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Giving The Gift

I’d rather suffer through the blistering cold apocalyptic windchill...

The roads are slick with ice, be it crystal clear or insidiously black. The radio stations go from bad to worse as what no one could conceivably call ‘actual proper music’ is played. Off goes the radio and on goes the curated playlist from my phone. The traffic’s bad, I knew I should have left earlier. I mean, I did leave early. I’m saying I should have left earlier than early. That being said I’m going to maintain a calm and relaxed sense of self. Driving under impatient and super stressed exigent circumstances is always a potent chemical cocktail of boldly bad decisions, waiting in the wintery wings.

White knuckling the steering wheel and shifting from Drive to Neutral as you slowly slide down a horrendous hill behind a group of other drivers, most of whom conveniently forgot to change their summer tires, can really age you up by several years. Most drivers on the road don’t tend to be the most forward-thinking people. Now I gotta do some quick mental math (something I’m rarely if ever actually good at) and find an alternative route in order to get to the mall. If a straight line is ‘as the crow flies’, then my crow had to bounce back and forth like a silver pinball in an epileptic nightmare pinball machine.

I finally get to the mall, but the Herculean trials are far from over, for dear old MJ. Now to find a parking spot. Hoping to find an empty stall far enough away from the rest of the madding crowd. Does that mean I have farther to walk in order to be fully embraced by the warmth of the heated commercial and mercantile building? It does. I’d rather suffer through the blistering cold apocalyptic windchill, just so I don’t run the risk of having some rando scratching, bumping or love tapping either side of my car doors. And no, it won’t buff out. Don’t worry, I’m just delusional, because apparently every single parking spot within the next five area codes are all booked until next spring. Well, there goes that dream. What next proceeds can only be best described as a “Mad Max game of musical chairs”.

After what feels like an interminable length, and an embarrassing amount of gas used, I finally get a parking spot to myself. Once more into the breach, dear friends. It’s as if the pandemic never happened, because almost nobody is wearing masks. Hundreds upon hundreds of those maskless people mill to and fro ‘bout their business. Now to get down to the nitty-gritty of gift- giving. Or the proper procurement of such a kind and noble gesture.

For the sake of simplicity, my family has scaled down on gift-giving, where we each pick a name out of a hat and just buy for that one person for Christmas. This year I’ve been tasked with buying for my brother’s new girlfriend. Sounds easy enough, right? Well just try these plot twist pants on for size. I’ve never met my brother’s new girlfriend before. I’ve heard good things about her and seen pictures, but I know next to nothing about her, other than that. Does that make me a bad sibling? You think my brother’s being catfished? Maybe I’ve just watched too many true crime docs.

I know her name and that’s about it. Now I’m swimming through a sea of increasingly agitated people while furiously texting back and forth simultaneously with my brother about what his new girlfriend wants for Christmas. Out of Pavlovian tensive habit, I find myself drawn toward the Electronics Section of the store. Am I looking at all the video games behind the employee-locked-glass cases out of pure self-interest? Guilty. As charged. If I buy a video game that she might be vaguely interested in, I can maybe use that as an arguably passable while still undoubtedly utterly flimsy excuse to buy something for myself. I get a text from my brethren informing me that his new partner doesn’t like video games at all. There goes that second dream.

I see a nice pair of headphones and ask my brother what her favourite type of music is. He says, ‘she doesn’t like music’. Excuse me? She doesn’t like music? Who doesn’t like music? Everybody likes music! Fine, what does she want for Christmas, then?

I wait in Cellular Hell for my brother to get back to me. I spiral down the mental Cliffs of Insanity as I wait for those three textual bubbles. The Ellipses of Eternity. He finally gets back to me with “She doesn’t want anything for Christmas.” Whereas, I’m particular and I am specific. Shocking, I know. I also know what I want, and I go for it. When people don’t know what they want, my Type A brain has basically zero way to even compute that other people don’t all think the exact same way as me. But they should. Obviously.

Alright, that’s it. I trudge toward Guest Services, while wading through a toxic cesspool of other shoppers jingling along the way, to get that one special gift for that one special someone.

Like Steve Martin’s incredibly R-rated F-bomb rant in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, as dryly and as slyly as humanly possible, I go up to the front desk and ask for a blank gift card. I put the very gift-exchange limit on the card. And no, not for any one store in particular. It’s a gift card for any store in the mall. This could not be any more general. If my brother’s new girlfriend whom I’ve never actually met, and doesn’t like music or video games, who could also potentially be a paid actor, doesn’t like a blank gift card for any store from this mall, then I honestly don’t know what to tell you-- or her.

Now, where did I park my car again? slips on a patch of ice

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!


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