The View From Here: Of Last Minute Shopping And The Great Elf Shortage Of 2016
By Ken DeLaat
When word came into N3 World Headquarters & Poinsettia Palace regarding the necessity of being in our regions fair metropolis to the south for a meeting Thursday it was decided to brave the masses and see what was happening in some of the popular Grand Rapids shopping emporiums. To drink in a bit of Pre-Christmas activity when crunch time has arrived and desperation rules.
I steered clear of the malls because they feel all too similar to a major airport where a sea of anonymous citizens meander about at varying speeds under eerie lighting without a single trace of happiness in their countenance. Years ago I accompanied my daughter, Lesly to the mall in what must have been...
...a weak moment given my aversion toward these dreary retail realms seemingly requiring more shoe stores than states in the Union.
After noticing the steady stream of dour expressions I said “Let’s see how long it takes to find someone smiling.”
It felt like an exercise in eternal gloom not counting the laughter we shared as the time between encountering even the slightest of grins grew ever longer.
But I digress.
I stopped at Trader Joe’s finding an interesting group of shoppers who were buying up products as fast as the uber-polite staff could re-stock the shelves.
Of particular note was the wine section where bottles flew into carts grabbed by folks who attacked the shelves with a frenzy equal to what one might experience with a pack of hungry dogs in a bacon factory. I was uncertain as to whether the run on vino had to do with gifts or a way to de-stress once shopping was done, but it seemed rather certain that many of the bottles would never see wrapping paper nor make it past Christmas Eve.
Overall their stock looked enticing and they seem to know just how to place things since the register teasers were also disappearing with rapidity. It seemed like a hive of sorts with loads of activity and people continually leaving and arriving with bee-like swiftness and efficiency.
Next was a pause at Shuler’s Books where the atmosphere altered completely. If you paid attention there was still a bit of gift angst abounding there and folks were picking up items and looking them over and over indicating an indecisiveness combined with just wanting to find anything for their giftee at that point and be done with it.
Being a book store however people were considerably less frantic than the previous stop and attempted to maintain some level of decorum that a venue such as Shuler’s seems to inspire.
Not so at Target.
It was a madhouse of activity with customers and staff sharing the look that spoke to the weariness toward their particular tasks. Both groups seemed like marathoners getting close to the end but having to conquer that one last hill. Shoppers seemed frustrated by what they could no longer find and staff, I imagine, were frustrated by shoppers who have waited until now and were complaining about not being able to get what they wanted.
Interestingly though both groups, true to the season, were holding up well despite the bumps in the road and interacting with the congeniality usually shown by small children striving to stay on Santa’s good side as the Big Day approaches. Perhaps the carols that must have long since been ingrained into brains of those who work there gave the mutual frustration a bit of a festive feel.
Then came the drama.
A Mom in distress was closely tailing a staffer into the Christmas section where he scoured the shelves in vain looking for the item she kept continually repeating a mournful lament about.
“You have to have an Elf on the Shelf. You just Have to. They’ll be home later and I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t have one. I’m praying you have one just one.”
Sadly, they were gone. He called in help and they scanned the inventory in search of a possible extra that had somehow gone unshelved but alas, there were none to be found.
She stared at me a bit wild-eyed.
“They don’t have them anywhere. I’m not sure what to do!” she exclaimed clutching a bag to her side.
Being a sympathetic sort I listened to her plea and made an effort to help.
“Could you have misplaced it? Maybe it was put somewhere and forgotten for the night. Some people move them to rather, uh, unusual places at times.”
“No, it was the dog,” she said opening the bag pulling out a once smiling EOAS who had lost his nose as well as the better part of his left cheekbone to the growling Grinch.
“Oh. Yeah, ouch,” I muttered.
Groping for something that might help solve her dilemma I offered, “Well what about getting this bigger doll-like elf and telling them it’s his big brother sent down because the original one had breached security by getting into a scuffle with the family dog thus requiring him to recuse himself from nice/naughty observational duties and go back to working on toys?”
And while in my mind it seemed like a good fallback position the concept wasn’t exactly embraced heartily by the distressed damsel.
In fact, it is truly amazing how universal that particular type of look can be among women who have shared the experience of having husbands.
Some favorite Christmas Quotes to help supply a little levity to the season:
“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer.... Who'd have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? ” Bill Watterson ‘Calvin and Hobbes’
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin.” –Jay Leno
“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly." – Andy Rooney
“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” –Garrison Keillor
Regardless of whether your elf on a shelf falls victim to an overly protective quadruped or your lights toy with your emotions by periodically malfunctioning it is hoped that each of you embraces the season and fully enjoys the day in the custom and manner you choose.
And hey, by the way, thanks for reading Near North Now, thanks for all the positive comments and emails of support and we even thank you for those suggestions regarding the editor finding another line of work.
I mean, you’re kidding and all, right?
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