Tsk, the Season

We are now into December, which means whoever’s in charge of getting me in the Christmas spirit had better get crackin’!

I used to rely on the radio to do this, because there is always at least one station that plays holiday music around the clock in December. But I got confused this year when KOSY 106.5 started playing carols on Nov. 1, with FM 100 right on its heels. I got all Christmas spirit-y for a few minutes, and then I realized how shameful and degrading it is to listen to Christmas music when there’s still Halloween candy in the dish next to the front door. So I put those stations away until the day after Thanksgiving, the day long ago sanctioned by the Christian church as the earliest appropriate moment to begin celebrating Christmas.

I actually like the stores this time of year, with all the hustle and bustle and decorations and such. The stores are crowded, but they’re crowded with people who are generally good-natured and who aren’t likely to murder you over the last Tickle-Me SpongeBob doll or whatever, the way they do in less-godly places such as New York and Miami.

But this year I’m afraid the stores are ruined for me, too, because I made the mistake of going to one at 5:30 a.m. last Friday for its massive day-after-Thanksgiving sale. Why this appealed to me, I don’t know. It combines two of my least-favorite things in the world — getting up early and standing in line — and all just so I could save a few dollars (OK, many, many dollars) on some DVDs.

My mom and one of my brothers are veterans of the Best Buy post-Thanksgiving-sale wars, having served tours of duty in that arena for several years. Before they had cell phones, they used walkie-talkies to communicate with each other in the store, combining their efforts to snatch up the merchandise and get in line as quickly as possible. I had never been tempted to join them until this year, when the Best Buy near my California hometown, where I was visiting, was offering merchandise at prices so low I simply couldn’t afford not to buy it.

Alas, Mom and Jeff retired from combat this year and left me to fend for myself, and I confess that I, a casual shopper at best, am no match for the vicious, predatory warriors who descend upon retail stores on the fourth Friday in November. One woman mentioned having been in line since 3 o’clock the previous afternoon, which means she spent her Thanksgiving Day sitting outside of a Best Buy, a devotion to bargain-hunting that I find both impressive and sad. Sleep-deprived, unshowered, jostled and harried, I made it out of the store at 7:30 a.m., two hours after I arrived. And now I don’t know if the usual tinsel and trees with which Target and its retail brethren are festooned from now till Christmas will be enough to counteract that one un-Christmaslike experience.

I already know not to bother going to the movies for Christmas cheer. “The Polar Express” is based on a 30-page picture book, and watching it is like reading that picture book, except instead of only taking five minutes, it takes 90. Plus it is filled to an unhealthy degree with Tom Hanks. “Surviving Christmas,” released in October, didn’t even survive Thanksgiving. And “Christmas with the Kranks”? is so awful that the Lord has filed suit to have the title changed to “Holidays with the Kranks”? to protect His good name.

So things are looking a bit grim in the Christmas spirit department, but I hold out hope that someone or something will have me feeling festive before it’s too late. Maybe that DVD of “Bad Santa”? that I bought for $5.99 will help.

Due to a miscommunication that I'm pretty sure was my fault, I had only 24 hours to conceive, write, revise, and submit this column. I got a phone call the day after Thanksgiving asking if I had a column ready, since it was due that day, and I truthfully told the editor I'd had no idea it was even my turn to write a column (I was in rotation with a few other writers). He asked if I could have one by the end of the day, understandably but mistakenly believing that I worked on these things in advance and therefore must have one nearly finished anyway. I told him I could have one the next day, and a compromise was reached. So if the column feels rushed or something, well, it was. Sorry.