Shopping rush isn't worth checking out

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Hey, what are you doing reading this? Shouldn't you be shopping?

The last barrier has been breached, the last true day of rest is gone. You might resist in that pathetic 21st century way -- hundreds of thousands have signed online petitions against the big-box blaspheming of this blessed day! -- but that won't mean diddly-squat. At a mall near you, thousands of two-legged sheep -- I mean shoppers -- will be flocking.

I knew all was lost when I heard Sears would open today. It's one thing for Target and Wal-Mart to jump this day's still-too-early midnight start to Christmas shopping, but I still associate Sears with a gentler, less harried age. Didn't Rod Steiger carry a Sears Roebuck catalog into the outhouse in "Oklahoma!"? Is nothing sacred anymore?

I readily concede I'm no kind of shopper. Not shopping today or Friday will be no more of a sacrifice than giving up rhinoceros hunting in Wilmerding. My distaste for malls stems from my youth.

A child of the '60s, I spent too much of my Wonder Years with my three siblings, being hauled around the mall by my mother. We children had no real purpose there. We were just too young to be left home alone.

And on those occasions when Mom would buy clothes for me, she'd buy pants and coats so that they'd fit for years ahead, leaving me looking worse than when I walked in. I was the sartorial equivalent of the Pittsburgh Pirates; my pieces never all fit correctly at the same time.

Later, as a 1970s teenager too young to drive and too unformed to interest girls, I spent countless boring afternoons doing mall laps. I still can't see a Pier 1 Imports store without instinctively checking my face for zits.

Thus I hate shopping.

I realize that's un-American and increasingly more so each year. According to the National Retail Federation, 24 percent of Black Friday shoppers were in the stores by midnight last year. (Meantime, about 24 percent of Asia was busy making the stuff we bought.)

All this makes me a pacifist in these shopping wars. Others are mounting a counter-revolution. The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday to retailers, but it's Buy Nothing Day to others. You can read all about this international protest against consumerism at www.adbusters.org, but you should prepare yourself for more leftist vitriol than you'll find anywhere east of Berkeley, Calif. That starts with:

"Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet." -- Fawzi Ibrahim.

Sorry, Fawzi, but I think I'll just sit back and simply dislike mall frenzy. I'll get to the chore of Christmas shopping in due time. This isn't about politics for me. (Although if we could ship the singing duo in the Target commercials down to Guantanamo Bay, even the toughest al-Qaida zealot might reveal anything to get them to stop.)

All I want these next couple of days is what Elmer Fudd yearned for: west and wewaxation. The day after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. Downtown will be about half-empty. Neither politicians nor lawyers will be congregating. I can take a cold turkey sandwich, slathered with cranberry sauce, to the office. It's one of the few days that I can find a deserted desk by a window and, God willing, enjoy a little sun as I read my newspaper and slobber down those glorious leftovers in peace.

In the end, that's what it will take if we are to shove holiday shopping back toward the holidays for which we're shopping. Forget protests in the parking lots, online petitions or the re-enactment of ancient blue laws. If shoppers simply don't show up on Thanksgiving, stores will stop opening on Thanksgiving. More people -- retail clerks and shoppers alike -- will find more reasons to enjoy the day.

Christmas shopping shouldn't be competitive and it needn't be political. It should be done at the last minute, on Christmas Eve, as God intended. The way I always heard it, the Three Wise Men showed up with their gifts way after the shepherds and that little drummer boy, so there's no real need to rush.

brianoneill

Brian O'Neill: boneill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1947.


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