Friday, November 30, 2007


Yesterday, I made my first post-Thanksgiving trip into retail world. In the best of times, I try avoid the retail world, around Christmas time, my hermit instincts take over and I start trying to figure out how I can do all my shopping over the internet, which I hear they have on computers now.

To most people, the Christmas shopping season is a wonderful time spent thinking about loved ones while trying to find that perfect gift. It’s capped by a day of family get-together time. In the meantime, the poor retail workers see the dirty underbelly of all this magic.

I spent ten years working at Target, and even though I didn’t drink back in my impressionable youth, a few nights working the floor at Target after December 1, and I was thinking how nice a bottle of whiskey would be. (Of course, part of me wanted it simply to throw the empty bottle at the woman who just finished calling me everything but a white man because she figured it would be fine to wait until Dec. 23 to buy her kid the Bouncing Tigger doll).

Black Friday is that much blacker if you have to wake up at 4:00 to trudge into work on a freezing cold morning, only to find 800 people lined up at the doors, and if you’re really lucky, you draw the short straw and get to open the doors for them. Fortunately, I never “won” that particular lottery. I suppose it could have been worse – I could have had to be into work in time to open the place at 4:00.

My favorite memory of those times was working as a cart jockey on Christmas Eve and counting the number of empty liquor bottles in the carts and strewn across the parking lot. Merry Christmas indeed; in those days my goal was simply to make it home without becoming the hood ornament of the beaten-up Plymouth swerving from one side of the road to the other.

All this went through my head as I wandered the store, not listening to the Christmas Carols piped in over the PA and trying to finish up so I could go home.

Fortunately, the express line was short. Unfortunately, the cashier was brand-new, and Lord, was he slow. As I finally made it to the front of the line and handed over my cash for my $6.64 purchase, I began to wonder why it was taking so long for my change to find its way back to me.

It seems that the cashier didn’t enter $10 as the amount tendered, so he had to figure out how much change to give me – the machine simply said I wasn’t owed any change, which he knew was wrong, to his credit, but unfortunately, his math skills weren’t far enough along to actually figure out the exact amount.

“It’s $3.34,” I said. He thanked me and handed over the change, which I suppose is a plus. I once trained a kid as a cashier who could neither do the math to give change nor did he know how much each coin was worth. Needless to say, he became a cart jockey relatively quickly. For all I know, the kid’s probably teaching math somewhere nowadays.

In any case, it’s basically my same annual case of the Christmas blahs. Once upon a time, I thought that when I was finished with retail, I would be cured of them forever; however, it seems like they hibernate somewhere in my soul, waiting to come out on Black Friday and plod along through until the New Year.

The lesson here seems to be that I shouldn’t shop. Ever. And I really need to dig out my Bah Humbug shirt soon. It’s time has come.

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