Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Madness

This past week, for the first time in several years, I visited the mall at Tyson’s Corner Center.  I had a special gift to buy that was only available in a store at that particular mall.  The time was available to go get it and I went.  

I was extremely disheartened by the experience.    

The drive was pleasant enough. Traffic, although jammed bumper-to-bumper from the mall entrance to the parking area, was generally light.  Parking near the entrance doors was packed, but I got a good space near the exit ramp and enjoyed the walk.  Once inside, I checked the directory, found the store I wanted near the farthest point from where I was, and started walking.

Let me state for the record that Tyson’s Corner Center is not small.  Known in commercials as “where the stores are”, it is anchored by  Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Nordstom, Lord and Taylor, and Nieman Marcus and supported by over 300 other specialty stores, shops, and dining establishments.  The atmosphere is busy, bright, and ostentatious, filled with lots of shops catering to an upscale clientele.  More than other place I’ve known, "where the stores are" at Tyson’s Corner Center is both a shrine to the American gods of excess consumerism and the quest for ever more ever better stuff, and a monument to the purchasing capacity of those who have a lot more money (or a higher credit limit) than they have good sense. After all, do not we Americans believe that enough is good, more is better and too much is just about right?  

Inside the mall, one’s eyes are assaulted by too many bright lights reflected from too many mirrors and too many highly polished windows.  The ears are assaulted by too much music blaring from too many speakers.  Each establishment seems to have its own particular brand of muzak and to be in audio competition with every establishment near it.  And finally, the mind is assaulted by so many images of so many piles of so much merchandise that it is rendered incapable of appreciation, much less a decision on what to buy.  Rather, the temptation is to flit from one desirable offering or bright shiny object to the next. To the uninitiated, it is mildly frightening.

Most shoppers are “looking”, “window shopping”, or “hanging out” rather than buying. Most are totally oblivious of anyone save themselves.  And that’s sad.

I have never been one for whom shopping is considered a sport or a fun way to fritter away a slow afternoon.  My preferred mode of operation is to know what I want and where to get it and to go there, get it, and get out.  I don’t go to the mall to “hang out” or “look around”. I go to accomplish a mission.  When buying gifts, I may make an exception to the “looking around” part, but still attempt to know the kind of thing I’m looking for and where such things may be found before setting out and to focus my search on those places.  

I find myself longing for the kinder and gentler times of my childhood, when gifts were bought at local stores where you knew an were known by the proprietor and gifts were treasured because of the value of one’s relationship with the giver rather than their monetary or passing fad value.  

Long story short, I found the store, made my purchase and was back home in time to watch the end of a football game I had abandoned early in the second quarter.  I will not be going back any time soon.

So, where do you plan to shop, and what do you plan to buy this season?

And is your gift about the gift itself, or the relationship between the you and the receiver?