Friday, November 19, 2010

Off to the Maul....

     Christmas lights are going up in town, wreaths are appearing on doorways, carols are playing on the "Holly" station, and all the stores are putting up holiday decorations and stocking shelves. That most glorious time of the year is approaching, and Black Friday cometh. Put on your armor and strap on your's time to head to the Maul.
     Ah, Christmas....the season of giving, the season of forgiving. And believe me, you're going to experience both of those emotions before the holiday is over with if you plan on going to your local mall. It all begins that special day after Thanksgiving-Black Friday-a day when Americans are saturated  and idle, a day when we are lethargically laden with turkey-induced tryptophans while simultaneously pumped up on pumpkin-pie carboyhdrates. We're tired, we're wired, and we're ready to spend some money. It's time to meet the masses at your local shopping trough, time to wade into that wild and weary land lovingly and affectionately known as "The Maul".
       To really appreciate the peace, love, and joy of Christmas, you must spend Black Friday at your local shopping maul. There, as you indulge your obession with gift-giving, you will also have to immerse yourself in some holiday forgiving, because as you negotiate the masses that are frantically searching for that one hot item, that lone toy-du-jour, that MUST HAVE gift of which only one is left in the entire 48 contiguous states, you will quite possibly be mauled to death. After you have manuevered through the crowds, after you have encountered frantic and aggressive shoppers, after you have plowed through mountains of merchandise and spent hours trekking across concrete floors, believe me, you will be so anxious for peace, love, and joy that you may never venture there again!
     But Black Friday approacheth, and being only human, we will continue to trade peace, love and joy for consumerism, commercialism, and consumption.  This is opening day of  the official Christmas shopping season, and all the bargain hunters will have their credit cards loaded and will be flocking to the buying fields.  But be prepared. Plan in advance. Have a strategy. This is not a day for amateurs and only the seasoned Black Friday troops will survive.
     Put your big girl panties on before you go, because you'll need to be tough and stoic to deal with the other holly jolly holiday shoppers. Heck, you'll need to be tough and stoic just to get past the parking lot. The battle starts the minute you arrive. You'll probably have to pull out an AK-47 or some other high-powered assault weapon as soon as you enter just to get that one empty parking space-- the space you finally spotted after your twentieth lap around "the maul."  Oh, don't actually shoot it. Just sort of wave it around in the air, rev your engine up a couple of times,  slap a "crazy old lady" look on your face, and believe me, the virgin shoppers will bolt out of the lot before they complete a single lap around "the maul." It's pretty amazing how quickly you can clear'em out with a little pre-planning.  Then you can just ease that big ole SUV into the spot closest to the door, where you'll be able to run back and forth all day long as you load your deals and steals into the cargo hatch. You've just accomplished your first tactical holiday mission. Congratulations.
    Now, take a deep breath, pop a xanax, and say a prayer -you're about to head inside.  The battlefield can get pretty ugly when people are purchasing gifts to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  I've been accosted, assaulted, stepped on, run over, cursed at, pushed, shoved and insulted during Black Friday shopping excursions. I've had items ripped out of my hands and little old ladies practically steamroll over me in order to snag a two-for-one deal.  The joy of the season becomes more of "Boy if I had a reason to stay at home, this is it" after a few hours inside that environment, and it becomes quite apparent why they call this place "THE MAUL." As I've warned you before, it can get ugly at the battlefront, and sometimes, the troops just have to retreat and head back home. Don't be ashamed if this happens to you. Retreat-and-advance is an age-old manuever, it can be quite effective, and it's the reason they invented the internet, where success is just at the tips of your fingers.
     But if you do advance back into "the maul,"  you may want to pull a Nancy Reagan and brush up on your "Just Say No" skills. Don't expect to be able to casually meander through the buildings, happily searching for the items you actually wanted to purchase. There are troops stationed up and down every inch of the hallways and aisles, pacing back and forth, searching for the weak. Those soldiers aren't about to let you pass until you have stopped at their station and completed their inspection.  They will spray you with noxious gases called "perfume" which will disorient your senses. They will grab your hands and cover them with lotions and oils so you are unable to hold onto your weapons. They will offer you foods to eat which may be contaminated with biological germ warfare, so be very, very wary.
     I've been commanded by these warriors to have my teeth bleached, my eyebrows waxed, my jewelry cleaned, my back massaged, my kitchen renovated, my bathtub re-glazed, my phone service re-configured, my retirement plan upgraded and  my gutters cleaned. Seriously, do they think that's why I came to "the maul" in the first place? Do they really think those are services I am going to purchase here? I wouldn't be surprised to learn next that I can have my annual gynecological exam completed in front of Victoria's Secret while simultaneously filing my tax returns.  You are going to have to be able to firmly march past, arm extended and hand up, and just shout "NO!" as you pass each station. You will not survive if you cannot complete this tactical manuever.
      Black Friday at "the maul" is an experience everyone should undergo once in a lifetime, because, as Nietzsche reminds us, that which doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. It will, however,  wear you out. Coming home bruised, tired, frustrated and irritable may not quite be worth that 20% one-day discount, and it sure doesn't put me in the holiday spirit, but it helps me keep things in perspective. Unlike Nietzstsche, who doubted God and declared Him dead,  I am sure He lives and so I celebrate.  Commercialism may try to overshadow it, but as I hustle and bustle with the rest of the world, as I bargain and banter for that perfect present, as I move with the masses through the mobs at the mall, even then--- I will not forget the reason for the season.  I see it in a face in the crowd, the smile of a child, the kindness of a stranger, or the compassion of a sales clerk-- even in the midst of all this stress and mess,  even at "the maul,"  I see God and I celebrate.
     So yes, I will probably venture out on Black Friday, for just a bit. I don't know why I continue to do this, but I do. I dread it, but I'm out there with the rest of the world.   I would  rather stay at home with my family, browsing and eBay, shopping in my jammies while curled up on the sofa with a hot cup of coffee, but off I will go, armed and ready, headed to "the maul," celebrating the season. It's my Christian duty.
         And if you decide to venture out, be sure to have a list and check it twice. Be well-hydrated and well-rested. Carry a stash of energy bars and a large bottle of Purel. Update your will and say your prayers.  Plaster a "Merry Christmas" grin across your face, stick a sprig of mistletoe in your hat, and  hum a few bars of "O, Holy Night!," Then, strap on your armour, choose your weapons, and advance, or cash-advance, whichever suits you best. You're ready for battle.
     And if you bump into me,  "Merry Christmas" friend, peace and goodwill,  but I spied that bargain first.

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