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 firstname.lastname@example.org.