Tis The Season

I never knew shopping at Borders during the holidays could be the new thrillseeking experience. Pulling into the parking lot, I see cars attempting to exit backed up deep into the underground structure, the occasional driver creeping over the center divide to face oncoming traffic, trying to peer ahead to figure out what is causing the departure holdup.

I am the face these daring drivers encounter under the ‘oncoming’ label, requiring me to demonstrate precise driving skills in order to avoid a holiday season, head-on collision. While a quick calculation informs me that such an accident would raise the interest in the ‘Guess what happened to us this year?’ greeting card enclosure (if I actually did one), I decide to opt for safety over drama. I move slowly and cautiously and snag a primo parking space thanks to my remarkable parking karma that materializes spots just like the onscreen movie-parking phenomenon.

Entering Borders, I can’t help but notice the lengthy line awaiting checkout. Holiday shopping in full swing. And I’m actually glad to be a part, having left my bah humbug home with my dog who has buried himself beneath covers seeking shelter from the recent chill that has arrived beachside, the kind of chill that will never make national news because no one much cares about the impact of fifty degree weather on thin-skinned Southern Californians.

I wander the store wrapped in wool coat and scarf fulfilling my consumer duty of impulse purchases from the bargain table. What thirteen-year-old boy doesn’t need to learn to juggle? Or a hardbound, black spiral notebook of staff paper for the budding composer? But of course. Ooh, I spy a book for mom, and the year’s running out so best pick up a new wall calendar. I arrived as chauffeur to a son in need of wheels and will leave as a sherpa.

But oddly, I am enjoying myself. I feel as if I’ve joined the club of revelers and celebrants. My cynicism is off hiding as I stand inoculated against its snarkiness by commercially packaged holiday cheer. In order to not be late for a dinner reservation, my eyes dart from the check out line to my watch. I’m cutting it close, so I slip behind the other eager purchasers in line. From where I stand, I can barely see the cash registers, but my anxiety over the time is quickly refocused because Borders is not run by fools. All along the check out line are tables of additional potential impulse purchases. Held hostage and in shopping glee, I pick up a book on how to combine Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations as if my family isn’t lifetime masters of the practice.

“We could get this for Grandma,” I say to my son. The book shows menorahs of candy cane candles and displays matzoh balls as snowmen. It’s kitschy enough to nearly mandate a purchase. But as I consider adding this book to my pile, the line picks up and starts moving. I toss the book back on the table, saved from a purchase I would definitely regret. A Christmas miracle…or is that Hanukkah?

And then I see the offering of all things optimistic, the perfect smile producer. Five feet ahead, a neat little sign affixed to a pole reads, ‘Average waiting time from this spot five minutes.

“Look, just like Disneyland,” I say to my son, but it is the woman in front of me who laughs.

Borders smartly plays us again. The sign works, for I instantly stop worrying about the length of the line. My body posture relaxes. I no longer feel rushed. ‘We’ll make dinner,’ I tell myself, believing the sign. Borders has sold me trust and optimism.

But I must question, did anyone really clock the wait time from that spot? Imagine a Borders’ employee, stopwatch in hand, calculating the exact place in line where five minutes would occur. How likely is that? But it doesn’t matter. I am so touched that Borders wants to calm us – and prevent bitching and moaning, not to mention a shoppers’ riot in its store – with this magical little sign, that I can’t stop smiling.

When the line speeds ahead, I celebrate Borders’ accuracy. It was definitely less than five minutes. In front of the cashier, I feel as if I’ve fully crossed over into holiday spirit. It may not be as exciting as climbing into a car for Space Mountain, but it’s not a bad place to be.


Girlplustwo said...

i love it. and all those books probably had a lot to say, but it was hard to hear them over the din and merriment.

Anonymous said...

this definitely put me in the holiday spirit and i so am that woman who would relax once she knows the wait time. that christmas/hannukah blend book would be a good one for us.

Emily said...

Ah, I feel most of my holiday shopping was more frustrating than rewarding...but I feel you can never be too wrong in a bookstore.