A Moment of Silence
A few “Teacher Lady Tales of Christmas Past” to help you empathize with your brethren currently trying to just survive the trenches of Macy’s, Borders, Ann Taylor, Abercrombie & Fitch, Williams-Sonoma, The Limited, et al.
Dreaming of a White Christmas
A young, harried mother of 4 high-spirited boys basically crashed into this rather large, snooty “for the person who has everything store” where I labored one winter break during college. At the front of the store (why, gob, WHY?) was a display of very heavy, very expensive snow globes. The wee cherubs had apparently not had their Ritalin and each seized a snow globe and started shaking it like Bobby Brown used to shake Whitney. (Oh, Teacher Lady! Domestic violence is no joke! Shame on you!) I was quickly marching over there to stop this shake-a-thon when little Tommy (or Timmy – whatever) dropped a snow globe. There was a fantastically loud crash and pieces of glass and that fake snow stuff went flying. What did Mom do? I suppose she did what any mother of four boys under the age of 7 would do. She quickly looked around to see if anyone was watching – obviously instantly determined that I had no legitimate power, grabbed her kids and ran. That was fun. I enjoyed cleaning that up. Mom of 4 boys, wherever you are, if you never get another Christmas present in your life, it’s because ME cleaning up shards of wet glass (in short shag carpeting, no less) was the best Christmas present you’d ever get.
Big Things Come in Big Packages
One holiday season during graduate school, I worked full-time as a gift wrapper at a mall. Good times. I am still amazed at how demanding and bitchy people can be when something is available to them for FREE. Yeah, that’s right. Free (and damn good, if I don’t say so myself) gift wrapping. Three colors of paper: Red, cream and purple and two choices of bows – silver or gold. Pretty easy, right? Because seriously, if I could get somebody to wrap my presents for me (did I mention the “for free” part), I would be happy with just about anything. Happy Birthday wrapping paper? Perfect. After all, Christmas is celebrating Jesus’s birthday, right? Newspaper? A reminder to all of us about the “Good news” the angels told to the shepherds minding their flocks by night. Plastic bubble wrap? Just a visual representation of me bubbling over with holiday joy. And yet. Do you know how many people said, “Purple!? That’s not even a holiday color. And red and cream? How boring? Don’t you have anything with trees/stars/angels/elves/Santa/mood elevators on it?” And I had to stand there and smile and say politely, “No, I’m sorry. Just the three colors of really thick, nearly indestructible wrapping paper and if you’ve gotten a paper cut from it – as I have several - you’d think your thumb had been sliced open by a scalpel, but sorry, no. I can see why you’re upset when you’re getting your presents wrapped FREE of charge by me. However, I do have numerous paper cuts that have not healed and I am happy to sprinkle blood all over the cream-colored paper in an effort to make a festive snowflake design.” Also: Have you ever tried to WRAP a fucking croquet set from Brookstone? That sucker doesn’t exactly come in a box. Imagine trying to neatly gift-wrap a squirming, 25-pound child. It’s kind of like that. Except when you’re finished wrestling the stupid thing into submission, the giver of the croquet set makes an unpleasant face and says, “That’s not very pretty.”
Shook Like a Bowl Full of Jelly
I worked at Williams-Sonoma for two Christmas seasons. My co-workers were fabulous. The discount wasn't half-bad, either. But when I'm carrying a freakin' Kitchen-Aid mixer that weighs a ton AND trying to wrap it in the unweildy pineapple wrapping paper, do NOT cut in line to tell me that we're out of that stupid free cider and your kid wants some. And also, will we be making more (FREE) gingerbread soon, because we're also out of that, and little Mikey is starving. Because guess what? When there are 20 other PAYING customers in front of you, trying to get their stuff and get on with their miserable lives, YOUR "problem" isn't really at the top of my list. In fact, it's not even on my list, okay? Go to the food court and buy your kid some fried crap like every other parent in the free world. After all, McDonald's spends a third of its marketing budget trying to lure in your tykes, so go be the consumers they want you to be.
Now, I can't honestly blame shoppers for this one, because many W-S stores are a little crowded. I think it's fair to say that if you're the proverbial "bull in a china shop," you may want to send in your friend while you wait on one of the fake park benches in the middle of the mall. (Aside: When I was little, I was even more uncoordinated than I am now. I was often warned to be careful and not be "a bull in a china shop." For some reason that my therapist and I cannot yet figure out, I thought this was a HUGE insult - and also, equivalent to profanity. (Might have been due to the fact that I also misheard it and thought my mom was saying "You're a bullina china shot," which actually is an insult in many cultures.) When I got mad at my mother, I would mutter under my breath, "You're a bull in a china shop!" and felt evil and gleeful all at the same time. After all, what kind of a four-year-old was I, calling my mother such a horrible name?) One day, I had just assembled a lovely display of their cranberry compote or apricot chutney or some other fake-festive Christmas food. I had only taken two steps when I had "that feeling." I turned around in time to see a very tall, very thin young woman going to hug someone she recognized and her pointy elbow knocked into my chutney display, and - damn do those jars crash and shatter on those hard-wood floors. She said "Oops!" and then giggled and then also ran away. Sigh. Glass and cranberry compote. Also a lot of fun to clean up. Lots.
Oh, I could go on for hours. But I won't. Just remember, if you're shopping this weekend, the people who are ringing up your purchases and answering your questions and keeping your toddler from sticking a safety pin in an electrical outlet (this actually happened to me when I was working at A&F) have a LONG month ahead of them. Be patient. Be understanding. And for cryin' out loud, keep your bony little elbows away from the damn chutney!