by Cynthia V. Nasta
Okay. You’re right. I’m probably too late already. I should know better by now. After all, I do know the signs.
I have just visited America’s ubiquitous, but friendly, neighborhood grocery/pharmacy/hardware/camera/paint/cosmetic/ apparel/stationery/toy/liquor/small appliance/electronics … store.
And although my plastic saguaro thermometer is still registering temps around 102, corporate “team members” bearing tattoos and names like “Ashley” and “Josh” are trolling the aisles, enthusiastically grabbing visors and sunscreen tubes that are bravely clinging to the shelves like so many barnacles on a Cape Cod sloop.
By VJ Day the “team” has tossed them, along with the last jumbo red and white beach bag and matching Day Glo flip-flops into a cold metal bin to await their ugly fate by “Clearance.” From there, it’s a millisecond blip on the retail radarscope to salute the slogging millions — and their kids — for Labor Day and, of course, Back to School. In the time it takes to say “Taft Hartley,” the Made in China U.S. flags, Made in China barbecue grills, and Made in China collapsible green canvas camp chairs will have all been rounded up and corralled to the back forty.
Almost simultaneously, the Back to School Supplies will have skated into view: hundreds of glitter-glitz pencils, shiny stiletto compasses, black-marbled notebooks, and fat, pink, pig-eared erasers strategically set about so that no morally conscionable Mom or Dad would think of leaving the store without loading up these educational door prizes “for the kids.” The prizes, it seems, are designed less for the children, who at age two can launch an ITunes widget and download their baby pictures from a digital camera, and more for their pathetically techno-deprived parents who are still trying to figure out how to program the VCR.
The perversity of these school displays is such that they seem to dredge up some deeply buried Freudian verlangen for the days of yore when kids strapped their books together with a Boy Scout belt and skipped to PS 90 with Spot the Dog happily running and barking beside them. Right.
But I’m meandering here and it’s critical I move swiftly because the floodtide of burnt umber paper autumn leaves threatens to clog the path to the Halloween rack and the witches’ costumes. With temps dropping to a nippy 95, I definitely want something cool and diaphanous to keep from perspiring through my eyeballs.
“Ahhhh! Great! Over there! … just what I’m looking for! Groovy! And the Snickers bars already marked down 50 per cent! And it’s still August! — I’m nine weeks ahead of the curve!”
“Not so fast, girlfriend,” growls my retail guru. “Then is then and now is now. Do you realize you have only 115 shopping days left to Christmas?” My euphoria is burning off with the speed of a cheap bayberry-scented candle. If I’m extremely fleet of mind and foot, have sailed my Halloween purchases through the computer bottleneck at “Fast Checkout,” darted out the door and arrived home before Rosario, my pet Chihuahua, has chewed the other leg off the Barcalounger, I consider myself lucky. Very lucky.
But most of us are not. Lucky, that is. We’re stuck at the register, muttering uncouth verbs and sweating into our sandals while Customer “Chuck,” a credit reject from the Highball Casino and Lounge, is feverishly rifling through his twenty odd plastic cards in hopes of finding one that screams “Bingo!” This scene is not lost on “Glenn,” our elusive store manager, who has ingeniously started to pipe in Musak.
At first we can’t quite make out the melody since the sweat has backed up and is now plugging our eardrums. But in a few minutes it has become abundantly clear that we are hearing the opening strains of “White Christmas”!
“Der Binger” is at it again! I haven’t even eaten my first bag of candy corn! I can’t believe this! Where am I? STOP THAT SONG! I HATE THAT SONG! I HATE THE SNOW IN THAT SONG! I HATE SONGS! I HATE SNOW! I’M NOT READY! I’LL NEVER BE READY!
Suddenly, I feel my Inner Child grab at my thorax. “Wait a minute, fraulein. You must get a grip. You have 115 shopping days left till Christmas. It’s not that bad. If you begin right now you should be able to pull it off by Kwanzaa AND get a real jump on Easter. Comprende? There now, don’t you feel better?”
Within seconds of this soothing dialogue, a four foot white rabbit appears. “Twy a sample of our new goormay hazelnut and bwee Belgian chocolate bunnies?” the animal squeals. “They’re imported from Tywolia. And if you buy now, we’ll give you our pwe-season special pwice — 90% off.”
“Sure, why not,” I grunt. I grab the chocolate blob from the rabbit’s furry paws and sink my teeth into the blob’s head, ripping the ears off first. “Hmmmm, not bad. Not bad at all. Give me ten dozen. I’ll put them in the kids’ Christmas stockings.”
“Thank you veh-wee much,” the rabbit coos. “Have a veh-wee nice day.” Then he hands me the bunnies, hops over the register, cartwheels through a twenty-foot flashing neon Valentine’s heart and disappears into the mist.
Was it my imagination? Or did I see him fling shamrocks from his basket while he was bouncing out the store? Please, someone, tell me he’s not singing “Oh, Danny Boy.” PLEASE! …I’m begging… Pwetty pwease?
Cynthia Nasta is a writer who has called Sedona, Arizona, home for the past 38 years. Originally from NYC, she has been a long-time community activist and is now currently involved in revitalizing her neighborhood–the “Living in Harmony” project.