I swore it wouldn’t happen again this year. If I braved the crowds and the traffic and the inclement weather and ventured into the malls on the Friday after Thanksgiving (the biggest shopping day of the year), this time would be different.
I would remain cool, calm, and collected, bubbling with good cheer and holiday spirit. I would hum Christmas carols and smile cheerfully at surly, overworked clerks. After waiting in line for 45 minutes, during which I would share a pleasant conversation with the other customers waiting in line, I would then graciously step aside and let the flustered shopper behind me go first, even though she wanted to pay with a check, was from out-of-state, and had forgotten to bring any identification.
Every gift I purchased would be perfect and marked 50% off.
Once I got home, the scissors and tape would be precisely where I remembered leaving them. I would wrap each gift with style and originality, as a fire crackled in the fireplace and gentle snowflakes brushed the window panes.
When a crowd of carolers serenaded me outside my front door, I would invite them in for good fellowship and hot chocolate with marshmallows made the old fashioned way; the way my grandmother used to make it from Hershey’s Cocoa, whole milk, and real sugar.
Instead, once again I am sharing a cell with vagrants, drunks, and pick-pockets as I wait to see the judge. At least this year I remembered to bring my harmonica. Last year I had to sing “Nobody Knows Da Trouble I Seen” a capella.
In the courtroom, the judge admonished me sternly.
“You are charged with being disorderly, indecent exposure, inciting a riot, and assault,” he said. “How do you plead?”
“Your Honor, I can explain,” I said. “See, there was heavy rain falling all day. I had a flat tire, hit a Mercedes in the parking lot, and accidentally locked my keys in the car. Everything cost 50% more than I had budgeted. While I was in line, a large woman stepped on my foot and broke my toe and a young child hopped up on too much sugar threw up on my sweater.
At the register, all my purchases required price checks and the register ran out of tape. As I was edging through the tired, weepy mob of toddlers waiting to see Santa, someone stepped on the hem of my pants and the waistband broke.
My pants fell down around my ankles, causing me to stumble into a display of whiskey decanters. I ended up sprawled across Santa’s lap in my underwear, reeking of Jack Daniels.
I grabbed Santa to break my fall and inadvertently pulled off his beard and mustache. The disillusioned children waiting inline were so traumatized that they broke into screams and several threw themselves into the fountain at the mall’s center court.
When I got home, both the tape and the scissors were missing and I was out of wrapping paper. I had to wrap the gifts in newspaper and duct tape.
I forgot to open the damper on the fireplace and the house filled with smoke. When I opened the door to let the firemen in, and those carolers on my porch broke into a chorus of ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,’ I snapped. I emptied a pitcher of hot chocolate on the soprano. It was no great loss, I had scorched the hot chocolate anyway. It could happen to anybody. What’s that, Judge? Probation? Thanks. See you next year and have a happy holiday.”