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Hardman: A Tale From the Shopping Front

Columnist provides guide to holiday shopping.

Helmet? Check.

Shoulder pads? Check.

Rib pads? Check.

Athletic supporter? Check.

No, I'm not playing football in the high school Super Bowls this weekend or as quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts against our New England Patriots Sunday.

Instead, I'm getting ready for a contact-sport much more physical than anything ever seen on the gridiron ... Christmas shopping.

This column isn't really for those who are adept at shopping and navigating the perils of the mall.

I'm extremely jealous of those people. I wish they would take me with them to do my holiday shopping.

I'd even pay a fee.

I went to a certain store the other day with a holiday wreath in its logo, and they have a bargain theme to their commercials. My brother-in-law calls it the pistachio store, because they sell them there.

I like the food, books and DVDs, but I just go nuts when I go there.

The other day, my wife and I were on our way to the gym, so she waited in the car, and I ran into the pistachio store to buy one thing.

I should have taken the GPS and my body armor.

It was a busy afternoon. I was crashing into displays and shoppers for half an hour and came back to the car empty-handed.

I failed.

And that was better than the last time I went holiday shopping at the pistachio store. I was buying shell lights for the Christmas tree, and left with the lights and a bruised rib. The time before that, I got trapped and had to call my sister-in-law for advice on how to escape.

It's not the pistachio store’s fault. It's mine, but I have come up with a system. I'm going in 10 minutes before closing, go right to the front desk, ask someone where the thing I want is, and then sprint to the item and back to the cashier. The people there are very nice to me, recognizing my confused state.

By the way, I'm upping my training at the local "Y" to include sprinting.

I have problems at malls too. Mainly, I can't find my car in the parking lot. One time, I spent two hours just roaming around in the freezing cold looking for my car.

Now I put a rescue flag on my car antenna and that helps. Try it, my friends. Just pick something that stands out in the crowd.

The other problem is that I freak out in big lines. I start going over and over in my head whether the person I want to buy the item for will really like it. The present might be funny after an afternoon of struggling through the mall, but will laughs be lost by Christmas? Sort of like the old singing fish on the wall.

I also weigh the cost. Can I get this cheaper somewhere else? Did I spend this much on (insert family member’s name here) last year?

It's way too stressful.

Here's my strategy. I'm going to the stores with the smallest lines, or I'm going full-time to cyber shopping. Gift cards are another option, but they usually don't go over big on Christmas Day.

Problems, problems, problems.

For Christmas this year, I'd like a gift card to a sporting goods store this year. My shoulder pads need to be replaced.

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