They have Christmas carolers in the shopping malls now.
They’re singing cheerfully about walking in a winter wonderland, but with Christmas looming just over a week away and crowds of excited shoppers surging from store to store, I can think of very few places less likely to be described as a wonderland. A mall under even the best circumstances is an unpleasant place, where the greasy smells of the food court collide with the heavy florals of the perfume counter while packs of pre-teen girls in low-slung jeans and too much eye makeup giggle at passing packs of pre-teen guys. Enter a mall anytime within six weeks of Christmas, and you’re voluntarily walking into the retail version of hell on earth.
In hindsight, I probably should have picked a better time to do my shopping. Monday morning would have been good – nobody goes to the mall on Monday morning, even in the depths of the holiday shopping season. I could have stopped in on my way to work, avoided the crowds, avoided the inevitable crowd-induced rage, and been back out on the street within ten minutes. But that would have required planning and organization, two personality traits that have been in short supply lately. So naturally I left it to Friday afternoon, where I would be forced to fight my way through packs of slow-moving shoppers while cursing the person who first decided to turn Christmas into a month-long materialistic frenzy.
I had come to the mall on to find and purchase a new pair of tights to wear with my dress for the office Christmas party (which happened to be taking place in a few hours), a benign and predictable mission that should have gone exactly as planned. I knew what I was looking for, and I knew precisely where I’d find it. But somewhere between the store’s doorway and the cash register, everything changed. The smallest hint of soft blue fabric poking out from between two heavy grey sweaters caught my eye, and the next thing I knew I was standing in front of a three-way mirror, draped in swaths of silk chiffon (strapless, save for a single gauzy strip of fabric making its way over one shoulder) and flanked by enthusiastic sales girls.
I left the store with zero pairs of tights and one very unnecessary dress.
I also left the store with a new mission, which involved acquiring a bra worthy of a suffocatingly tight, mostly-strapless dress as well as finding an altogether different pair of tights to coordinate with this sudden switch-up in office party attire. And this is how I found myself repeatedly circling the fluorescent-lit lingerie department of The Bay (Canada’s answer to Macy’s, but with fewer brands and more depressing wall-to-wall grey carpeting). I had just speed-walked through a gauntlet of overzealous perfume salesladies, dodged a pair of demonic-looking toddlers in Santa hats and tripped over a life-size cardboard reindeer cutout. The sound system was playing a particularly aggravating rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, which, out of all the Christmas songs, has always been the one that will instantly put me on edge, I was about to spend the better part of a hundred dollars on a bra that was a necessary purchase only because of a moment of inexplicable retail weakness half an hour earlier, and I still hadn’t found an acceptable pair of tights.
This wasn’t because I couldn’t decide what I wanted – no, it was because the entire section of the store that sold tights looked like a hurricane had swept through it, having been combed over and picked through by hundreds of frustrated women preparing to squeeze themselves into a dress and high heels for their office Christmas parties. Every time I thought I found what I was looking for, it would somehow turn out that someone had ripped a pair of queen-sized, control top, thigh-compressing fishnet tights out of their proper box and then stuffed them inside the box formerly belonging to the pair of small, slightly sheer, basic black tights that I was so desperately seeking.
Twenty minutes later, with one pair of tights clutched in a possessive death grip, I was waiting – no, seething – in a never-ending line for the cash register while the minutes ticked by and the women ahead of me all made complicated purchases involving exchanges and gift cards and calls to the manager. “Frosty The Snowman” was now playing in the background, which I found ironic given that the temperature in the store was approaching that of an oven. Thirty minutes later I burst out onto the street, shopping bags dangling limply from my hand. The sky was already dark. A group of children was singing “Silent Night” in front of the entrance, their voices emphasizing the words calm and bright – two emotions that I was certainly not feeling.
This story has a happy ending… sort of. The impulse-bought dress gathered compliments, the over-priced bra did its job, and the tights encased my legs in just the right amount of sheer black lycra. But a perfectly good afternoon was sacrificed in the process, one cardboard reindeer was fatally damaged, and I just might lose my cool next time I hear “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”…
Unrelated tech note: A couple of people have mentioned that they’re seeing my posts show up three times each in their feed readers. Has this been happening to you too? Let me know. I’m trying to get this fixed!