The Washington Times-Herald

December 3, 2011

Traditional Shopping?

By Todd Daniel Lancaster
Washington Times-Herald

WASHINGTON — I saw something recently on Facebook that made me think.

A friend re-posted, “I love going to the Dollar Store, because I feel like when I do, I don’t have to dress up like I’m going to Walmart.”

I couldn’t tell whether I should laugh, cry or simply load up in my favorite Magilla Gorilla pajamas and head on over to the Dollar Store.

I think it says a lot about what our expectation have become as far as shopping goes. Maybe it meant she needed to be dressed comfortably and loose, a little like a ninja, because shopping is now an event where speed, stealth and viscousness are rewarded.

Or perhaps I have just become so high-faluten that I never realized my fancy tuxedo T-shirt was sending mixed social messages, when I was buying my 99 cent shampoo at Dollar Store — but I don’t think so.

In fact I believe I’m enough of a hillbilly that I’m pretty sure the best day I have in any calender year is the day when McDonald’s announces the annual reboot of the McRib. Between enjoying that saucy sensations and the free Coke glasses they also gave away recently, I would say my upcoming anniversary celebration has just about taken care of itself.

However, with all class warfare and domestic issues aside, I return to the swirling holiday shopping season and what our expectations have really become in a world where Labor Day now kicks off the Christmas spending season.

Now I’m the first one to be drawn to the latest electronic trinkets and beads, and I too would have probably traded Manhattan to the Dutch for a new iPhone with an unlimited data package. However, I would say Black Friday has truly “jumped the shark.”

My wife said this was the first year where not only did Thanksgiving seem like the opening act for Black Friday — she felt like it just about snuffed it out.

Many store doors were opened at 6 p.m. on Thursday this year, so shoppers could hunt for the 65-inch TV the way Ahab once pursued the elusive white whale. With steely determination shoppers stretched forward on the bow, ready to harpoon iPads, Playstation3s or any other Chinese-assembled electronic device who by their very existence guarantees our economy will never truly recover.

So when exactly was the phrase “Christmas morning glee” replaced by “turbulent retail frenzy.” I guess it was at about the same time we swapped the story of the birth of the savior for “violence erupts as shoppers are pepper sprayed.”

I’m sure if one were to look long and hard at so many of those Super 8 movies or Kodachrome slides tucked in the back of grandma’s closet, they might have noticed that all that was under the tree might have been a pair of roller skates, a Lionel train and a little Aqua Velvet.

Look, I’m not calling for sensible gift giving, family gatherings, good food and a couple of relaxing days with friends celebrating a little time off — that would be crazy. At least not when the alternative is getting up at 2 a.m. to sit in a tent at Best Buy, so you can put yourself deeper in debt to buy things for people who you have made an effort to avoid the other 11 months of the year.

However, in a world where “disposable” describes automobiles, televisions, computers and marriage, it is probably not unusual for people to continually want to continually upgrade. Heck, I’m sure today even the Bionic Woman would grow tired of the Six Million Dollar Man and want to upgrade to the 12 Million Dollar version with the wireless 4G and 160 GB of storage for iTunes.

As the old Christmas carol goes, “Deck the walls with 70-inch flat screens...”

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T.D. believes in shopping in the traditional manner — have his wife do it. One can write him at tlancaster@washtimesherald.com.