Monday, December 31, 2007

The Ghost of Christmas Presents

Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I’ve learned some important lessons this holiday season. For instance, if you see the back half of a good parking space at Home Depot on a Saturday, that’s because there’s a big orange shopping cart in the front half. I think I also learned something about caring for your fellow man by giving him a prize turkey, but I can’t recall the details.

This Christmas was much more relaxing than I’m used to, as my wife Kara has finally trained me to get our Christmas shopping done early enough to forego the usual ritual of calling stores on Christmas Eve to find out what time they close. That’s a bad feeling, walking through the mall frantically, knowing that you can’t leave without finding a present for some important family member, when suddenly the metal grates start to come down over the store entrances one-by-one, trapping you in the middle of the mall and narrowing your gift-giving options down to the Piercing Pagoda, the Verizon booth and Dippin’ Dots.

The Dippin’ Dots stand must be the saddest place in the mall, besides maybe the dark labyrinth of hallways leading to the restrooms. I’ve never seen anyone actually buying Dippin’ Dots. The sign reads, wishfully: “Dippin’ Dots: Ice Cream of the Future.” This sign hangs over the lone dude behind the register, who dutifully tries his best to stay awake, patiently waiting for the future to arrive. Every now and again, curiosity will get the better of me, and I’ll peer over the glass to see various vats of colorful beads. Each flavor looks, in its own special way, like the filling of a bean bag chair. Perhaps it’s due to my lack of business acumen, but it seems to me that ice cream is much more likely to be the Ice Cream of the Future.

Now that Christmas is over, it’ll be a while before I have a need to head back to the mall, though I think I might already be experiencing withdrawal. My eyes have become used to the twinkling displays of Christmas spirit, a spirit that can be measured in good will towards men and/or kilowatt-hours. And it’s tough to fight the urge to give my credit card to strangers, or to keep myself from walking on dawdling people’s heels, waiting for the cue from Kara to spring around either side of them and reunite on the far side. The worst part is knowing that I’ll have to wait a full three months before the Christmas displays are rolled back out.

While there are many things I’ll miss about the mall, I certainly won’t miss Kara saying, “Hold this. I’ll be back in a minute,” as she hands me her purse and disappears into the dressing room, ostensibly trying on clothes to make sure they’ll look good on somebody else. If I was a smart person, I’d run out at that moment and plant some corn by the shrubs at the mall entrance, entertaining myself with some subsistence farming as the seasons rolled by in her absence. After the harvest, I’d have plenty of time to sit back with some fresh corn on the cob, picking my teeth and pondering the continued existence of wool sweaters.

You never hear anybody say: “I love itchy wool sweaters. The more itch, the better. If you can’t find any itchy enough, just cut three holes in a burlap sack and give that to me for Christmas.” Yet the mall is filled with wool sweaters. Who is buying them? It’s almost like the stores think that wool is the Sweater of the Future.

In any event, it’s nice to slow down and spend time with family instead of throngs of shoppers, even though Kara and I end up driving all over the Eastern Seaboard to see everybody. During the holiday break, if you took a picture of me and Kara, we’d show up as animated red arrows stretching our way across a road atlas. Still, it beats being the Dippin’ Dots guy.

Should old acquaintance be forgot, you can still email Mike Todd at


  1. Wow, a double feature this week!

    I feel the same way about wool. Maybe everyone does? Maybe people caught on to the fact that non-itch fabrics are far more pleasant and subsequently stopped buying wool clothing for themselves years ago? Maybe stores have just been pushing the same unmovable wool inventory for the last decade, knowing that it only sells at Christmas, because people will only buy it on the condition that they don't have to wear it? That must be it. Wool is the unwanted gift of our generation. Wool is the Fruitcake of the Future.

    Those Dippin' Dots marketing guys do have their work cut out for them. It's not easy to convince people to eat food that comes in pellet form.

  2. I just love looking at the tables full of in FL. There are some that look really good with flip flops. Maybe the Dippin' Dots Dude should start pelting passerby's with ice cream pellets - kind of like the lotion people who say, "Can I interest you in trying...." and they try to squirt you as you scurry on by. Well, it would pass the time anyway.

    Have a great 2008!

  3. I tried dippin Dots the arizona, and even then I didn't like them. lol

  4. Russ -- Ha, it was a temporary double feature 'cause I'm an idiot. Bet you know what next week's column is about.

    Carmel -- Yo, dude! Wool sandals, then? And I hate those mall people, too. Where did they come from all of a sudden?

    Burf -- Ha. Glad I'm not the only one. The one time I tried Dippin' Dots, I dropped the container and they went everywhere. The dude gave me a refill for free. So, you know, Dippin' Dots might not be as good as ice cream, but at least they have a good warranty.