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Christmas Eve Shoppers

“Gandalf: “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins?”~From the Movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 2012.

Annual Grandpa Grandson Bromance 2017

Every year on December 24th, My oldest grandchild Landon and I take off on an adventurous shopping, eating, and coffee excursion into the dark murky world of Christmas Eve shopping.

The two worst days for Christmas shopping are Black Friday and Christmas Eve. After a month of hustling from one store to another hunting for the deals and THAT gift to end all gifts, shoppers are suffering Post Shopper Stress Disorder (PSSD). The season of joy in peace turns reasonably civilized people into post-apocalyptic maniacs. While saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, they will slice your arm off to get junior that latest fad toy gizmo. You would think that it was the last can of beans in the city.

God, I love on line shopping!!!

I know what you are thinking, “Why do you wait until the last minute?”

Tradition and my Christmas Eves spent with my grandson are numbered. As he enters the tumultuous teen years, he may not want to spend time with me.

I was too cool of a fool to hang out with grandpa when I was fifteen.

One Christmas Eve several years ago, I took Landon with me shopping. Yeah that year I had procrastinated. I really enjoyed our time together and he seemed to as well. He asked me the next year if I was going out on Christmas Eve, thus the beginning of a new tradition.

This year the weather was a miserable dreary cold rainy day. With a late start getting on the road, we were both starving. Knowing that eating was on the docket, we both waited to eat. This year dining was the first order of business. Mexican was his cuisine of choice. So, Mexican, it was.

When we walked into the restaurant, I envisioned Scott Calvin and Charlie sitting there long faced and alone, defeated after burning the Christmas Turkey but not this year. There was a pretty good crowd in the restaurant. I am a creature of habit — beef fajitas.

Landon is an introvert who loves science, math, and music. He was involved in the STEM program at his elementary school, plays violin, piano.

He is a smart but very quiet. You have to draw him out into a conversation. Nothing stirs up a good conversation like an appetite and good food.

He knows that I am a fan of the Walking Dead. So we caught up on which season he is on. He has binge watched through several seasons on Netflix.

After, our late lunch, we headed over to Landstown Commons, a large shopping complex in Virginia Beach.

Back in the fall, Kathy had mentioned how nice it would be to have a tablet. Looking at tablets was on my list. She uses her Samsung Smart Phone for everything. Besides as her primary phone, she texts, Facebooks, plays Words with Friends, shops, shops, and shops. I noticed she would take off her glasses and bring the phone very close to her face to see. It reminds me of a kid counting the ants in his ant farm.

First stop was Best Buy. My daughter needed a new USB cable for her phone. She goes through Phone charging cables like a dog through snacks. They get lost or broken in no time. Also, while at Best Buy I would price out Tablets.

Best Buy was packed out like a U2 concert. I plan a shopping trip in my head like a football playbook . When I see an aisle packed with shoppers, I head for the open aisle. I am using walking a 3.0+ mph pace. Landon is doing his best to keep up with me.

My shopping objective=> Get in! Get it! Get out!

We headed straight for the cables. “TWENTY-NINE DOLLARS!!! Are these people nuts?”

We move on.

Looked up at the department signs and zeroed in on the computers.The overpriced tablet were picked over like milk and bread before a hurricane.

Best Buy was wasted time.

Time to regroup.

Starbucks was the next stop….

The crowd at Starbucks was no better. By some cosmic convergence, every shopper at Landstown Commons descended on this particular Starbucks all at once. Every seat taken, the line swirled around the place. I have stood in similar lines waiting to ride the new roller coaster at Busch Gardens.

Waiting for their soy, no whip, unsweetened, steamed to a comfortable 165 degrees F., Carmel Macchiato, The swelling crowd had reached capacity. I thought they were picketing the bar.

The poor baristas could not keep up. Tag teaming the drinks, arms waving, and moving around was reminiscent of the Neo and Mr. Smith fights on the Matrix.

Patience was the word reverberating through my head. Self-talk, “You are here to enjoy time with your grandson. Not get upset about waiting in line. You have plenty of time for Target and Walmart.” Surrendering to our situation, I relaxed.

Before we knew it, it was our turn.

While ordering, I looked carefully at the barista; she looked familiar. I asked her if she had worked at another store.

She responded, “Yes, I worked over at the Providence store.”

“I thought you looked familiar, how are you doing?”

She smiled and responded “You may not remember this but last year, Christmas Eve, you came into the Providence store. I was having a terrible day. One customer after another dumped on me. I was bummed out, and you said some kind things to me that helped me get through that shift.”

Shaking my head as if I remembered, my mind raced through my memory cortex to pull up that index card. Vaguely, I remembered the occasion, but this barista certainly did.

“I told her I was glad that I encouraged her.”

I hoped that Landon had picked up on the impact that a little kindness can have on a person. Especially during those difficult time.

We cross paths with people from all walks of life. You never know what their story is. A few kind words might be life changing..

We did finish our shopping spree. I bought Kathy, my wife an Android Tablet at Walmart. A week or so after, I took it back. She needed one that could was Internet Explorer capable. The website where she accesses her pay and benefits will only work with THAT browser.

I look forward to next Christmas Eve.

Writer, philosopher, humorist, observer of life, an all-around lovable guy.

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