The nuts and bolts of holiday shopping

November 30, 1996|By Rob Kasper

AS SOON AS the holiday shopping season begins, I start chanting this incantation: "Just pretend it is a hardware store. Just pretend it is a hardware store."

I do this when I find myself in one of those "other" stores, the kind of store that sells clothes or household furnishings. The kind of store you have to visit when you buy presents for people on your holiday gift list.

I do this to get myself in a hardware-store kind of mood. I am comfortable prowling around a hardware store. But I get uneasy when I have to spend much time in places where you are supposed to "shop."

Like a lot of guys I know, I don't "shop" for Christmas presents, I buy. Shopping means comparing and contrasting various brands, noting small differences in construction and price, feeling the material. Buying is quick. Shopping is lengthy.

I don't mind taking my time at the hardware store trying to figure out whether to get the brass screws instead of the cheaper metal ones. But when I find myself in one of those other stores, pondering the many shades of bedroom slippers, I get antsy. I want to bolt, to run home, to put the Barcalounger in the full-recline position, and watch several hours of televised sporting events.

So I chant my mantra. Then I try to examine the various styles of slippers with the same care I take when looking over different types of home insulation. I note the heat-saving features, the thickness of the material. I take a deep breath and tell myself that I have "shopped." Then I buy a pair of slippers, any pair in the correct size, and bolt for the exit.

Pretending I am in a hardware store is one of the coping tactics I use to get through the holiday shopping season. Another is finding the fastest route to the mall. I call this route, the shining path. It varies from mall to mall.

There

are some people, including members of my family, who doubt the existence of such shining paths. They claim my elaborately dTC plotted routes to and from a mall aren't perceptibly faster than the straight-forward, congested paths.

I scoff at such talk. I remind the skeptics that a trip to the mall during the holidays should be viewed as a tightly planned military maneuver, not a casual, family outing. Family members respond by telling me I need to relax, to participate in the joyful spirit of the season. To chill.

Usually a compromise is reached. I consent to go shopping with my family, but we have to travel the route I have plotted.

If, for example, the destination is the Glen Burnie Mall, I attack from the rear. Avoiding traffic on Ritchie Highway, I slip along Route 10, hitting West Ordnance Road, then turning left at a light, arriving in the nether reaches of the shopping center parking lot, not far from the Toys R Us loading dock.

When parking at the Gallery at Harborplace in downtown Baltimore, I enter the underground lot on the South Street side, which is the extension of Guilford. I never enter on the Calvert Street side. There is usually a back up at the Calvert Street entrance. But on South Street, the "shining path" side, there is virtually no waiting. It is easy to miss the entrance to this shining path and end up either in a loading dock, or in the driveway of the adjacent Renaissance Harborplace Hotel. That must be what keep the lines down.

For Towson Town, the mother of all malls, I approach from Joppa Road turning at Virginia Avenue and into the maze of parking garages. After snapping on my car lights, I drive to the roof. Up on the roof, there is always fresh air, and an occasional parking spot. And since there are no walls up there, I don't have to remember which pastel walls I parked by this time.

The Harbor Tunnel Thruway, a toll road, is my shining path to Eastpoint Mall from downtown Baltimore. Cough up the toll, take the turns at Northpoint Boulevard, then Eastern Avenue and you're there, babe.

But the trouble is, once you arrive at this mall or any other mall, you have to get out of the car, go in one of those "other" stores and "shop" for something like jeans. This year I'll try to trick myself into believing they aren't really jeans I'm looking over, they are drop cloths.

Pub Date: 11/30/96

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