Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If Jesus is the reason for the season, where does that leave the Hallmark store?
I do not wish to discuss the circumstances, but this afternoon I found myself confined to a busy Hallmark card shop for 90 minutes.
Granted, there are far worse places to be stranded for 90 minutes. The El platform springs to mind. But you might be surprised at how 90 minutes in a Hallmark store can bend your mind.
(Some minds are easier to bend than others. I stand accused.)
How do you shop Hallmark? I usually go into a Hallmark store with a particular objective: a birthday card, a little keepsake gift, a Yankee candle. I choose what I want, reluctantly de-wallet the debit card, collect my receipt, and dash for the door.
Today the time constraint forced me to peruse the merchandise in great detail.
Holy Toledo, Batman! Who buys this stuff?
Let's take Xmas cards, for example. Did you know you can buy a Xmas card for your cat that says, "Happy holidays, kitty, you bring me such joy!"
Pity the puss that gets that under the tree. Wanna make puss purr on Xmas? BUY HER AN EXTRA CAN OF CAT FOOD!
I really should charge money for such good advice.
When I go back to the Blue Ridge I try to pick up some Colonial Home candles. Can't find them around here. Yankee candles are the next best thing. And it's fun to spend 15 minutes sniffing all the different varieties, from Melon Mango Chutney to my personal favorite, Sauerkraut. This particular Hallmark store had a very limited quantity of Yankee candles, most of them tailored to the autumn or Xmas season. I sniffed every last one.
More valuable free advice: All the red Xmas Yankee candles smell the same. All the green Xmas Yankee candles smell the same. Except for Frankincense. It's red. Not for me. I wonder what Jesus thought of it.
You can expend 15 good minutes whiffing a small display of Yankee candles. Then what? Ah, boxed Xmas cards! Some of them are very pretty, and they have nice neutral greetings on them, and they cost frickin 15 bucks a box! When did that happen? I could buy 15 packs of Juicyfruit, mail it out to my fam and buds, and they'd have something to show for my financial output!
Actually I do send Xmas cards. I buy them at the Rite-Aid, the day after Xmas.
More good advice! Okay, now I'm going to start charging money. I'm broke, remember?
Up and down the aisles we go, Merry Xmas to a Fabulous Priest; I don't know what I'd do without you, Sister (religious), Sis (non-religious), Sister-in-law (and that's a lie, you damn well know what you'd do without that pesky person). Dad, Uncle, Cousin, Niece, Nephew, Grandson, Granddaughter, Baby's First Birthday (baby's gonna love the card, see cat, above). Mail carrier. The mail carrier? Well, we once had one that deserved a tip, but if you tip the cute ones you've gotta tip the ugly ones. Somehow they find out about it and all come to call, looking for their Xmas card from Hallmark.
When I was a kid, we decorated the Xmas tree with old glass balls that all looked pretty much alike. I remember my mom made a big deal out of a pair of hand-made embroidered, beaded Xmas ornaments she got one year in a raffle. We put them right in front, where everyone could see them.
(Note to fans: Anne has now had her cocktail.)
This Xmas you can decorate your tree with Spiderman, Darth Vader, and the aforementioned Batman. As well as the entire cast and set of The Wizard of Oz, and ... that pretty pert lil' thang that's the same age as me: Barbie! Tiny Barbie dolls, Barbie clothes, Barbie accessories, Barbie hangouts.
How come Barbie and me were both created the same year, and she's still a babe?
Back to ornaments. Cute kittens, cute angels, cute faeries (yes, they've started a "series"), cute miniature model trains, cute Peanuts characters. Cute. Cute. Cute. At $10 or more a pop. Your Xmas tree, fully decked out with Hallmark ornaments instead of boughs of holly, could run you into four digits.
Give me a needle and some Jiffy Pop, and I'll show you how to decorate a tree.
Now we've exhausted a mere 30 minutes of our enforced 90-minute stay. A brainstorm! Need a romantic card for the spouse. Always give him one, every year. And this has become more challenging as the years have passed ... and passed ... and passed ...
It's got to be romantic (because I luv the dude), but it's also gotta address reality. As in, we've got no dough, and it's gonna get worse.
By golly, the shelves are packed with such cards! It takes a mere three minutes to pick a fabulous $3.99 Xmas card from the "Husband" section. And that's comforting. Nice to feel you're part of a huge demographic that still loves the spouse amidst genteel poverty. Me and Mr. Cratchit, we got a thing.... goin on....
Whew. I've got a card in hand now, so I look like a serious shopper. Off I go to a new display of designer ornaments, modeled on old-time Xmas ornaments from maybe Jane Austen's time or something like that. Yawn. How much more time do I have to stay in this fragranced, theme-music-soothed nightmare?
Enough time to browse the regular gift items, like the 100 job-oriented coffee mugs, each with a cute little phrase on it describing the job-holder. Gardener. Accountant. Teacher. Lawyer. Nurse. Doctor. Volunteer. Homemaker. Policeman. Firefighter. Dog-Catcher. Could someone explain to me why they don't have one for the Underemployed Ivy League Graduate With Minimal Computer Skills Goat Judge? Where do I lodge a formal complaint?
From there I head to a notebook with bookmarks, all the size of playing cards and all bearing names (alphabetical order) along with an appropriate Bible verse. Wouldn't you know, they're affordable! Out, out, damned Bible verse! Fortunately, they're all out of "Spare," so I don't have to buy one for that daughter. They've misspelled "Heir," so I save some money there too. And, they've left the "e" off of Anne! Hooray! I wasn't planning on sending a gift to Ann Coulter, so close that notebook and call it a day.
Except I can't call it a day, it's only 2:50.
But it's snowing!
Ah, snow! That soother of spirits, that gentle white fluff, drifting down from above .... Onto a humongous parking lot, filled with SUVs. Pizza Hut and Watchoveryou Bank in the middle distance. Puts a whole new spin on "Let It Snow."
It's too depressing to stand and watch precious snow melt on asphalt, so I return to the merchandise. Here's a glass case filled with porcelain figures from famous movies! Oh, how I wish I had $145 to spend on a porcelain Wicked Witch of the West on a PMS high! WHO BUYS THIS STUFF?
Porcelain Tinker Belle is cute, but she's also $100, and crikey, you couldn't buy just one of these things. They're like Snow Babies. If you buy one porcelain movie knockoff, you've got to fill your house with them. Honestly, do you know anyone who has just one Longaberber basket?
Okay, the porcelain statuettes are out of my price range. (If you get right down to it, the oxygen in the store is out of my price range.) On I move to another set of shelves, these filled with adorable little ceramic mousies, oh, such cute little mousies, I've gotta have 'em all, every one! Oh, look at that sweet little momma mouse, reading to her brood of 12, all scattered around the puffy lavendar armchair.....
Hold the phone. I had an infestation of mice before I got my cats, Alpha and Beta. No more mice now. Makes that Xmas card for the kitty look more enticing!
Moving away from the cute mousies brings me to ... gasp ... the cute snowmen!
Bored gods and goddesses all, preserve us from cute snowmen.
I'm fond of snow. Four years in Michigan did not cure me. Love the stuff. Ergo, love snowmen. Have built a few in the day. Watched Dad build a few whoppers. I guess Hallmark is counting on that when they do their fourth-quarter earnings sheet.
Forget it, Hallmark. I ain't gonna buy a $59.95 plush sculpture of three snowmen sitting piggy-back. I would question the basic sanity of anyone who would. Yet there it sits, all fluffy and adorable, in the store window. Someone's gonna buy it. And display it for a few years. And stack it outside at a yard sale. From which it will be bought by a dealer, who will cart it to the flea market. From whom I will buy it for $3.00 in 2012.
More free advice. Make check payable to Anne Johnson.
Would you believe that all this browsing only consumed 60 of the 90 minutes? I had to re-visit the card aisle, watch snow fall on a Pathfinder, and pay for my Xmas card (snapping up an impulse necklace for The Spare at the counter), and still I had time to go!
Hours later I'm still shuddering from this ordeal. The moral of the story is, pick a religion that doesn't celebrate Xmas so you'll never find yourself in my sorry shoes.
I think that's Jehovah's Witnesses. Or Seventh Day Adventists. I'll have to do more research.
I hate this time of year. What can you do but laugh at it?
And now, pay up for all these valuable shopping tips!