It all starts with "Black Friday". I had wanted to type that in black to further emphasize it, but then it would be invisible. Like this curse word which I will be converting to black......fuckbag. Christmas eve is now here and there are sure to be plenty of dangerous, panicked lunatics trolling around the malls looking for last minute gifts.
Now, we don't have Black Friday in the frozen tundra of my native Canada. Instead we have something called "Boxing Day" which is December 26th. All sorts of crap is discounted the day after Christmas because nothing says warmth and togetherness better than throwing elbows for cheap bluray players. I do not participate in Boxing Day, and I don't participate in Black Friday. However I want to give some insight into how I survive my 1 intense shopping excursion of the year: "The Super Bowl of Shopping" (SBoS).
The "Super Bowl of Shopping" is something I do every year on 12/23. Although the 23rd is the LAST day a lot of people shop, for me it is the ONLY day I shop. The only person whose gift I will buy before the SBoS is my mum. She gave me life, it's only fair that I not leave her gift till the last day. Oh, and I buy my girlfriend's gift before Christmas too....cause I totally have one (she's from out of town, you don't know her). Aside from those two ladies (one of which may or may not be fictional) everyone else I shop for I do in one go.
It's 12/24 now and another Super Bowl of Shopping is in the books for me. I showed a lot of grit, hustle and a lot of heart out there. However, if any of you are going out today (or on Boxing Day) I figure I would share some tips I've picked up over the years that have helped me leave the mall more "warrior" than "consumer".
As usual I try to take inspiration from movies. You may be thinking that in this case I mean Christmas movies, perhaps even more specifically "Jingle All The Way", but I've found a genre of movies that are way better resources for how to last minute Christmas shop.
You may think I get my tactical inspiration from a rather bleak source, but as far as I'm concerned Christmas shopping is about 1 thing: Survival....and Cinnebons. Okay it's actually about two things. I have been very successful on the 23rd the last decade, and I couldn't have done it without adapting a zombie apocalypse plan. The first thing you have to do is sever emotional attachment.You may be at the mall, see someone you know and feel inclined to stop and say hello to them, but be wary. They are not the person you knew. They are a last minute shopper. All that existed of the person before died the second they neglected people on their list until the last minute.
Last minute shopping is a sad and lonely expeirience. It's exactly like I Am Legend only with Orange Julius. I have lost many friends at the malls during December. That may have something to do with the fact that they said "hello" to me and I ran away, but I'm not sure. Most of the shoppers I run into are angry, confused, irritable and barely form words. Sound familiar?
I have prepared a brief (yeah right) rundown of my guide to last minute shopping. It is pretty much an adapted version of "The Zombie Survival Guide", which is a great read by the way. Before you head out today, or boxing day or next year (as if the blog will last until then), prepare yourself by checking out this list from the book (with some minor tweeks I made).
Top 10 Lessons for Surviving
1. Organize before they rise!
After all, the boy scouts motto is "Be prepared". Which is all well and good but I prefer my shopping motto "Be prepared, and don't dress like a little douche in a neckerchief".
A solid game plan is key to your success. I suggest also putting yourself in the right frame of mind by watching something inspirational before setting out (Rudy, 8 Mile and the badass speech from 300 are all acceptable options). Inspired? Good. Next step is to know your location. You can lose precious seconds if you have to stop and use the mall map. Go somewhere you've been many times before, it will make things way easier. Use the service hallways if you can, if you don't get caught it is the closest thing to teleporting there is (you can be on the other side of the mall in like a minute, depending on the hallway). If you get caught, just tell them you got lost looking for a bathroom.
But don't forget: No matter where the location, know where the exits are and always make sure to actually keep using the bathroom. There is no struggle on earth worse than waiting in a ridiculously long line to buy the perfect gift and having to pee.
2. They feel no fear, why should you?
I've seen some pretty unscrupulous behavior at the malls during the Christmas season (side note, I've wanted to use the word unscrupulous since my first post and never found a way to work it in. YAY!). People will do whatever it takes to make sure they walk out of that mall with a good gift, and so should you. If you see an awesome gift somewhere, chances are someone else is looking at the same thing. You hesistate, you
I made a reference up there to the time I got the last copy of "Notting Hill" for someone on December 23rd and that's a true story. It was at Wal-Mart (which might as well be Normandy in my "shopping is war" comparisons) and I was down to my last gift. When in doubt, a Hugh Grant romantic comedy is the way to go (although I think it's a great movie. I like to watch it while working on my massage techniques and wishing I had someone tell me about bitches they work with. I'm quite a catch ladies). The "Hugh Grant rule" has suffered some setbacks recently and it's not as much of a sure thing as it once was.
So using my agility and keen sense of romantic comedies, I feverishly scanned the DVD rack. I took my eyes off it for a second to notice another guy, older than me, doing the same. I shouldn't have looked away, it was a rookie mistake he didn't make, being a saavy veteran and all. I quickly looked back to the DVDs and saw the last copy of "Notting Hill". This is probably the first moment I became good at last minute shopping because before I even saw it, I was already moving towards it. No mercy, no hesitation, no problem. I snagged it mere seconds before the other guy reached for it too (OH THE DRAMA) You might think it wrong to be so determined out there, but try giving someone a box of politeness to someone for Christmas and see how that goes over. I tried to decypher the look he gave me after he realized he had lost. It was either a look of mutual respect, a "passing of the torch" kind of situation where he accepted that he had been bested by a young upstart with something to prove. Either that or it was a look that said "I hate you and would punch you in the mouth if there weren't cops around". Sadly I will never know which one it was.
3. Use your head: cut off theirs.
Okay, in no way am I suggesting you decapitate someone in order to snag a great gift. That would be insane. But be prepared. If given the chance a last minute shopper would strike you and everyone you care about down with no delay. Those who say "Christmas is a time of love and decency" obviously get their shopping done by December 5th. Those who say "a good deed is it's own reward" have never gotten any rewards like, at all. And those who say "violence isn't the answer" DID NOT get a Wii for someone a few years ago.
Try not to carry cash around. I find shuffling through your purse, wallet or pockets looking for paper money can cost you valuable hours (I've seen some pretty messes purses). Debit/Credit cards are easy, quick, reliable and you aren't able to track how much you're spending as easily as if you had cash. That means never having to make budgetary decisions that could end up with you not giving someone the best gift they ever got. Again, you may think that is a drastic and consumerist attitude, but try giving someone the gift of song for Christmas after they get you a beautiful watch. See how that goes over.
"$350 for earrings are you fucking kidding me?!")
5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
You gotta make sure to dress accordingly if you are hitting the malls for some last minute heroics. It all starts with the feet. Comfortable shoes are key. Ladies (and cross-dressers), leave the heels at home. I would suggest slip on shoes for all genders. They come in classy styles (in case you meet someone), provide excellent mobility (in case you dance with them for some reason) and can quickly be kicked off and used as a weapon (in case you need to show them what's what). For pants I suggest wearing jeans with perhaps some pajama bottoms underneath. Tough, tear resistant fabric on the outside, intense comfort on the inside. It's essentially the only way you can have a job and wear sweatpants in public. Tear-away pants are the absolute worst kind of pants to wear, unless if course you have a pair of sweet 80's NBA John Stockton esque shorts underneath. Your range of motion will be uninhibited (as will your junk)
Shirts are a tough thing to decide on. You don't want to limit your reaching ability, but you also don't want to leave your forearms open to scratching, karate-chopping or biting (yay, we're back with the zombie metaphor again). You also want to make sure that you are warm enough for the cold december weather (unless you are in South Africa and it's summer) but cool enough so you don't overheat when in a crowded store. As if I would say anything else, the prime upper body garb is a hockey jersey. The uglier and more disorientating the better.
As for headwear? Although highly impractical wearing a helmet in this situation is warranted. If you can track one down, I suggest rockin' the Green Ranger helmet.
Ladies, whatever you do, if you are looking for protective headgear to wear, DO NOT rock a Halo helmet. Master Chief's lid may look badass, but you will be bombarded with marriage proposals and that can really get in the way of your shopping for your boyfriend that you don't really have but told me you did.
6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
While I don't suggest destroying escalators or staircases, it is a good idea to be on the top floor. All the best stores are always on the top floor (admit it) and that is often where the food court is located. Another thing I like about the top floor is it's an excellent vantage point for "people watching". What better way to celebrate surviving than watching people still fight it out and try to get those clutch gifts.
7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
O.....kay. Alright, ummm, I'm reaching with this one. Shopping carts, although they CAN hold alot of things, will fucking ruin you as a last minute shopper. They offer little in the way of manueverability and are defintely more of a hindrance. Also, if you leave your cart for 2 seconds some of those awesome gifts you scored might become someone elses by way of desperate theft. People are animals. The more stressed they are, the less they behave as they would in proper society. You constantly have to stay with your cart and that can really limit your ability to score those great last minute presents. BASKETS, PEOPLE, BASKETS! You might not be able to carry as much, but you'll have increased mobility and you could also use it as a present in case you don't find anything.
8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
Goes without saying really. All great advice, no adaption needed.
Don't assume that any gift you get is gonna be a slam dunk. As a last minute shopper, let me tell you something, it may seem like a limited selection, but there is ALWAYS something better available. I truly do believe the right gifts find you, and although it may seem easy to just get chocolates or flowers or samurai swords, you should always try and go for the gold. Just because your late to the party, doesn't mean you have to settle for the guy playing guitar hero or the drunk girl who is obviously going to vomit on someone before the night is over.
But when picking out gifts, please, LEARN FROM PAST MISTAKES. Make sure to avoid buying Calendars for people on your list. Seriously, they are mostly sold in kiosks at the mall and are the laziest gifts you can buy. The card should read "Merry Christmas, I was at the mall but didn't feel like going into a store". Also remember when looking for a gift for that special someone, a girls size Pittsburgh Steelers jersey is not the best way to tell a girl you love her.
This will happen again next year. You know it will. Hopefully you learned something from this post (god help you if you actually did). And in closing I want to say that when I first started out as a last minute shopper, I was so wide eyed and naive. But now, as a grizzled veteran I can tell you I've seen shit I can't unsee. People are monsters and in order to get those good gifts you have got to find the monster within. Remember these final three pieces of
1.The best offence is a good defence. As it turns out, the best defence is nunchuks.
B) Do unto others as your paranoia would imagine they would do unto you.
3) If you are able to incorporate a zip line escape, do so. I've never been able to, but I'd feel a lot more secure/badass knowing that I have the option.
(Google image search: "Christmas Zipline". Page 1. Awesome)
The main thing I've learned is that the best gifts are the ones you don't plan for (that is also what I plan on telling my first born son when he asks if he was an accident. I will never lie to him). There is nothing more satisfying then when the chips are down, the pressure is on and you manage to find the perfect gift. They say it's the thought that counts, I say you gotta feel it.
Thanks for Reading
This Christmas, head on over to the "j.Bowman Can't Sleep kind of official Facebook page" and give the gift of "LIKE". I promise I totally got you something too, it's just being shipped. Not sure why it's taking so long. I'll call UPS tomorrow or something