No one who knows my husband and I personally would dare disagree with the statement that we go a little insane at Christmas. We’re not crazy people with endless disposable income – it’s just that we don’t spend a lot of money throughout the year. Our hobbies are cheap ones (he mostly just plays video games, and I’m happy to write on my slowly-dying laptop), and we make a point of trying not to buy our daughter things regularly because we don’t want her to be one of those kids who thinks she can have anything she likes every time we go to the mall.
But at Christmas? Oh, we totally lose our minds at Christmas. It was bad enough when it was just the two of us buying each other geeky collectibles by the truckload, but the past few years we’ve had a kid to deal with as well and the resulting Christmas-tree explosion is a completely ridiculous testament to our mental states.
And I won’t say that the daughter doesn’t enjoy it, because what kid wouldn’t enjoy a mound of presents to open all at once? However, as usual, our adorable little mini-me shows us that quantity is not necessarily the be all and end all.
That little critter in her arms right there is a stuffed Rocket Raccoon. My daughter asked Santa (several times and through several different methods and mediums) for a Rocket Raccoon for Christmas this year, and so when she woke up on Christmas morning this little critter was sitting, unwrapped, at the front of the present pile with a little pink bow on his head. And you know what? She’s hardly let go of him since then.
I’m not saying that she ignored her other presents. Hell no. She loves the superhero action figures that she got, has been rocking out on the Barbie guitar that great-nana gave her, and I’m pretty sure she’d play Disney Infinity all day until bedtime if we allowed her… But this little Rocket Raccoon toy – this little stuffed dude who doesn’t do anything other than be hugged with a grumpy look on his face – has barely left her sight for the past week. She’s been sleeping with him cuddled into her arms every night, and he didn’t leave her hand the entire day when we went out shopping for Boxing Week sales. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that someone had super-glued him to her hand.
And you know what? There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Kids (and adults) these days are surrounded by technology, thousands of channels, hundreds of thousands of options, everything bigger and better and flashier and more expensive. And yet a kid’s favorite toy can still be a little plush that does absolutely nothing. It doesn’t play games, it doesn’t talk, it doesn’t move at all. And yet it’s exciting to her to be able to take him to the grocery store and buckle him in to the seat in the cart next to her. That’s pretty amazing, and something we should all probably think about emulating. Because toys (whether they be actual toys, appliances, electronics, or whatever else) don’t have to be the biggest, brightest, noisiest model with the most possible options to still be fun and enjoyable and make a person happy.
What were your favorite toys as a kid? Were they the simple ones or the complex ones? What about as an adult? Do you have to upgrade to the newest cellphone the second it comes out? Or are you the kind of person who is happy to snuggle up and enjoy an old movie favorite? Do you enjoy the simple things in life, or are you all about the complexity? Please share!
I’m going to change things up a bit today and talk about one of the bad sides of Christmas: the last-minute shopping. Now, I’ve been known to run out for a thing or two at the last possible minute, but I know what I’m getting into going in, and I don’t condone the insanity that plagues many shopping centers on the days leading up to Christmas. That includes wrongs perpetrated on the sides of both stores and shoppers. It’s just a foolish, unnecessary, stressful mess.
Just looking at that image gives me post-traumatic stress symptoms. 😛
I’m going to tell you a story of the year I worked at a Zellers department store during Christmas. I was seventeen, just trying to make a few bucks as a seasonal worker, and I was scheduled to work 9-5 on Christmas Eve. The stressors were many, my friend. Let me tell you about them.
Stressor #1: The store was packed beyond capacity. It was chaos as panicked shoppers – many of them who were literally just starting their Christmas shopping – shoved their way through the store. They were hurried and frustrated. They were fighting with store employees and fellow shoppers alike. And it was no one’s fault but their own, but you wouldn’t dare point that out.
Look, I know that everyone is busy around the holidays, and we don’t all have the luxury of being able to just run to the mall whenever we feel like it. However, if you start your shopping on Christmas Eve and start getting belligerent with everyone because the store is so busy, or because it doesn’t have the particular toy you need…well, I just have absolutely no sympathy for you. Even accounting for other holidays and store closures, there are over 300 other days in the year that you could do your shopping if you just think ahead a little bit. Your poor planning skills are not the fault of the other shoppers or the poor cashiers that you inevitably wind up harassing.
Stressor #2: Lay-Away is the invention of the devil. Approximately half the damn town thought they would be terribly clever by doing their shopping ahead of time, putting it all on layaway, and then come in to pick it all up on Christmas Eve. People, please don’t do this. You may find it hard to understand, but when five thousand people all make this same plan, and each person has several hundred dollars worth of stuff to pick up, it takes quite a while to track everything down and process it before you can leave the store with it. Honestly, the guys and gals who manned the lay-away counter that year deserved a goddamn medal.
Stressor #3: We were horribly understaffed. As is a common(ly horrible) thing with department stores, this particular Zellers regularly tried to run with as few people as possible, even during times that they knew would be outrageously busy. On Christmas Eve that meant that from open to close, each cashier had a constant line that never dipped below 8-10 people deep, and we had exactly zero help from floor staff. You know those people who are on the sales floor to help answer questions and the like? Well they’re also there to be able to hop on an empty cash if it’s too busy, but this night we only had two of them, and they were run ragged the entire night by crazed shoppers looking for toys that had been sold out weeks ago. So we had no help. I literally didn’t even set eyes on those two girls for the entire shift.
Stressor #4: There is absolutely no empathy and employees start getting treated like robots. I remember at one point my coworker was told that it was time for her to go on her break (the first one in over 4 hours, by the way). Since we had no one to take her place on the cash, I was instructed to facilitate the break by incorporating her line into mine (in other words, serve one of my customers, then one of hers, and so on, so that no one had to wait too long). It was the easiest and most fair way to handle the situation, but people flipped the hell out. They started shouting about how they’d already been waiting forever and that my coworker should have to finish the line before she got her break (which, as mentioned earlier, would never have happened). And more than one customer actually tried goading me into the fight by suggesting to me that my coworker was a “lazy bitch” who was leaving me to do all the work by myself while she buggered off to have a smoke or something. I barely got through those 15 minutes without punching someone.
Oh yeah, did I mention all the fuss was over a 15 minute break? Her first in over half the shift? Yeah.
Stressor #5: People kept trying to steal stuff. No, really. The one that sticks out in my memory is this one young kid – maybe 12 or 13 – who was buying a large, round Christmas tin. He looked visibly nervous, and when I picked up the tin I noticed that it felt too heavy. I opened the lid to find that he’d put a smaller tin inside…and another smaller tin inside that…and a further smaller tin inside that. I gave him a look, and he averted his eyes and pretended not to notice. So I scanned all four tins, took his money, and watched him leave the store in a big hurry, which made me wonder if he didn’t have something in his pockets as well.
And stuff like that kept happening all day. People hid shirts inside other shirts, or ripped open packs of socks and underwear to stuff extra sets inside. Sometimes they shoved small toys into the front of play sets with open-front boxes and pretended that they thought it was included. I never confronted anyone, and just scanned it all properly, but it made my frustration level go way up because I had to scrutinize every item everyone brought me.
Also, who goes through that kind of crap for an extra pair of socks?
Stressor #6: The goddamn registers didn’t work properly. I don’t know about Zellers stores in other parts of the country, but the Zellers store in my hometown had a reputation for never updating their sales properly, so the registers never rang in with the correct prices. On that Christmas Eve there were a mega-ton of sales going on, with completely random new ones being announced over the PA system every hour…and none of them rang up properly. Since a lot of the sales were things like, “25% off women’s shoes in brand x, y, and z” or “30% of kids clothes from sizes x to y” it was effectively impossible to keep track of everything, so every customer had at least one item that they insisted was scanning in wrong, but you had very little way to know for sure. And there were lots of sales that were very subjective, like “$20% of ‘Learning Toys'”, so then you got into arguments like, “Well, building blocks aren’t really a ‘learning’ toy, but they do have the alphabet on them so I guess maybe that makes them educational?”
To top things off, remember those floor workers I spoke of earlier? Yeah, normally we would call one of them to check into the sale for us, but as I mentioned they were completely inaccessible, and if you bothered to call one you’d just end up sweating at your cash register for 20 minutes while angry shoppers screamed at you to hurry up. So what did I do to handle the onslaught of people insisting that this item or that item was on sale? Well, here’s the thing: our registers did not need supervisor access to do a price override. So, yeah…you can see where I’m going with this. It definitely wasn’t the “right” thing to do, and I knew it at the time, but on that day, Christmas Eve, with hundreds of people crammed in the store at once and everyone losing their minds left, right, and center, all I really cared about was getting everyone rung through and out of the store as quickly as possible.
The entire thing was a learning experience for sure, and I have to admit that I’ve had a lot more empathy for cashiers during the holidays ever since that experience. Because here’s the thing; as much as you last-minute shoppers may want to get angry at the stores for running out of the item you want, it’s really your fault for not going out to get it sooner. And as much as you want to bitch out the cashier for things not ringing up properly, she’s not the one who programmed the registers and has no way of knowing the proper price for every item in the store. And as much as you want to kill the other customers who are getting in your way and holding up the register with an outrageous number of items, they’re just doing the exact same thing you’re doing, so hey, stop being such a hypocrite.
So my advice is two-fold, as we approach the final shopping days before Christmas and things begin to get a little intense:
1. Take a moment to stop, think about what you need to get done and get bought, and do your damnedest to work out a plan to do it before the last minute.
2. When you start to get filled with rage toward a store employee, stop for a second and put yourself in their position. Imagine if you were the one working a cash register on Christmas Eve (probably at minimum wage), getting berated by every single person who so much as looks in your direction. I guarantee you’ll suddenly feel a lot calmer and a lot less judgmental.
My final thoughts? Try to treat each other respectfully during the season. Period. 🙂
Have you ever worked retail during the holidays? Do you have any horror stories? Maybe a story that proves that not everyone is a maniac shopper? Please share!
It is my personal belief that all young people should live away from home at least once during their coming-of-age years (during college, for example), without any (or very little) help from family. I believe that it helps to teach life skills, financial responsibility, and a little bit of humility.
Also, you can wind up with some awesomely horrible stories to tell later.
When I first left home, my best friend (K), her boyfriend (S), and I had decided to rent a place together. Soon my boyfriend (now my husband, J) also threw his chips in , and soon we had decided to rent a small, two bedroom house that S’s aunt owned. Our first set of warning alarms should have gone off when we found out that said aunt lives on literally the other side of the country and had someone else handling the property for her. But we were poor college students, so we went to see the place.
Did I mention that a drug addict and her young daughter had previously lived in this house? When we went to see the place for the first time the very first thing we saw was piles and piles of trash everywhere. Big black garbage bags and piles of fast food containers littered the entire house. Every square inch of wall space in what had been the kid’s room was covered in crayon. There was an enormous pile of dishes in the sink, and since it was the middle of February and the heat was turned off, these dishes were literally frozen in a giant block of ice.
But, okay, we thought. We can fix it up. It’s worth it because it’s cheap.
So we helped to clean up, paint, and fix the place up (ignoring those warning alarms the whole time), and we moved in shortly thereafter. And things only got more ridiculous from there.
The day we moved in it occurred to us that there was no oven in the kitchen (we were stupid students, give us a break). We knew that there was supposed to be an oven, so we started searching. We found it in the basement (which was just a dirt-packed hole in the ground with a few support beams poking through it, by the way). It was just sitting there in the middle of the dirt floor. To this day I have no idea why it was down there.
It didn’t take us too long to realize that there was literally not a lick of insulation in the place. For the remainder of the winter we went through heating oil like it was drinking water, and once it started getting warm out the interior of the house burned like the seventh circle of hell.
Once the piles of snow in the backyard began to melt it became apparent that no on had mowed the lawn in approximately…ever. No joke. The grass was about four feet tall.
We found out that our dirt-packed hole-in-the-ground basement was home to a large family of white mice when they started poking their heads up through the heating vent in one of the bedrooms.
Fuses blew with great frequency, and were of such an old and outdated type that I could scarcely believe that they were able to conduct electricity in the first place.
We once found one of the cats pawing at a lump under the carpet, so we ripped it up and found a dead mouse. The body was not fresh enough to have gotten there after we’d moved in.
But the best part was the toilet. From the day we moved in, the toilet just didn’t seem to work properly. It made an odd clunking noise, and didn’t seem to have much pressure. One day S got fed up and just started plunging like mad. A few minutes later out popped…a spoon. But not just a regular spoon. This thing was so big it may have been more logical to refer to it as a ladel. And it had been flushed down the toilet.
That was the first place.
A while later J and I decided to move out into our own place. You’d think we’d have learned a thing or two, but we were still poor college students and there wasn’t much available to us at the time. We chose the basement apartment of a really old Victorian-style house because it was cheap and available.
Our first two days at the new place we had no water because the landlord’s brother-in-law was installing a new shower. It took the self-proclaimed handyman two days to install something that I’m quite certain I could have done myself in a few hours, and he left our water turned off the entire time.
There was a closet in the living room that went under the basement stairs. We opened this once, closed it again, and sealed all the edges with packing tape. That’s all you need to know about that.
Whenever something needed repairing the landlord would send that same brother-in-law, who would mutter and talk to himself, always appeared to be drugged out of his mind, and always took at least ten times as long as it would have taken us to fix the problem ourselves.
It took a little while for the damage to build up and break through, but one morning when the people upstairs were getting a shower our kitchen began to rain. The ceiling bowed so bad that it looked like it would collapse at any moment, and the light fixture was full to bursting with water. To this day I don’t know how we didn’t wind up with an electrical fire that burned the place to the ground.
But the coup de grace of this particular place happened after I’d left. I’d gotten a job at the paper mill and had to move for it, but J stayed for a while since he was still finishing his course at the college. When I left i took the two cats with me. And then the rats came out. J never actually saw any of them, but there was a hole chewed through the back of one of the cupboards that was big enough for a medium-sized cat to fit through easily, and one night when he was trying to sleep one ran across his feet. He moved out (very) shortly thereafter.
So what did we learn from these experiences (other than the fact that there are some outrageously terrible apartments available in our area)? Well, a lot, to be honest. Humility, for one thing. We learned what we could and couldn’t put up with. We learned financial responsibility (even living in these hellholes we still scraped and scrimped for other necessities). Most of all we learned that we don’t ever want to put up with that kind of crap again, and that we’ll work our asses off to make sure that never happens. And that’s why I think all young adults should have these kind of experiences at least once; because it makes you realize that it’s worthwhile to do what you have to do in order to get yourself into a happy and comfortable place that you can appreciate. And if there’s one thing a lot of people out there really need to learn, it’s how to appreciate what they’ve got.
Have you ever lived in a hellhole apartment? Been so down-on-your-luck that you’re eating Kraft Dinner five times a week? How do you feel about people who don’t appreciate what they have? Please share!
When I was in my third year of university, my two best friends, my boyfriend (who would become my husband) and I decided to move into a small house together. It wasn’t the greatest financial decision (at the time we were all living at home with our parents, rent-free, having our meals cooked for us and our clothes and sheets washed for us), but we were young and headstrong and thought it would be a wonderful thing to be out on our own. We learned a great deal from that experience, both good lessons and bad ones. We learned that dealing with finances is difficult, that living with others can be both awesome and painfully frustrating, and that there are a lot of things (cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc) that you just don’t grasp until you have to do them all the time.
And then there are the other lessons you learn by making this kind of leap…lessons like how sometimes the world is just sitting back and laughing at you.
The house that my friends and I moved into tried it’s best to warn us off, you see.
The house in question happened to be owned by one of the aforementioned friends’ aunt. She lived on the other side of the country and a had a friend look after the residence for her. In retrospect, the fact that our prospective landlady lived thousands of miles away probably should have been our first warning sign, but the place was cheap (which, yeah…probably should have been the second warning sign). Even bypassing those first two signs, it’s truly amazing that we agreed to take the place after having taken a walk through in it. The day the assistant-landlord let us in to look around was the first day he himself had set foot in it since the previous tenant had gone…a tenant who, as it turned out, was a drug addict. The story went that her family had shown up and essentially kidnapped her and her nine-year-old daughter, shipping the tenant off to rehab and thus leaving the house empty. Empty, in this case, is a subjective term. The tenant’s stuff, for the most part, was gone, but the house was certainly not empty by any stretch of the imagination. Every room was filled – and I mean filled – with bags of trash. The sink was filled to overflowing with dishes and, since the heat had been off for several weeks, they were literally frozen into a giant hunk of ceramic and water. There were pizza boxes strewn about and stains on the floors. The daughter’s bedroom walls were covered in crayon – every last inch. There wasn’t a curtain in the whole building. The place, to put it lightly, was a wreck.
Somehow we got past our shock, agreed to help assistant-landlord clean the place up, and took it. Young people are ridiculously stupid sometimes.
As if we hadn’t gotten enough subtle hints already, on the day we cleaned up the house to get read to move in we noticed something that we definitely should have noticed a hell of a lot sooner: there was no stove in the kitchen. The place where the stove should have been was simply empty. Confused and confident that the drug-addict’s family wouldn’t have bothered to take a large appliance with them when they left, we began to search the house. It didn’t take long, since it wasn’t a large place. We located the stove, inexplicably, sitting in the basement. Not only did this bewilder us (had the previous tenant simply never cooked? And if so, still…why bother putting the stove in the basement), but we soon found ourselves wondering how it had gotten down there in the first place. You see, the basement stairs were so narrow, that the boys literally couldn’t put their hands around it while trying to drag it back up. They had to lift it entirely from the bottom, taking it one step at a time. As a side note to this part of the story, I must mention that this particular moment became a favorite story of my husband’s to use to torment our male friend. The reason? Hubby, who was on the bottom end of this particular lift, made it about halfway up the stairs before screaming at our male friend to “get the hell out of the way and let Tracey do it!” Sorry, male friend, but we’ll never let you live that one down. 🙂
So okay. Let’s reiterate: by this point we had been warned off by the absence of the landlady, the state of the place and the story of it’s previous tenant, and the fact that we had to extricate one of the major appliances from unfinished, dirt-floor basement, which logically should have never been down there in the first place. And it was at this point that we actually moved in.
From there on it seemed like an endless slew of tricks that the house was playing on us to try and scare us away. There were “little” things, like how we kept blowing fuses and the fuses in this particular house were of an ancient design so we had to call the assistant landlord to come replace them each time, or how it turned out that there wasn’t even the tiniest bit of insulation in any of the walls of the house, so we went through heating oil like water, and on days when it got warm out it feel like the ninth circle of hell in there. But those were pains gained by an ignorance of reality…someone else may have thought to look at these kinds of things before they moved in. These things we dealt with because we hadn’t known to wonder about them before hand. No, the real “tricks” were the weird, creepy, and disgusting ones.
For instance, I brought two cats into the house with me, and they kept pawing at the heating duct in my friends’ room. Not too strange, because cats do tend to be odd sometimes. It wasn’t until my friends’ had kept their bedroom door closed for some time that we realized what the cats were interested in, when a little white snout started poking through the grate. Yeah, it turned out that the dirt-floor basement that I mentioned earlier had quite a large number of white mice living in it.
Later, we found the only thing worse than live mice in our house, when one of my cats started pawing anxiously at a small bump in one of the carpets. Hoping against hope that it was just a poor carpeting job that had left the lump, we peeled back that section of carpet to find a rather enormous dead mouse. Pleasant. Quite pleasant.
But the particular story that we’ve told time and again is the one that reminded us very firmly just exactly who had been living in this house prior to us. You see, from the day we moved in our toilet didn’t quite seem to flush right. It would flush, it just seemed to be a bit sluggish and would occasionally clog for seemingly no reason. So one day, when he finally got thoroughly fed up with the toilet, male friend decided to plunge the ever-living hell out of it. Several minutes of hard work later out popped…a spoon. And not just any spoon. This spoon was enormous. It was one step away from being considered a ladle. And it had been flushed down our toilet.
There are probably more tales to tell about this particular house, but I think you get the point. What is really sad about this is that when hubby and I eventually went our own way and got a different apartment, it was no better…it may have actually been worse. It was an old basement apartment with ceilings that were only about 5-1/2 feet high, a closet that was so disgusting we literally taped it up with packing tape and never entered again, a kitchen ceiling that would occasionally dip and “rain” if the upstairs tenants ran their bath water too long, and rats…yes, rats. Though we didn’t actually find out about the rats until I moved away for my job, leaving hubby alone in the apartment while he finished college. Seems that the rats knew the second that the cats moved out of the house.
The reason I’m telling you about this is because living in these places served a purpose. I came to form a strong conviction about something because of these experiences, and that is that it is my personal opinion that every young adult should experience living in some level of squalor and near-poverty. I’m not saying that we should throw the college generation out onto the streets or anything, but there are a great number of life lessons that I feel can only be learned by struggling to make ends meet, and seeing that sometimes you have to deal with some pretty awful things in order to get ahead. Living in these types of places gave me a great appreciation for what I wanted in life and what was important. Designer clothes, for instance, don’t seem nearly as important if you’re choosing between having them and living in an apartment that’s not infested with rats.
This is a pretty simple lesson that I don’t believe enough young people learn. Too many of the kids I went to college with came out of the experience with an inflated sense of self-importance and a genuine belief that the world was going to bend to their needs. They expected their parents to keep paying for their crap and doing their chores, even after they were supposed to “officially” be adults. They spent half of their student loan money on toys for themselves (one girl bought a goddamn car) and then baulked at the idea of having to actually pay that money back. They seriously expected that the moment they graduated, work would be waiting for them with a big, shiny sign that said, “Over here! Pick me!” They truly believed that when they moved out of their parents’ house or the dorm that they’d been living in while at school, that they would all get to move into beautiful three-bedroom houses with finished basements and a goddamn pool in the backyard.
What I’m getting at is that kids these days (haha, look at me, talking like I’m so very old) have a terrible world view of what things are going to be like when they’re out on their own. They expect to receive everything they want in life by sheer virtue of wanting it, and when that doesn’t work out they turn around and fall thousands of dollars into debt in their pursuits (or, in some cases, throw their pushover parents into debt on their behalf). The reason that kids turn out this way is multifaceted (don’t get me started on not keeping score in sporting events because it “hurts the feelings of the kids who don’t win”), but one contributing factor, in my opinion, is that most of these kids never experience what it’s like to live in a hell-hole and eat Kraft Dinner ten times a week, and because they’ve had it so good their who lives, the idea of having anything less than that is absolutely abhorrent and unacceptable. It’s an attitude that truly frustrates me in many of the young people I see around me. I think that loads of young people would benefit significantly by being cut off from their parents’ money for a year, having anything resembling a credit card or loan taken away, and being forced to actually live on what they earn and deal with whatever results because of that.
Believe me, ladies and gents: never did I appreciate the little things in life more than when I got far away from the two places described above and started earning enough to buy decent food again. 😉