Beware! Here come last-minute shoppers

December 23, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

MAYBE FOR some the holiday shopping season is over, but not for you, big fella.

Maybe others have only the last-minute stocking-stuffer to pick up, or a couple of gifts to wrap, before they pronounce themselves ready for Christmas.

But you, with the clock ticking and your adrenaline pumping and the great temples of American retail merchandising still open for another 30 hours or so, why, you're just getting warmed up for the big day.

So this one's for you, Mr. Last-Minute Christmas Shopper.

Where others worry about finding parking spaces outside overcrowded malls, you see a challenge: How long can you leave your Honda Civic in the fire zone in front of Hecht's without getting a ticket?

Where others stress about having a limited selection from which to choose, now that everything has been picked over, your feeling is: selection, schmelection.

Your Christmas shopping philosophy, in a nutshell, is this: buy something -- anything -- and move on.

See, you're not hung up on getting the right clothing sizes for those on your gift list.

You're not a slave to brand names.

You're not bound by the artificial restraints of getting your loved ones what they actually want.

No, in the final frantic hours before the stores close, what you're all about is improvisation.

If you can't find that cashmere sweater your wife wants, no worries.

You'll just pick up a new raincoat for her.

Or a six-speed blender.

Or one of those pocket umbrellas, or whatever.

If the DVD player your elderly dad wants isn't available, you'll switch gears smoothly and get him a set of Sears Craftsman jack stands, in case he wants to work on his car in the driveway.

See, that's the kind of bold, savvy shopper you are.

You don't dwell on what the stores don't have.

Instead, you revel in what they do have left on the shelves: cheap cologne from Hong Kong, the debut CDs of third-tier rap artists, bad Christmas sweaters with illuminated frolicking reindeer, sample assortments of jams and jellies with the usual bone-dry soda crackers, ab rollers, loud scarves that even Teresa Heinz Kerry would find jarring -- the list goes on and on.

Moving through the mall, a 12-ounce mocha java from the food court swishing around in your gut and providing a steady caffeine buzz, you're all about speed.

Last year, you set your all-time Christmas shopping record: a whirlwind 90-minute dash through all four levels of the mall, during which you picked up six gifts.

This year, you vow to set a new record, one that will stand for the ages -- six gifts in an hour, maybe, or even 45 minutes if you hurl back an extra mocha java and really focus.

Let the nay-sayers scream that this isn't the way to do Christmas shopping.

Let them go on and on about how important it is to put some thought and planning into gifts for those you love.

Let them rhapsodize about the advantages of doing your Christmas shopping early, so you can catch the sales, so you're not fighting the crowds, so you're less stressed and more relaxed and blah, blah, blah.

Doesn't matter.

To you, the King of the Last-Minute Shoppers, it's all a lot of hot air.

See, stress during the holidays is not something you fear.

It's not even something you avoid.

On the contrary, you take to stress the way a duck takes to water.

Where others might find it uncomfortable to sprint through the mall two hours before closing time on Dec. 24 with a thin sheen of perspiration on their forehead, heart pounding and hands shaking from a lack of sleep and too much coffee, it's always worked for you.

Where others might balk at charging up the escalator steps three at a time and elbowing seniors aside to get to Nordstrom before it closes, for you it's business as usual this time of year.

So this holiday season, we salute you, Mr. Last-Minute Shopper.

You inspire us.

You entertain us.

But mainly you scare us.

Is that your Honda Civic getting towed?

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