‘Twas the (Penultimate) Night Before Christmas…

Posted on December 24, 2008

Sorry folks, no profound thoughts today – just the random happenings of a random day.

“When something is lost, something greater is returned.” I suppose when the great wordsmith Terry Pratchett wrote this, he was telling us to look for the good in the calamity of our life. However, if you’re as disorganized I am, that saying takes a whole new meaning.

Namely, that when you’re scouring your room for something (like an old PSP game), you find something much cooler instead (a $25 gift card). It had no obvious expiration date, and I was suffering a major case of cabin fever, having barely left the house since the end of October. You can guess what comes next.

That’s right – Toys R’ Us, Times Square, two days before Christmas. I am a certified madman.

One might compare the scene there to the evacuation of Dunkirk – a tense order barely imposed on the entropy of evacuating shoppers, most of which are tired, hungry, and seriously regretting their procrastination;  a sense of inevitability as you confront the giant evacuation checkout line that wraps several times around the department floor. There are children, nieces, nephews, and grandkids to surprise this Thursday, and so, economic crisis or not, it is a ritual they endure. Browsing for the best way to blow your $25 requires an ironclad will.

Ah, Christmas in New York. There is that tree in Rockefeller Center, Santa in Herald Square, and lights, banners, and wreaths on every street corner, but there’s even more, if you know where to look.

  • It’s waiting on that checkout line, watching with amusement as mommy restrains Junior from picking up every single game in sight.
  • It’s staring at the billboards in Times Square for a whiff of news – two wars, a sinking economy, and a Madoff associate who took his own life for fear of being forced to live like the rest of us.
  • It’s ducking into the withering cold, carrying half your body weight in oversized shopping bags, pushing your way through the crowds like blood cells in a coronary patient’s heart.
  • It’s riding downtown to Union Square, smiling at the booths selling various esoterica – from baby Buddhas to “Baby Seals for Obama” Tees.
  • It’s lounging at a table at Starbucks, nursing a $6 latte in a red snowflake-labeled cup, waiting for your friends as the soles of your feet recover.
  • It’s knowing that the area will never see such a burst of activity again – until it comes time to return all that swag.
  • It’s meeting friends for dinner. “What’re you up to these days?” “Oh, I’m…in between jobs”. In between. Because the only meaningful definition of life is what happens to pay the bills at the moment.

But it’s all a tradition we’ll gladly cling to – holidays are a sort of anchor in the lives of many. Because even if we don’t know whether we’ll have a job tomorrow, we’ll always have Christmas. Here’s looking at you, kid.

» Filed Under Books, Everything and Nothing


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