Hump Day: The Christmas train is rolling; let me off!

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

This is the period before Christmas that I actually don’t like. It’s that time when the train called Christmas Day is barrelling down the railroad track and we’re staring right at it with no choice but to get ready or get run over.

“All ready for Christmas?” everyone keeps asking. Well, yes and no. Yes, in that my shopping is done. And no, in that there are quite a few loose ends to tie up. But what makes me more nervous about that question is that I can’t admonish anyone for asking it.

I remember a cashier asking me in late November if I was ready for Christmas. “Ready for Christmas?” It’s only freakin’ November, woman! Now that the big day is in four days, it’s a perfectly legitimate question.

You’d think, though, that the person asking me this would know better. Do I look like someone who’s ready for Christmas? I just stood in line for 45 minutes waiting to pay for a talking doll and a Smurfs puzzle. Perhaps my incredible handsomeness confused the dear lady, but I’m not some weirdo who buys talking dollies and Smurfs merchandise as a regular part of my daily routine.

Actually, that would be a pretty good trick to play on someone who’s just asked you if you’re ready for Christmas – after standing in a long line forever and ending up in front of the cashier with tears streaming down your cheeks accompanied by some weird smell that would not be present had you been able to find the store’s bathroom in time.

“All ready for Christmas?” they would ask. “Well, yes, I am,” I would respond. “The last things I needed were this talking dolly and a Smurfs puzzle. I’m going right home to take a bath with the puzzle.

Then I’m going to put matching see-through nighties on me and my Talking Tammy dolly right before we settle down for an evening of painting each others’ nails and listening to our new Justin Bieber album.”

And somehow, I think the harried cashier would just respond like a robot. “That’s nice. It’s a very stressful time of year. Thank you for shopping at Johnny’s Store for Sickos. Merry Christmas!”

With that said, it must be awful working retail at this time of the year. Stressed-out customers combined with the sheer volume of people would be enough to drive a person up the wall. But a bit of common sense from workers would be welcome, too.

I was at grocery store the other day when the cashier did something so nonsensical that I actually got angry at her.

It takes a lot for me to actually get angry at a cashier. Mistakes or slowness are par for the course. Perhaps they’re in training. Perhaps they’re just having a bad day. And besides, if having a cashier who’s not the best is your worst problem that day, then you had a pretty good day!

Anyway, I purchased a hot deli item for supper along with a few other things, including frozen food and a box of chocolates for a Christmas gift. So, what does the cashier do? Puts the hot deli item at the bottom of a bag and places the frozen food and chocolates right on top of it.

I was visibly angry and told her she shouldn’t have done that and then proceeded to rebag the items in quite a haughty and non-Christmasy fashion. She didn’t seem too disturbed by it and replied that she didn’t know the deli item was hot because the packaging had handles on it. Uhm, dearie . . . that’s because it was hot and there are handles so you won’t burn yourself. Some people’s children!

But in fairness to retail and customer service workers they can sincerely be trying their best only to not have a hope in heck of pleasing or satisfying a fussy or rude customer. My son works in food service at the moment and the horror stories he comes back with leave me shaking my head.

It is not uncommon for customers to belittle him, purposely try to confuse him or treat him like he’s scum in order to make them feel better about themselves. After one person changed their order three or four times (and smirking while doing it), he point-blank asked them why they were doing it. “Because it’s funny to watch you have to change everything,” they replied. I kid you not.

It takes extra patience to get through the holidays. Just the sheer volume of slow traffic is enough to drive someone to drink. Add to that the seasonal retail workers who don’t know where anything is in the store, the shoppers who stop in the middle in the middle of crowded aisles for 10 minutes to gossip, or the few dozen lists I have on the go to make sure I don’t forget anything – not to mention trying to get everything done in order to take some time off over the holidays – well, it’s not exactly a “Peace on Earth goodwill toward men” atmosphere sometimes.

I’m just glad we don’t have any of the Black Friday foolishness they have in the U.S. It seems to be creeping north, but at least we wait until after Christmas when the Boxing Day sales bring out the vicious shopping urges in many of us.

I wonder if that little baby knew what he was starting 2,010 years ago in that manger in Bethlehem. As far as I’m concerned, Christmas really arrives when the shopping craziness ends at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Then, it’s Christmas – when the traffic is gone, the stores are empty and the churches are full. Merry Christmas!

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