On Sunday, I finally ventured out to do my Christmas shopping. Having slunk past the queues transfixed by the Myer Christmas windows, I elbowed my way through the crowds up five flights of escalators to the toy department … only to be stopped at the magical sixth escalator by a pair of security guards.
‘You can’t go up there.’
I and a handful of just-as-harassed-looking fellow shoppers made our way, as instructed, to the friendly lift lady. Who told us that the sixth floor was closed, and she was under instructions not to let anyone up there.
‘The queue to see Santa is a few hours long, anyway.’
‘But I don’t want to see Santa,’ I wailed. ‘I want to buy toooyyyys.’
‘One hour queue for that,’ she chirped, and I, grumpily, painfully aware that I had work to do this afternoon and all my Christmas shopping to do before I could get home to do it, was a bitch.
‘Well, fine then,’ I sulked. ‘I’ll go and spend my money somewhere else.’
The lift lady smiled, managed to look sympathetic, and waved me goodbye. She’d obviously dealt with sulky princesses like me before. As I walked off, I knew I was being unreasonable. More than that, I knew that a place that was actively turning customers away, that had security guards keeping them off the escalators, that had people queuing for an hour to hand over their money, would not care one bit whether I spent my money elsewhere.
They didn’t have the means to take my money anyway.
Yes, we have too much.
Still, as I wearily slumped from my fifth escalator on the way out, I paused to tell the information woman stationed there that if they’re not going to let people enter the sixth floor, they really should have a sign on the bottom floor to let them know.
‘Oh, they’re doing that again are they?’ she said, shaking her grey perm. ‘I was on the lifts yesterday when they did that.’ A knowing, wry smile. ‘I’m sorry love, but it’s just too much paperwork to get a sign made. It has to go though admin and then it has to be approved by management, and then by the time it gets down here … But I’ll be sure to let people know. Thank you.’
Random thought: the customer service at Myer is generally excellent. Maybe it’s partly because of the women approaching pension age who have learnt to handle annoying customers (like me) with grace. Good on them.
So, on concluding that as a society, we have too much, did I go home and hand-make gifts for my son?
No. I took my orgy of spending elsewhere. I went to Target, which was having 20% off toys, and gathered Lego, confetti glitter glue, a Wolfmother CD single, a Bionicles DVD and a comic book. (In the line, a customer handed me a spare 10% off everything voucher, an casual act of kindness that cheered me up a bit.) And then I went to AFL World and bought a West Coast Eagles cap and t-shirt.
I know he doesn’t need any of it, but it’s part of the whole Christmas ritual, and I’m stuck in it.
I’m too busy and distracted and generally frazzled by work and next year’s travel plans to do much about the problem of Christmas as a celebration of how spoilt we all are. I’m donating some children’s books to a worthy cause and taking F to choose a present for a charity Christmas tree. And my grandmother has asked for contributions of canned goods, pencils, paper, etc. to a woman she knows who is distributing these items to AIDS victims in Africa. So, thanks to her, there is that.
Maybe next year I’ll have a more creative and appropriate approach - though I’m pretty certain I’ll still be spending up big on things F doesn’t need, too. As, I know, my parents did for me.