Christmas is Hell

People are very on edge today. More short and ill tempered than usual. I was walking along in Target and had that sense of tension and angst all around me, the feeling that everyone in the store would be happier if everyone else in the store was not there. As I was walking along I had the feeling that if I stopped walking the person behind me would just run into me.

So I stopped in my tracks next to an endcap.


Just as I expected.

So for the rest of the day while I was doing errands I kept doing that. In Target a few more times. In the grocery store. In the parking lot. The parking lot was probably not a good place to do that. Don't worry, I'll be OK. I'm tough.

Things were so tense, when I was parking at the shopping mall, I heard someone beep their horn. It was pretty far away, maybe over on the highway, but I'm sure it was a car horn.

People don't beep their horns much in Minnesota. I'm pretty sure that if you disconnected every single horn in every single car in Minnesota, no one would notice for months. If you did it in Boston, people would notice right away. Some guy would show up at work:

First guy: "Hey, whaddayaknow, my horn broke this morning!"

Second guy: "Hey, mine too!"

Third guy: "What a coincidence, mine too!"

Fourth guy: "... wait a minute. Maybe this is not a coincidence!!!"

But if it happened in Minnesota, first of all, for several weeks no one would notice. Then one person would try to use the horn and it wouldn't work.

Ollie: "Hey, my horn didn't work this morning."

Knute: "You would know! Ollie, you're a bit hot headed, don't ya know."

Then, like five weeks later.

Myrtle: "Hey, Ollie, didn't your horn break a while back? Where'd ya get it fixed, anyway?"

Ollie: "Ya, sure, but my mechanic couldn't fix it. Says he's never done one of those jobs before didn't want to make it worse."

Myrtle: "Oh, sure, I thought I could ask you where you got it fixed. Mine's on the Fritz now too."

Then, two months later...

Fritz: "Hey, Myrtle, weren't you looking for a place to get a car horn fixed a few weeks back? Is it broken yet?"

Myrtle: "Yeah, Fritzie, It's still broken."

Fritz: "Too bad, I'd like to know where to get mine fixed..."

Ollie: ".... you know, I'm not so sure this is a coincidence...."

You know the tension is due to the holidays, and all that goes with them. I have a friend who lost two grandparents over the last few years at this time of year. Now that I think about it, the two elderly people I grew up with also died just this time of year, but that was a long time ago. Anyway, a lot of people die right about now. Death goes with the holidays. Then there's the family expectations and tensions and stuff. I'm lucky in that regard. Many years ago, each member of my family moved to a different state, as far away from each other as possible. I'm not sure why. But it certainly did eliminate any possibility of holiday related tension. But for most people, there's a lot of tension. Then there's the shopping. That is a whole different kind of pressure. Not the shopping itself. Picking out a few items to give to loved ones, and picking up a dozen fruit caked for everyone else is not hard. But since most other people are doing the same thing, there is chaos. The chaos is a bummer.

Chaos. Tension. Death. A horn blaring.

The war on Christmas must be won.

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I barely communicate with my relatives. I tend to avoid stores and the raving lunatic obligate consumers until January.

…the feeling that everyone in the store would be happier if everyone else in the store was not there.

Strange: I feel that way whenever I shop, no matter what time of year it is.

A dispersed family can be a very good thing.

I laughed quite loudly a couple times reading this.

I'm taking a lot of burden off of my mom. I've done a majority of the Christmas shopping. She's so scatterbrained right now. Plus, my niece turns 8 next Monday, and who knows if we'll get to see her.

@ #8.

Not quite. You may be thinking of "Naughty but Nice"

You mean there are not Targets in Boca Raton? (Which is where I imagine Physioprof lives, in a second story walkup over a pawn shop)

If you're in a frivolous mood, you can call it Targé. We suggested to the relatives that instead of guessing at presents for us, they should save their money and buy something they like for themselves or their children. So we're all opting out this year and just having a fine, nonreligious dinner together.

Has anyone else noticed that Snuggies can be hard to find? I checked two Targets, a CVS, and a Walgreens, only to find the kids version and the dog Snuggie left.

Dog... snoggies?

I had to pick up a few gifts at Home Depot yesterday, and it wasn't too bad; the local Target, even last week, was sturmunddrang-filled nightmare, however. I think some people are overwhelmed by consumerist inadequacies and loneliness during the holidays, and that cars, SUVs, and shopping carts are just convenient outlets for that despair and frustration. Performing psychosocial experiments at Target endcaps and in parking lots might be a bit dangerous this time of year, Greg. I'm just glad that I've made it through the gamut of holiday parties this year, and that none was as bad as I had dreaded.

A former colleague routinely sent his administrative assistant and technicians out shopping for him, particularly at the holidays. It wouldn't surprise me at all that some in academia have little or no practical experience with large chain stores like Target or Walmart. I could walk down the halls at work today, and find one or two easily (though they might deny it).

Around here we stock up on bulk supplies in October, so that barring perishables like milk we can avoid stores until after things settle down (not least because it lets us avoid the damned music.) I just got back from five days enjoying northern New Mexico (mountains and snow, gorgeous!) and tomorrow am heading up to the Arizona White Mountains for three days of emergency medical duty.

No shoppers, no music. Bliss.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 22 Dec 2009 #permalink

I have to sit down often when I go shopping, I have moderate social anxiety, but this year it has been really bad. The tension that you speak of is everywhere here as well, and it makes me feel ill when I'm in the stores.
We've mostly opted out of christmas this year as well, save for a few small things for those closest to us.

Bjorn Watland #13: What really frosts my cookies about Snuggies is that I didn't think of them first. Take a cheap blanket, add some sleeves, sell for $10 to $15 dollars, and become a bazillionaire.

Same thing with Pillow Pets. Take a stuffed animal, modify its shape to have a square body, add velcro, sell for $20 to $25, and become a bazillionaire.

Why invent when you can modify?

Target is a fucking store? You learn something every day, and I'm a bit sorry that I've been missing the spectacle. I shall try to make it to the mall soon!

The bit about car horns is totally true. I used my horn every day when I lived in Philadelphia, and after living in Minnesota for a few years I noticed that I'd forgotten about it...and my horn was broken! It was all jammed up with dust and grime or something, and I had to pound on it pretty hard before I could get it to give and make a plaintive little beep. Which startled the driver of the one other car at the intersection immensely. I felt very guilty. Haven't used it since.

Are the holidays here already?

By NewEnglandBob (not verified) on 22 Dec 2009 #permalink

@18 Mandrake, If you want a snuggie just put your bath robe on backwards... No sewing!

I like to go to Target and people watch. Make up stories about them. Here in the Deep South I haven't noticed so much tension. Rarely hear horns around here either. Maybe it's the shirt sleeve weather, not so much bustling from the car to the store to get out of the cold. Maybe its just the slower culture. Anyway, enjoy the season, however you care to celebrate it!

LOL, Mr P. I always call the Snuggie "a product for people who haven't mastered the complexities of the bathrobe."

By OleanderTea (not verified) on 22 Dec 2009 #permalink

Simple observation: Notice that cats don't need snuggies, they just you as a snuggie. Everybody feels warm and happy. Skip the gimmicks and just get a cat!

I have totally experienced the "first time in a long time" phenomenon with Minnesota horns.

You press the horn and think there is nothing, but if you listen you can hear what sounds like a little motor or something running under the hood. Then you start to hear a noise that doesn't really sound like a horn but does sound obnoxious, but very variable in intensity and pitch. Then one or two times a horn like sound comes out, then it goes to full blast horn. Then your horn works, because the lemmings that were living in there until you pressed the button have fallen out. And are now pissed.

Never had lemmings in my horn, but I once had mice in my air filter. They had stored corn in their nest there.

Don't get pissed about the Snuggie, invent accessories! Make a Snuggie hoodie, snuggie mittens, an electric snuggie, the snuggie cloak so you can do your winter wizard work.

I drive like a complete ass after I get back from working out east. This is a generalization, but everyone drives as if the person in front of them is the devil himself and must be passed. Aggressive driving is the norm. I think I heard an explanation that the desire to pass up everyone in front of you was an example of modern territorial-ism, but I'm not sure why driving like an ass becomes the norm once you get into PA and east.

The great thing about people not using their horns here, is that when you do, it means something. Out East, it's just background noise.

The best thing about Christmas is that it occurs on a specific day and is therefore over if you can just hang on long enough. Well, unfortunately, that is not exatly true. There is unspecified time of deornamenting the house. Friend had the best solution, a spare room, decorated for Christmas and closed the rest of the year.

About driving,I have driven in Caracas, so I have no fear. My wife would refuse to ride with me for a couple of weeks each time I would come back from Venezuela.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 22 Dec 2009 #permalink

food banks are seeing a HUGE increase in the number of people needing food.

ask your friends if they are all willing to give money to their local food banks instead of buying for each other. AND you can usually do it online, thus avoiding stores.

to me (an atheist), that would be putting the "christ" back in "christmas" - i.e. giving to the poor instead of to people who don't need things is much more "christ-like."

By Texas Reader (not verified) on 22 Dec 2009 #permalink

Bjorn Watland,

I don't get the feeling of having to pass people unless I'm on my bicycle. And then it's only other people on bicycles. Especially if they run a stop sign or a red light. The main problem is that I'm not in the same shape I was fifteen years ago so it's getting harder.

By Shawn Smith (not verified) on 22 Dec 2009 #permalink

Almost immediately after I moved to Massachusetts I was forced to pay for a state-mandated horn-honking chip, at my first vehicle inspection. It is apparently something like the California emission standards. I don't even notice it any more.

By Howell Cantabile (not verified) on 22 Dec 2009 #permalink

When my wife came back from shopping she said people were acting crazy. Then I noticed she was acting crazy. I said "Relax, you're acting crazy". She looked right through me with that thousand yard stare. I don't think she heard me. There's something going on. I'm beginned to get kind of scared...

I avoided the rush by inviting a few fellow artisans over to sell stuff in my home. I made cookies and money all day Saturday. Wheee, fun.

Julia is alive right now only because of my quick reactions in the parking lot an hour ago. At the fucking orthodontist!

Yes, people are going a bit over the top today, and I think the impending Killer Storm from Hell is only adding to it all.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time (from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation): "Audrey, it's Christmas, and we're all in misery" My family watches it every year on Xmas eve, and we all wait for that line.

On the subject of car horns, I live in Kansas and in the 9 years I've owned my car I've honked the horn exactly once; on the day I bought it, so I would know what it sounds like. There's a lot to dislike about this state, but I love the fact that it's so laid back -- except for Fred Phelps and the hard core Jayhawk fans. They need valium.

GL: "...alive right now only because of my quick reactions in the parking lot an hour ago."

Not surprising, if you drive the way you shop.

Deck the malls with plastic reindeer
Christmas can be such a pain, dear
Muzak carols on the speaker
Falala, Falala, Lalala
Make December even bleaker