Well, it's 'Winter Break'. (I love my archaic, conservative school's attempts at political correctness). Don't get me wrong, a true Libertarian at heart I feel as if we should not alienate groups based on their preferences of celebration during this time, be it Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, or any other of the numerous 'reasons for the season'. I will say this, however: you crazy Black Friday and day after Christmas shoppers are insane. For example, the 23rd started just like every other day during break. I woke up, lazily around nine, showered and went in to work in sweats (it was the day before Christmas Eve- what did they expect?). We got paid so I decided to take the fiance to a fancy dinner at Ruby Tuesdays (classy, I know) and go for some last-minute shopping.
I knew it would be a great night when, after both of us getting off work early (much to my delight), I picked him up to go to eat. I remembered during my drive over that Ruby's has a two-for-one special before five. It was as if someone had lit a fire under my bum. I yelled at him to dive into the car, and before he even had his door closed, I squealed into a turn taking me into rush-hour traffic. I did my best to weave and hurry through the cluster of cars on the relatively small main road. It didn't help that it was raining that day, or that it was the day before Christmas Eve.
Looking at the clock in my car with panic, he says 'We're not gonna make it! We only have seven minutes!', screaming back I corrected him, informing him it was purposely set three minutes ahead. I never considered that an especially genius decision until now. I squeezed through a yellow turn signals, cutting a sharp right onto a kind of alley way to the back of Ruby's. At this point, I felt like Jason Bourne and knew there was no turning back. Oozing through a stop sign (yes, oozing), much to the chagrin of a driver wishing to make a left to be in front of me, I barreled through the parking lot of a pediatric dentist and insurance provider and squeeled into a front-row parking spot in front of Ruby's. With six minutes to spare, Randall tried to be a gentleman and wait. I barked at him 'Go, go, go! Get the table! Booth! Non-smoking!' he turned and rushed into the restaurant. At this point I- of course- drop my keys, as well as my purse. Top Down. Unzipped. It was like an avalanch of things I didn't really need but carried with me anyways 'just in case'. I briefly considered leaving them, but catching the familiar pink packaging of certain products that shall go unnamed I thought better of it. I don't want the whole world outside Ruby's knowing I use lights with wings and an absorbent core.
Rushing into the restaurant, past the bored hostess, smacking her gum, I made it into the booth seat. Just in time, we got our order in. After high-fiving our frugality and sense of adventure, we settled in to enjoy our evening. The Sisters Fate had a different agenda. I proceded to call a friend, in a frenzy, needing her address to send her something important. After hanging up, I swallowed my soda, allowing it to go down the wrong way. I sputtered my drink up, covering the table in the evil little droplets. I continued to loudly, and animatedly (I couldn't help it!) cough and choke. The waitress, another patron, and Randall rushed to my side to see if I needed help. I squeaked out multiple "I'm okay"'s, but still they stood there, drawing the attention of all the other cheapskates. I finally calmed down, gulping my soda and wiping my watering eyes. After their dispertion, people still stared throughout the meal. We got an appetizer, a chip dip trio (awful, not worth how much we paid...although I'm just a biased, choking cheapskate). I dipped a chip apparently too fervently. The bowl flew off the plate, onto my pants, and landed on the table with a loud clang. In its wake it also took out an empty class and silverwear that was perched next to the edge of the table. The waitress, of course, rushed over to help causing even more people to stare than before.
By this time I knew I was a ticking bomb. It was only a matter of moments before the place fell to the ground because of me. After we ate and boxed up what was left, I hastily paid the check with cash, handsomely tipping the waitress (after all, I did almost cough up an organ onto her). We rushed out almost as quickly as we rushed in, a different gum-smacking hostess bid us farewell at the door.
As I ashamedly left the lot, hesitantly entering the holiday traffic, my fiance tried to comfort me. He told me no one noticed, and that he had a good time. I knew these to be lies, but decided not to punish him for them. They did make me feel a little better, after all. But my night was not over.
After turning, I merged into traffic smoothly and starte the drive back across town. We were on the road next to the mall, that the mall's parking lots fed into. At this time it was packed, drivers weaving everywhere trying desperately to get last-minute gifts. I couldn't blame them, however- I was about to do the same. I was fine until one lady decided to turn in front of me, so abrubtly I had to slame on my brakes and saw that I almost got rear-ended. Randall was thrust forward, because- of course- he wasn't wearing his seat belt. I bopped by horn defiantly to let her know she angered me. The lady in the massive SUV proceded to FLIP ME OFF and scream expletives out of her window. I noticed a child sitting in a car seat in the back. I also noticed she was smoking. Win. This woman, this brazen BEAST of a person dared flip me off. And scream curse words at me. In front of her (presumably) child. So much for the holiday spirit, eh?
Needless to say, I was enraged. By the time I got all the way across town, back to campus I was about to cry. I took the elevator to my room to change my clothes while Randall waited in the car. I didn't get really angry until, on the way down (I took the stairs) I over shot the very last step, tumbling forward. My stomach lurched with the sensation of sea-sickness and my ankle tingled with pin pricks of pain. I pulled myself up and limped to the car, about to call it quits for the day. I couldn't be so lucky.
I had to do my holiday shopping. All of it. It's a good thing I kept my list small and my budget smaller. Last year I spent an exhorbitant amount of money on my family and received the most paltry return one could imagine. Anyway, after the day I had I wanted to avoid Wal Mart at all costs. (I live in a fairly rural area and Wal Mart is like Mecca to the people in surrounding counties. I didn't even want to imagine what it would be like on this day). I went to a locally owned dollar store. Yes, I know- how terribly of me. I was tired and angry and it was the only other fairly cheap option. (I was soo not going back to the mall). After picking out a basket of items with Randall's help, I began to notice the tiny, cramped store begin to get more and more crowded. This comforted me. I wasn't the only cheapskate procrastinator out there. It seemed like, with the ecomomy the way it is, people are really prioritizing people on their gift list. Maybe instead of getting your daughter's boyfriend's parents that nice bottle of wine, you got them a basic and functional candle set from the Wal Mart clearance aisle instead. Which is fine with me, my cheapness is an aspect I'm proud of.
I bought some fun things at the store and wrapped them in camouflage wrapping paper. Yes, camouflage. It was all the store had left! It made for a good family joke one Christmas Day, though. Probably better still that I used duct tape as tags to write the recipient's name on.
After the dollar store, I forgot I needed conditioner. So I ventured to Wal Mart. Everything went smoothly, all things considered. It was overcrowded with lots of angry procrastinators and their children. I rushed in, got what I needed, and rushed out. I went home and started my novel. (I'm rewarding myself for good grades this semester with sinking into a delicious novel- Physick Book of Deliverance Dane). It's fantastic.
Don't get me wrong, I had a fantastic Christmas. But there, near zero-hour, it was a little touch and go for me. I was about to enclose myself in a black cloud of Christmas disdain- ready to bite the hand of anyone that dare pull me out. However, with the help of all the sparkly lights and shiny wrapping paper, I was pulled back into the spirit. That's what's funny about the holidays. As you get older, you may get caught up with all sorts of things around the same time- shopping, paying bills, etc.- but you never lose that feeling of excitement and anticipation of what is to come, even if it's only a faint glimmer, deep in the back of your mind.