3hree Things: On Holiday Shopping And Retail Zombies I Hope To Avoid This Season

Watch out for 3hree Things every Tuesday, where Riley Breckenridge, drummer of Orange County's favorite local alt-rock band Thrice, gives his take on life in Southern California as an OC native.

Tis the season to be an asshole jolly.
A caveat: I love giving gifts, and love that the holiday season is, amongst other things, a great opportunity to do so, but I can't stand shopping for said gifts because I function horribly in retail situations.

I'm sure that a fair share of this malfunction is due to my own anxiety, but I think a ton of it lies in being surrounded by masses of self-absorbed, myopic shoppers that put their compassion on hold while they're out to get theirs. (Side note: Part of that anxiety lies in the feeling that you're in someone's way at all times. One can only say, “Excuse me” and “I'm sorry” so many times before they feel the need to abandon their cart, say “Fuck it” and make a bee-line for the door.)



As we all know, the holiday shopping season is kickstarted by the unmitigated clusterfuck known as Black Friday. This year's shit show has already featured a Florida man thinking it was a good idea to go to a Wal-Mart with two knives, a gun, and a grenade.

Need more? How about the Wisconsin woman that cut in line at Toys-R-Us and threatened to shoot anyone that dared oppose her. More still? A man in Buffalo was trampled at Target (which is reminiscent of 2008's trampling death of a Wal-Mart employee in Long Island.)

Add to that, the growing list of fights, stabbings, thefts and arrests that is bound to continue as the season trudges on and I can't help but wonder…WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! The answer to that is more than likely, “most things.” (The mugshots accompanying the linked articles are further proof of that.) 

While it's sad that hoards of mouth-breathing, materialistic, consumerbots will sleep outside of a retailer and wait until they can fight other crazy-eyed, deal-starved savages for the right to pounce on this year's hottest toys, discount electronics, and clothing that's priced to move, it's become “normal.”

It's a shame that during a season that is supposed to be so centered around giving and caring, the focus has ultimately shifted towards folks going into “fuck you” mode while diving headfirst and eyes closed into retail warfare. This  Saturday Night Live sketch really isn't too far-fetched, is it?

I had the misfortune of “needing” to go to Target on Saturday to buy a pillow (not the wisest time to make such a journey, I know.) I also started watching The Walking Dead late last week. In the twenty minutes (that seemed like two hours) that it took me to get in and out of Target, I couldn't help but replay the ending of the first episode on a loop in my mind as I watched people rip through clothing racks, fire through end caps and shelved goods, and jockey for position in line.

One way or another, we're all going to have to deal with these people over the next month, so I figured this week was as good as any to discuss three holiday shoppers I hope to avoid this year. Let's commiserate.

1) Goons With Unwieldy Shopping Carts

This is basically shopping's equivalent of a legally-blind drunk, driving a steamroller the wrong way through bumper to bumper traffic. Most often it comes in the form of a 100-pound woman that has overstuffed 200 pounds worth of junk into a wonky shopping cart that's probably even difficult to steer when it's empty.

With her vision obscured by stacked goodies and gifts, and aisles made impossibly narrow by overflowing end caps and floor displays, she obliviously mows down everything and everyone in her path. I'm sure most of us have felt the pain of having an achilles tendon crushed or been cart-checked into a fellow shopper by one of these people. The unfortunate thing is, without a “must be this tall or this strong to fill your cart with x amount of stuff” sign at a store entrance, there's no way to put a stop to these people.

2) Me First And The Gimmie Gimmies (not to be confused with the band of the same name)

This is basically just a magnified version of the neo-hippie pile of woman that I wrote an open letter to in last week's column. They blow through aisles with blinders on acting on impulse, and are totally impervious to their surroundings.

Ever caught a shoulder bump or a hip check before someone steps in front of you to grab something off the shelf as you peruse the contents of an aisle? Ever had someone speed up as you both head towards the end of a long holiday line (or “side-line” you by ignoring single file line customs and sliding in from the side?) That's the Me First And The Gimmie Gimmie.

It's also the person that can often be caught parking their cart in the middle of an aisle (making it impossible to pass them on either side) and responding to a polite “Excuse me” with a look like you just asked them to cut their limbs off. Sadly, this person exists year round (and multiply during the holiday shopping season), and unless there's a massive groundswell of compassion on the horizon, they're not going anywhere.

3) Assholes of the Parking Lot 

I suppose the condition of this strain of retail zombie isn't really too far removed from the Me First And The Gimmie Gimmie, but it's exacerbated by the protective coat of armor that their car (often an oversized truck or SUV) provides.

Armed with a vehicular invincibility cloak (or so they'd like to think), this is the person that steals your parking space or camps out in a middle of a row and ruins the flow of the entire parking lot while he or she waits for the perfect spot. Being the only person on Earth is a tough gig, so they're also not above honking at you from behind as you wait for a mother and child to cross the street (Keep honking, shitwheel. There's no way I'm running over these innocent people so that you can go buy a Wii or whateverthefuckelse, 30 seconds later than you might have if I had.)

It's because of these folks that I'd advise you to keep your head on a swivel as you walk to and from your car, fellow shoppers. They wait for no pedestrian.  And ladies, I hope you're wearing sensible footwear. A pair of heels could leave you underneath the chassis of a Chevy Suburban. The mindset appears to be, if I don't acknowledge you, you don't exist (as evidence by a a willful disregard for the gift of peripheral vision.) How convenient.

In reading this, I'm sure it might seem like I've got my balls all twisted about this, but that's not really the case. I owe that, in large part, to discovering this amazing commencement speech that late author, David Foster Wallace (my favorite writer), delivered to Kenyon College graduates in 2005. It's a must-read, for everyone, as far as I'm concerned; an incredibly impactful piece on compassionate living. Conveniently, it's now available as a book that would make a phenomenal holiday gift.

Just make sure you buy it online.

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