8th, 2012.

This all said… Merry Christmas, everyone! [:
mt