Having a Holly Jolly Time?

By Ernie Witham   |   December 26, 2019

I looked over my shoulder at the car behind me to see if he would kindly backup. The driver of that car was looking over his shoulder at the car behind him with the same thought. The third driver back started to reverse but stopped when another car pulled in behind him.

Ahead of us a gargantuan SUV that probably seats 15 was trying to negotiate a turn into a parking space the size of a Smartcar. My car radio played “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” for the seventh time in the last hour. I switched stations. The other station was still playing “The 12 Days of Christmas.” I sang along: “On the third day of Christmas I finally found a parking spot.”

I looked at the list on the passenger’s seat. “Smartwool light socks for hiking/trail running/cycling,” it said. “Available at REI.” I’d had the Secret Santa list for a month. All I had to do was buy for one member of the family, so I waited. I figured shopping might be slower by the twenty-third of December. What were all these procrastinators doing at REI?

REI. Ha! There was a certain irony that a store dedicated to the “vast expanses of the great outdoors” had a lot with less parking spaces than your average cul-de-sac.

Someone exited the store, their arms full of stuff. Engines revved all around me. The person stopped, turned, and went back into the store. Most likely to buy the last pair of “Smartwool light socks for hiking/trail running/cycling.” I heard a grinding noise and realized it was my teeth.

I should have been here earlier. But I needed stamps to send out my Christmas cards, which I had picked up the night before at Costco. Who knew when they said 7-10 days to print cards, they meant 7-10 days? And because I also needed a cooked (super-hot) chicken I had to get a shopping cart, which at Costco is almost as big as the SUV I was now behind at REI. And, when I finally got to the check-out with my chicken and cards, I found myself behind enough people to qualify for their own zip code.

So, I had waited until today to go to the post office. Fortunately, the very last space in their lot, before I would have had to exit, pull a u-turn across four lanes of traffic and start all over, was open. There was a sign that said, “no overnight parking.” Not a good omen.

A line of people with arms full of boxes snaked out the front door and onto the steps. I headed for the one and only do-it-yourself stamp and package machine. There was a woman pressing buttons and looking confused. She blew a strand of hair out of her face. I put the few cards we had finished before running out of stamps in a slot. I looked through the slot and saw foliage. Had they run out of bins? Were they now using a potted plant to collect letters? On the other side of the woman was a pull-down handle for the self-depositing of pre-paid packaging. The handle was stuck. I watched a dozen people try it. Somewhere in the snaking line, a guy started whistling “Jingle Bells.” He stopped mid-whistle. I think someone scotch-taped him.

When my turn had finally come. I pressed the 86 buttons required to choose a roll of stamps. “Please enter credit card,” came up on the screen. I put in my card. “Enter pin number,” it said. “I don’t have a pin number for this card,” I tried to explain to the metal contraption. “Put in pin number,” it said again. I pushed 33 new buttons until it finally released my card. Then I tried to put in a different card, but it was stuck on the pin number request. The guy behind me tried to get it to work. No luck. That’s when I had given up on stamps and driven to REI.

The guy in the SUV was finally into the space, but he couldn’t open his door, so he began the odyssey of backing out. I reclined my seat and began my annual Christmas mantra. “I will not procrastinate next year… I will not procrastinate next year… I…”


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