Holiday season stirs annual feelings of fear and panic

December 20, 2011

Fear and panic. These emotions can mar the holiday season, much like peeking in the oven at a soufflé and watching it deflate before your eyes. It’s hard to pass this off as a Rachael Ray food creation to the 20 guests, including your minister, waiting patiently at your table with knife and fork.

But often this feeling around this time of the year is more likely to be experienced as the hour of gift giving closes in on the consumer. Which is a nice way of saying you waited until the last minute to do your shopping and now the chickens have come home to roost.

Sure, there are long lines at the checkout. Yet it turns out that is not nearly enough of an excuse. At first glance it would appear there seem to be fewer clerks available to wait on or help customers this year.

It’s not because of a lack of people applying for those jobs. It’s just that most clerks by this time on the calendar experience a condition similar to post-traumatic stress syndrome. This is directly related to listening to Christmas music, like Alvin and the Chipmunks, over and over again until your eyeballs have fallen down around your knees. The pain of repeated lyrics is excruciating, like shards of glass shooting into the skull.

Most stores have a special exit near the back door where they carry the bodies of these clerks out and into a waiting tinted-window-type SUV to be driven to the nearest sanitarium. There they will go through months of deconditioning and rehab that include soothing elevator music and massive doses of beta blockers. Of course, if the music involves animals barking to the strains of "Jingle Bells," then all bets are off. It could take years of viewing photos of animals and receiving candy for good behavior. But the good thing is that stores are sensitive to this condition and combat pay kicks in around this time anyway.

But you know it doesn’t just take repetitive music to set off alarm bells. Being set upon when walking through major department stores with sprays of sample perfumes surrounding you like a nuclear cloud is just the ticket also. The coughing, sneezing and rash can be graphic. I once was caught up in this net. The only way I could flee was to succumb to the saleslady blocking my path by purchasing a 50-oz. bottle of something called Women’s Stud Cologne. I tried it out on my dog when I got home and had to call a hazmat unit; eventually he was gently placed in an oxygen chamber to jump-start his respiratory system.

Now the real fear and panic comes for me, not when I see a box labeled TNT or dynamite, but rather whenever I see a box with either an Apple logo on it or it says i anything, like Pad or Pod, and frankly I don’t even know the difference.

These types of gifts are not part of a diabolical plot; they simply are the result of adult children getting back at their parents for all those curfews and rules we imposed on them back when they knew everything about life.

But we are mothers, you reason when you see a high-tech box; we shouldn’t have to know about power surges, gigabytes, texting, tweeting and apps. We know about stuff like putting bandages on scraped knees, soothing coughs and colds, multitasking laundry and dinner, driving carpools and balancing budgets.

And yet, you may have to face the possibility that this thing will invade your Christmas this year.

But like everything else, we will adjust and learn to love these high-tech devices. We have a secret weapon: grandchildren or anyone under the age of 12. With this kind of consultant, who needs directions or the fear and panic? Save that for the fruitcake.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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