Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Season Snapshots: Last Minute Shopping

I saw a nice family the other night as I got done shopping. They were sitting in the food court: mom, dad and three daughters who looked to be between 7 and 12 years old. What first caught my attention was that the three kids were wearing matching Santa hats. The next thing I noticed was that they all looked happy--ma and pa, and all three kids, genuinely seemed to be enjoying each other's company, and enjoying their respite over churros and and soft drinks during an evening of shopping. There was not a hint of frustration, of anxiety, of tension. None of that. And the Santa hats weren't some ironic statement. This was no hipster family. It was just good clean all-American fun.

The eldest and I swung through Borders earlier tonight. While we were trying to find a copy of Zombie Haiku, I noticed a plump middle-aged matron sitting in one of the comfy chairs. She was slightly shiny, about to break a sweat from wearing her winter parka in the store, and she looked kind of cross. She was talking pretty loudly on a cell phone, so I took that as an invitation to eavesdrop on her conversation:

"They said they were bringing a ham! I asked them to bring a turkey for Christmas dinner, but they're bringing a ham. I told them I said turkey for a reason, that's what was on the menu. No, they asked me why couldn't ham be on the menu! Can you believe that?"

She was, as my eldest observed, right on the edge of a major league spaz attack. I assumed she was talking about a family member or close friend, since she had apparently not only invited them to Christmas dinner but also asked them to bring the main meat course.

So, here's my question:

Who's the bigger dick in this situation? The person who can't follow a simple request to bring a turkey to dinner, and has to go improvising with pork product? Or the person who can't just be gracious and accept whatever meat product their loved one shows up with?

I will be tallying the results of the Germany or Florida: Amputee Criminal Holiday Edition! contest in the near future. I'm too busy coughing up half a lung to do it now. It will be a post-Christmas surprise, and if the winner is local, they might receive their prize at the Drysedale Awards on December 29.

Now, as part of my ongoing commitment to lazy blogging, I am re-posting this piece from December 24, 2006.

The Sprawling Ramshackle Compound Helpful
Guide to Last-Minute Shopping

Many people visit this website for useful, up-to-date information on important topics such as freaks, animal attacks and tasty drink recipes. Tonight I'm adding a new service: a comprehensive guide to last minute shopping. And by last minute, I mean, last minute. Shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve. Heck, even laster-minute than that. Thanks to the corporate slavedrivers at Walgreens, you can do your last minute shopping on Christmas day even, on your way to whatever family function it is you're going to. This sign says it all:

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Yes, I know it's a little blurry. But that's just how it looks to your average Christmas Eve drunkard, roaming desperately through the northwest suburbs, chainsmoking and swearing to baby Jesus that next year he won't procrastinate like this.

I used to tell people I did all my Christmas shopping on December 23 and 24, at Walgreens. I don't know anyone whose heart isn't warmed by opening a hastily-wrapped gift to discover the newest Chia novelty or a tasty Whitman Sampler. But now Walgreens has so much more to offer. Here are a few ideas:

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1) Check out the picture frame and photo album display. Grab a reasonably-priced frame and then wander over to the magazine section. Pick out a magazine with lots of nice pictures inside. Cut out the prettiest page and fit it into the frame. Everyone loves a beautiful piece of artwork!

2) Head for the toy aisle. The Walgreens closest to me added a second half of an aisle dedicated to inexpensive Chinese imports. They've got everything from toy soldiers to Floam to discontinued models of Barbie.

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3) Buy an appliance!

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You can get a staggering array of kitchen gadgets. Trust me, that special girl in your life will LOVE getting a brand new omlette maker! And she'll likely be even more impressed when she finds out you only paid $9.99 for it; chicks dig guys who are both thoughtful and thrifty.

Here are two useful tips for fitting in when you make your late night or early morning shopping run:

1) Smoke a lot of cigarettes right before you go inside. It seems like most of the people shopping at Walgreens after 10 pm on Christmas eve smell heavily of cigarette smoke. And maybe booze, but that might be aftershave. I didn't get close enough to be sure.

2) Talk on a cell phone. Hitting the Walgreens can be a team effort. For every brave Joe prowling the aisles, there's a resilient, maybe even long-suffering, Jane at home whispering guidance into his ear.

Just don't try and buy any Club Man hair tonic for your brother. They're sold out.

Merry Christmas!

And finally, I'd like to leave you with some pleasant, family-friendly holiday images:

You can't tell from this picture, but she's drinking this weekend's Sunday Afternoon Cocktail. The recipe is perfect for the wintry mix we've been experiencing lately. I call it Compound Coffee:

-1 cup of strong coffee or expresso
-1/2 teaspoon sugar
-1 shot bourbon
-1 shot Irish cream liqueur (like Bailey's)
-1/2 shot of Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
-Whipped cream

Place sugar in the bottom of a coffee mug. Fill 2/3 up with hot strong coffee, stir. Add bourbon, Irish cream liqueur and Gran Marnier, stir.

Top with whipped cream. Drink and enjoy. Feel the warmth. Fall asleep on the couch.


Mnmom said...

Hmmmmmmmm - think I'll make that drink after I arrive at the in-laws.

The woman-having-the-spaz should ask why a ham. Perhaps that's the only severance pay that family got along with their pink slip - big ham.

That family in the food court is having a wonderful time because the three daughters haven't turned 14 yet. They won't know what him them.

SkylersDad said...

I love the sound of that drink, and I love the rest of the post also.

I just like booze the best!

Merry Christmas sir.

Doc said...

Maybe the lady on the phone is Jewish? Just a thought.

As far as the drink goes, can I just have the Knob Creek instead? At this time of year I don't need any more coffee.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

How can you resist something that turns fun into a work of art? Pass the Floam!

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I'd say the hostess was 51 percent dick to the ham bringer's 49 percent dick.

Dale said...

God bless all you Bubses and your observational abilities. Next year, I aim to stop bringing so much ham.

Johnny Yen said...

While picking up some stuff for today's Christmas Eve dinner, I witnessed a guy screaming at the meat people at Jewel because someone had apparently screwed up what he had ordered. His children stood behind him embarrassed.

My first job was at the Walgreen's in Western Springs, Illinois. Christmas Eve was insanity. We could hardly get Chia pets, Vegematics, Clappers and appliances on the shelves before they were nabbed. People got angry, hysterical and panicky. It's probably a big part of why I start my Christmas shopping in August and avoid the rush.

Randal Graves said...

It was just good clean all-American fun.

Oh, so you just assume that they're not on drugs?

Watch out for Joe the Prowler, everyone. Especially if you're as drunk as he is.


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Anonymous said...

Hey Bubs... May you and yours enjoy and safe and Merry Christmas and happy New Year.

BTW... I think the lady on the phone is the dick. It's a hunch, I'm sure, but anyone that can yell like that in public over a menu choice within possible of earshot of people who are struggling to get by is reprehensible.

Anonymous said...

As much as I dislike a giant ham, I'd have to say spaz lady is the dick.

bubbles said...

Hey, if you are bringing the main meat dish, bring whatever you like- turkey, ham, beef, whatev. So what if the side dishes don't match - that makes it all the more fun for conversation. The person on the phone is an ass and probably doesn't know how to have fun. The drink looks marvelous... yum.

Cormac Brown said...

I'm going to go the Devil's advocate route and stand up for the shiny, whiny parka woman.

Maybe someone has high blood pressure in that household and as somebody who does, I can tell you that if I ate one of those Virginia hams cured in salt, salt, plus a little more salt? Three or four slices would have me more revved up than a quintiple shot of espresso and adrenaline.

If someone is elderly and they have high blood pressure, you would have serious problems.

Cormac Brown said...

BTW, Merry Christmas!

Mathman6293 said...

I think Walgreen's is a last minute Chicago tradition. I sometimes stopped there for last minutes after my Radioshack closed for the Christmas Eve.

Cap'n Ergo "XL" Jinglebollocks said...

Hell, I usually give GIFT CERTIFICATES to Walgreens. That way I don't even have to go up n' down the aisles!!

Merry everything!!

Distributorcap said...

i am bringing a ham to your house, made in the walgreen's omelette maker -- that has a sign for $6.99

can you send me one of the $6.99 toaster ovens.

and i will have you know that chinese junk is keeping our economy alive -- every time you buy a chinese toaster oven, an angel gets another $50 loan