The Sport of Christmas Eve

I will try this.  I will.No – this has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas Eve unless you’re me and you’re running around like a psycho trying to find those last-minute Christmas presents that you’ve procrastinated about getting.

In which case make sure you say hi to me if you see me out and about.

I just finished ringing the bell out in front of Macy’s and the sheer number of smiles and “Merry Christmas” greetings I got from the people coming in and out and donating was absolutely energizing to the point I’m pumped about my last-minute shopping expedition.  Throw in some coffee-infused Red Bull (or Red Bull-infused coffee; not sure…and I care even less at this point because I’m pretty sure either way I can run a 42-second mile right now).

And, truth be told, last-minute shopping is one of my favorite sports.  It’s not like football or soccer where the goal is easy – get the ball over the goal line.  It’s got more strategy than baseball and sometimes more contact than hockey.  You’ve got two hours and thirty-seven minutes to find gifts for eight completely different people.  The extent of planning you can do is determine which stores and in what order; anything beyond that you’re making assumptions that may or may not hold.  And the goal may seem easy – get presents – but it’s really not because you don’t know whether that’s actually possible by the time you’ve turned the ignition on your car.

You have to be agile – dodging people and rogue shopping carts is par for the course in this sport.  I avoid the all out shoulder butt (I try to be polite; I strive to be a nice guy after all), but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to slide my not-exactly-petite body between four inches of space that’s left when the three people in the aisle are standing guard over some toy.  Plus you have to be able to leap stray toys and such and dodge angry glares from people who are pissed off that you picked up the last Illumivor Mecha-Shark.

Eyesight is critical, too.  Hitting a 100-mph fastball from CC Sabathia?  That’s child’s play compared to having to gauge the level of legitimate gifts from halfway across the Wal-Mart superstore.  And when you make the determination that there’s presents to be had you have to be able to see through the stack of 1000-piece puzzles on the shelves at Target to see that someone stashed a Digi Fruit Clock back there hoping to be slick and grab it.

And while the holidays tend to add pounds to even the best of us if you can’t hold your weight then throw in the towel now on your Christmas Eve adventure.  Even 90-pound elderly ladies can throw themselves around better than a seasoned defensemen on the ice on this day.  You’ve got to have either enough mass or enough dedication to keep yourself upright while being bounced around like a pinball between all the other crazed shoppers determined to get the last Khet 2.0 that’s rumored to be three aisles over.

You also have to be able to think on the fly.  “OK, Wal-Mart is out of LEGOs and I need a gift for an 8-year old boy.  Should I opt for a Barbie and just tell him Santa must have thought he was a girl because of his obsession with the hair he hasn’t cut in two years?  Or do I go for an empty container and see if the “ooh look!  A BOX!” wonder still holds like it did when he was 2?  You’d be surprised at what kind of things are still around on Christmas Eve – with a little imagination you can turn $20 worth of miscellaneous stuff into a Christmas present they’ll remember…but probably not.

I’m just kidding – I don’t buy presents for people unless I have some firm belief they’ll like it which means Christmas Eve I have to have reviewed my list in advance.  To date I’ve only failed once on a present that someone didn’t like (or, more accurately, that they told me they didn’t like – I’m not entirely sure some of my gifts didn’t end up in white elephants, at the thrift store or dying horrible deaths as part of science experiments involving blenders and electricity).  And I don’t go with gift certificates, either – I either think through it and figure something out or you get air.  Unwrapped air, incidentally.  That may cause me an additional layer of stress but all I hear about that is: Challenge accepted.

I’m padding up and grabbing a cup of Starbucks coffee for my annual adventure.  I hope your Christmas Eve is as adventurous as mine is going to be.  No drama – just driving, dodging and determining.

Happy Christmas Eve, my friends!

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