Well, it’s another Christmas season and the little cynical kid in me is all revved up. I’m just getting over the repulsion I felt from spending Thanksgiving morning with my hand up a turkey’s ass and then enjoying the evening eating the stuff I shoved up there. Who’s the genius who came up with that fine cuisine concoction? Alas, post-Thanksgiving days are made for shopping and I am now in the mall parking lot in the front seat of a 2008 silver four-door Jeep, moving slowly.
It is the Hauliday (def) the over-indulgent time of year when the term “package” is less pornographic than plentiful season, indicated by the various flimsy snowflakes and myriad red and white accoutrements dangling from every light pole, flagpole, fence pole and North Pole situated above and around the car park area. Like the homeless man whose bags spill about his stolen shopping cart, the women here carry overstuffed packages on their way home to mollycoddle their offspring’s desire for immediate gratification with the added consequence of developing a generation of selfish and seemingly entitled youth. They’ve just suffered the Mallestation (def) the groping, shoving, bumpfest during holiday shopping and Storture (def) the unbearable wait for the cash register during the holidays.
As I travel down the first aisle in search of a temporary home for my vehicle, I experience the disturbing sexual intrigue of scanning automobile rear-ends, the strangely erotic tailpipes and gently slanted trunks making this trespass seem alarmingly sensual. The thought crosses my mind that I may be entering into auto-erotica – a term I’ve obviously struggled to understand ever since I gained a hold of my license right about the same time I reached puberty. The license plates entice me like secret phone numbers and I often find shameful R-rated humor in the phrases “are you pulling out or heading in?” and “did you find your spot?” Eventually, I just settle in and look for a place to park, and then experience the feeling a dog gets when you fake a tennis ball throw – over, and over, and over. Note: Based on the number of un-placarded cars in the handicapped spaces, stupidity may be a disability.
In these Lewis and Clark moments, direction is everything. Going Northward, the one hand on the wallet, lips pursed in a holiday whistle, head bobbing to and fro, brisk and anticipating giddy-up of the excited shopper heading toward purchasing paradise. Contrast this with the southerly stagger from store to Sedan, key dangling from fingers, bulging biceps toting gifts galore, and the frowned face of shopping strain that appears from one who desperately needs to find one’s car before one’s arms succumb to the weight of the bags, the same expression one gets when confronted with a sudden and unexpected bout of intestinal distress. For thirty minutes, I traverse the vehicular labyrinth, my anticipatory gaze peering above my steering wheel like a Ziggy comic, in search of some evacuees eyes – the recurring climactic feeling of accomplishment, followed by the gut-wrenching realization that she is simply walking on to the next aisle and fourteen other cars now have dibs on her spot, has become almost Greek in its arc. I pray for the lone gazelle. Moments later, I spot her on the plain, strolling slowly behind the other perambulators, keys in hand, the unbalanced packages causing that awkward limp/waddle as she pushes one bag with her leg in order to create space for the next step, her glossy white knuckles announcing frailty, beacon-like in their luster. As she struggles, she is prairie-dogging for her car and I stop at the entrance to the aisle, my internal weather vane spinning with curiosity as to whether she’ll turn east or west. Halfway down, she stops and I hit the accelerator, pushing close, waiting for that elusive but liberating beep and epilepsy-inducing blip of the brake lights as the car alarm announces her arrival. I tap the automatic window button and drop my glass, “you pulling out,” my giggling schoolboy red-face presumably disguised by the cold air now hitting my cheeks. She nods, and for a moment I am relieved, the suffering nearly complete. But then, the charcoal in the stocking of my Christmas spirit, “… if I can just find my car.” Her words land upon my window like yellow snow and the pain sets in once again. There she is, ten feet in front of me, hands to the sky, head tilted back, turning circles like Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain, her tiny Uggs-covered feet spinning and kicking wrapping paper from the sides of her bags like a yardworker’s pick-up truck. I uproot from this monkey cage and move on to other species of entertainment.
At last, I see my parking messiah, the lone man headed down the walkway, intent. Armed with three full bags and an attitude, the longish gait now striding with conviction, the left arm-swing aggressively pulling him to his vehicle, the gaze locked-in like a military pilot. This is a man who wants to go home, Now! I move the requisite twenty feet from his back end and wait for those glorified white taillights to signal his departure. And I wait…and wait…and wait. In these moments, there is an expectation of civility, the social tactfulness which implies that a car, which sits politely behind your rear bumper with a blinking signal and carrying a driver whose face resembles a combination of incredible surprise, overwhelming joy, and the three-sighed exclamation of pure frustration is probably, nay, certainly, waiting for you to get on your merry way. But then, we all have our routines, and this man’s practice includes securing his seat belt, the cell-phone plug-in, hair check, lips purse, cheek turn and admire, below-chin observation, followed by a reach back into the back seat to retrieve some evidently critically and immediately important reading material –although clearly it is the diagrammatically designed instruction booklet for his child’s new bicycle, the irreverent bastard – a slight recline of the driver’s seat, a glance at the mirrors, and the final shift into gear to engage those gorgeous white lights which shine like beacons calling me to Valhalla. He pulls back slowly, the sweeping arc beautifully managed, missing my front bumper by a clear yard, then stops for one final vanity check. Close to implosion, I allow him this one last gesture, the compassionate forgiveness of a man blessed with an open parking space during Christmas shopping season. And then he pulls forward, as do I, edging delicately towards my spot, my sanctuary, my caressing cradle of carhood, to see the front grill of another car pulling forward from the far side of my parking spot, and now fully entrenched in my space – MY SPACE! – and staring at me with a friendly smile through the front windshield of his ’04 Camry, a smile that suggests he never saw me coming, that he feels guilty about taking this spot, and that there is no fucking way he is moving. Christmas is about merriment, joy, the unadulterated season of giving. Although I am crying, I do experience this merriment, this joy, and the sense of giving, mostly now with my finger, straight up, from the middle, four soldiers down, the clearly denoted symbol of the holiday which all shoppers, merchants, mothers and fathers, and now parking lot victims understand. Bah Humbug!