Monday, November 12, 2007

The Price of Shipping is Worth My Immortal Soul

I've been in a funk lately, and I don't know why. It's probably hormones, and since I usually start to get this way toward the end of my pregnancies, this is probably a sign that I should pop in to my friendly neighborhood family doctor to head off my inevitable future problems with postpartum depression.

But instead of doing that, I went Christmas shopping by myself. On a Saturday. To the mall. The mall that just opened a phalanx of fancy new stores. For five hours. I should have just paid someone to shoot me.

I must have been on crack, or swallowed some Aqua Dots, because I usually avoid the mall in general, especially on a Saturday, with the grand opening of all those fancy stores a mere week in the past. This weekend was no better; it was like Grand Opening II: The Plastic is Burning.

You see, Rob was home with the children, and that alone was incentive enough for me to head for the hills. The children hate shopping, I hate shopping with them, and so the whole escapade turns into one giant lose-lose situation. Every trip to the mall with the children includes these three things: vehement, hissed whisper-yelling through gritted teeth; greasy soft pretzels from the Auntie Anne's pretzel stand knock-off; and an urgent trip to the disgusting "family restroom" nestled deep in the creepy back corridors of the mall. I am usually informed of the necessity of this trip when I am finally next in line for the register, naturally. The child in question then hops and moans and clutches all through the transaction, which includes at least one item that is not properly tagged and requires a price check. The whole trip is a study in exhaustion.

I try not to even start shopping until after Thanksgiving, but this year I've got too much going on to wait. We usually get together with Rob's family for a party and gift exchange during one of the weekends before Christmas. It's fun and it gives everyone a chance to be in their own homes and not travel on Christmas if they choose, but it also means that I need to get my act together and make sure that I have all the gifts for my in-laws first.

As always, Rob was unfailingly generous when I told him that I needed to get out or die tryin' pick out a few more things for his family Christmas party. He said, Go! Have a great time and don't hurry back. We'll be fine and you should enjoy a little quiet time. Love you! (And all of this is said without sarcasm or his arms crossed against his chest, so completely unlike the send-off I usually give him.) You can see how easy it was for me to skip to the car with visions of fancy coffee at the new bookstore dancing in my head.

I will cut to the chase and tell you that I did get a good chunk of shopping out of the way, but it wasn't pretty. People were surly, lines were long, parking spaces were few and far between, and we haven't even hit crunch time yet, my friends. I did manage to retreat to the bookstore for some hot chocolate and in-depth US Weekly magazine perusal, and I stayed for forty-five minutes. Forty-five whole minutes of sitting at one table, drinking a beverage while it was still hot, and not wiping a single thing off of myself or the person next to me. It was heavenly, and I felt sufficiently fortified to face the throngs again.

As I left the bookstore, I held the door for a woman who was wearing her lingerie as a shirt. This was not a real-shirt-that-looked-like-lingerie kind of shirt. This was a satiny teddy. In forty degree weather. With high waisted, acid washed jeans. While still wondering about her choice of fashion, I was almost trampled by a gaggle of teenage girls who were wearing skin tight, midriff baring tee shirts while hugging their arms and complaining about the cold. Where are Stacy and Clinton when you need them?!

While I walked to the car, I could hear an engine slow behind me and I turned and saw that I was being tailed all the way to my parking spot, which was so far out that it might have been in the next county. I waddled my way there, turning every once in a while to see a woman my age chatting on the phone while she trolled along in my wake. It was like a scene from Shark Week and I was the chum.

I knew, as I pulled out of the parking lot and saw a car almost hit someone pulling out of another space, that I was done with the mall. I am turning to the internet, even though I loathe paying shipping for an item I can get at a store a few miles down the road. When Christmas shopping becomes a near occasion of sin for me - when I have to fight temptations to anger, greed, unfair judgements, pride - I'm willing to pay a little shipping and handling for some peace.


  1. I am SO with you. I have done as much shopping as possible over the Internet in the past few years. It's not worth it to deal with all those, as you put them, "near occasions of sin." Not even if I get a fancy coffee out of the deal.
    Will pray for you re: PPD. Been there, and I know how awful it can feel.

  2. Amazon Free Super Saver Shipping and LLBean -- free shipping until Christmas. Can't beat it with a stick!

  3. I don't usually buy online, but I very often do my browsing online so that I can go to the store with a specific purchase in mind. Our mall is nothing special, but the road in front of it has been under construction for over a year and still has two years to go. So, access to the mall is one lane each way, and sometimes less. It is challenging to deal with, but I try to plan my trips for off-peak times.
    As for being followed in the parking lot, that happened to me every day in college. I had to be there before 8:00 every day, so I usually got a good spot. When I was leaving at lunch, I was always followed by at least one car. It is a very creepy feeling, even though you know they just want your spot.
    I'm glad to hear you survived your outing. Good luck with the rest of the shopping.

  4. Oh, but there is so much free shipping on the Internets!

    And no sharks trolling for legs to take a chunk out of.

  5. It is getting to that time of the year where I will refuse to go near a mall. The risk to life and limb just isn't worth it, and that's just what it takes to park my car.

    Next time Rob gives you a free pass to shop all by yourself avoid the mall and stick to Target. I realize that in a few short weeks even that store will be crazy but it still beats the mall. Unless you have a promotion code for free shipping.

  6. I HATE THE MALL OR ANYTHING THAT RESEMBLES A MALL. I've done all the shopping for the kids on line this year (except for the last present for Older Boy that I still need to get at Target). I feel so much better without risking my life at Toys R Us or the dreaded Wal Mart. I still have the adults to do, but I think they are all getting gift cards that I can purchase at my local grocery. I'm telling you, all the money being sucked out of wallet and the commercialism is really getting to me this year and the season hasn't even begun yet.

  7. As a SAHM I vowed long ago to only do my shopping (grocery included) through the week when so many can't. It seriously helps when you've got the kids.

    And when you do have the kids you inevitably end up with the clerk that glares at them just for touching merchandise.

  8. I loathe the mall, even on the NOT busy days. The PPD is awful - I've been there and will keep you in my prayers. Don't be afraid to ask for help. There are meds you can take while nursing that do NOT affect baby.

  9. Oh, brought back memories. Quite a few pleasant, I must say. Some poignant, in retrospect. When I was in 1st, 2nd and part of 3rd grade, we lived in Allentown. This would have been Fall 62-Feb. 64 - There. Was. No. Whitehall. Mall. There. Was. No. Lehigh. Valley. Mall. For REALLY.BiG.Deal shopping there was one serious place, and one serious place only HESS'S Department store, of late and happy memory. Oh, there were smaller stores here and there, and certainly other downtown stores. But when we wanted to do some shopping, we walked uptown, down from around 8th and Washington or so - a quite a number of blocks up and over. [We didn't have excess
    fat then, believe me....] Hess's would have the most wonderful display windows at Christmas time.
    There were dozens of shops all along Hamilton street, and it was *the* place to be. I can remember buying my first communion dress in one of those little shops. There was a sheet music store, all sorts of places. There was also a great sporting goods store (don't know if that's still there or not - it was for quite a while) out MacArthur road - and somewhat across and north of the Egypt Star Bakery. -- I can remember getting my first wooden baseball bat there. Never did score the rockem' sockem' robots though. We moved out of the area for a few years, and back in for 8th grade. This would have been 69-70 - Hess's was still there, but no longer the mecca it once was -- there now being PARKING -- and...get this: the Whitehall Mall - which was THE "b*d" for years to come. I can remember our school going to sing carols at the WHM. It was a "big event" -- held at night. Quite a field trip. At night yet. It wasn't until many years later that the Lehigh Valley Mall was built. WHM then became very tired and old looking. Hess's is now no more -- the price paid when the life is suck out of downtown areas. In the early 60s, it was quite safe for my mom and me, (and sometimes dad too) to go to a late Sat. Mat, and come home in the late fall dark and walk quite a number of blocks home from downtown. I don't suppose that's done much now. A lot of the downtown district seemed relatively dead, the last time I visited a few years back. The big theatres are gone - even the 12th and Hamilton Brass Rail - the best place on earth to have a steak sandwich. There's a lot to be said for convenience, but there was a price to be paid in service. I miss those neighborhood corner stores, where there were the big penny candy displays -- and the guy could never tell which one you were pointing to. Quite safe then to hand a 7 year old 5 bucks and have them go down a few blocks to get a few grocery items -- it was a rather safe working class neighborhood when I was little - passing through it just seems like aliens took over. The best places were where you got a case of 12 quarts of A-Treat soda. Glass bottles. Wooden crates. Which reminds me - if I "act now" I should be able to get a case of A-Treat birch beer shipped in time for Thanksgiving! Now THAT would pick me up from the doldrums. :-D

    Thanks! [And I agree -- ONLINE is the way to go now - if you are striving to save your sanity at the holidays - btw, if that little bookbarn, at the WHM is still there -- for a long time that was "the" place to get books at the mall.]

  10. Kate P12:19 PM

    I'm commenting for the first time after lurking for a few months (from Amy G's). I knew exactly which mall you were talking about--I worked on the new stores! Sorry it was a bad experience for you (except for the bookstore). I know they're trying to make the mall really nice.

    To be fair, I get where you're coming from--I'm petite and wear an odd shoe size, so catalog/internet shopping is my friend, too.

  11. Gem - The Whitehall Mall is till sort of sad, but it's trying not to be. No one goes to A-town after dark if they can help it, and that is really sad. I grew up in Reading and it is the same way there. It really is like another world - not cool :(

    Kate - Honestly, it's not the mall itself. Believe me, I'm a fan of browsing around new stores, etc . . It's when people at the mall get crazy rude that I start to withdraw :) The parking lots are terrible, but again, I believe a lot of it has to do with the people driving in the parking lot as much as the lot itself.
    This is just an insane time of year to visit the MacArthur Shopping Corridor, no matter how you look at it!
    Thanks for de-lurking :)

  12. Aimee - when I was 5 I lived in Reading for a year! I went to 16th and Haak for kindergarten. We lived
    just below the Red Pagoda, and there was a lovely bandstand and park within close walking distance. Last year, I had looked up guite a bit of info about Reading - my reading tells me that Reading has also been overrun - in a not good way - or is that exageration? There has been a lot of damage done to what used to be great solid working class neighborhoods. In A-Town, when I was a BROWNIE scout, I could safely go BY MYSELF selling scout cookies door to door . we ALL did. Now a parent would be arrested for child neglect if they allowed that.

  13. Anonymous7:54 AM

    I love to shop, especially at Christmas- I know it's SICK, but s&h is so worth the sanity with kids and one on the way- TRUST ME.
    Last year I tried to get everything done before October which didn't happen and then Ayden arrived early so -hello chaos! I totally appreciated ever internet site and catalog I could get my hands on. Hang in there! (and hey, if you need a personal shopper- I,m your gal!)
    Happy Turkey day too!
    -Mirabella MOM


Go ahead and say it. You know you want to.