Dec. 31 — A woman navigating a passage that crosses me finds me around the same time as her. As if we were rehearsing, we all stopped the carts and at the same time offered to let each other pass first.
Judging from the atmosphere, it may have been an altruistic act in the store that day.
“No… no,” I said to her, nodding in the strange way I do when I’m trying to reconcile.So deep, it’s basically a bow.
About an hour before the family had to move from Tupelo to Pontotoc for my father-in-law’s annual Christmas get-together, I was in no particular hurry. I needed some respite from the chaos at Walmart in 7 minutes.
The young lady smiled earnestly and dropped her shoulders.
“Thank you,” she said, and seemed to mean it. I suspect she was in her early 70s, leaning heavily on her shopping cart, empty except for a few items. Her wrinkled face was a mask of frustration and defeat. The look in her eyes told the story that she got over this crap years ago.
Hand the mirror over and you’ll notice that your facial expressions are very similar. The store is busiest I’ve ever seen, chock full of corny aisles with neat Christmas shoppers, willing to trample toddlers and grab Dr. Thiel’s last gift set. Or maybe you’re trying to gouge out your own grandfather’s eye. This meant that he would add a ton of gift cards to his cart 30 seconds earlier.
As I entered this fray, I expected it somewhat. There’s no shortage of people like me — the lazy holiday shopper who, hours or minutes before someone’s expected gift-giving, suddenly realizes there are no gifts to give. Turn off what you could have done months ago. I expected a crowd.
However, the size and enthusiasm of the crowd was somewhat surprising. These weren’t my people—I casually got gift cards here, gift sets there for people outside of my immediate family. Instead, we found an overpopulated asylum where madmen could roam free and do all their Christmas shopping the day before the holiday itself. Shoppers scrambled over each other like fire ants, scaling shelves, clambering over cardboard displays, and shoveling whatever they could into piles formed within carts.
“Anything, just grab anything,” I overheard a shopper yelling at his wife from the back of the men’s clothing department. His enthusiastic tone suggested a faltering sanity.
As his wife frantically sorted out a rack of Black Panther hoodies, the man was heard whispering, “I’m going to kill someone.” I stepped in before the bloodletting started.
I was exhausted by the time I nearly pushed the cart next to her. She may have interpreted my offer as witty, but it was rooted in a fair amount of Christmas selfishness.
Another faint smile crossed her face as she wheeled the cart past me. I returned it.
“Why do we do this to ourselves?” she said. I wasn’t sure if she meant us specifically or people in general.
“We were born to suffer,” I told her.
we both laughed. In the anarchic chaos that surrounded us, the moment felt like a gift.
ADAM ARMOR is the news editor of The Daily Journal and former General Manager of Itawamba County Times. You can reach him through his Twitter handle @admarmr.