Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now in the rearview mirror. The Christmas shopping season is in full bloom.
However, although some people will say that this is the season to be jolly, there are many people who are anything but jolly. At least, they are not as jolly shopping for Christmas as they were in past years.
Shopping has never been one of my favorite things. Debbie and I differ greatly on our attitudes toward shopping.
Debbie and her friends have been known to leave early in the morning on a shopping adventure and not get home until late in the evening. When I hear the car pull into the garage, I get up to help carry in the bundles and … there is nothing.
I would ask, “Are there packages in the trunk?”
Debbie’s response would often be, “Oh, no. We didn’t buy anything. We just shopped.”
That answer always baffled me. The words would enter one ear and just bounce around within my brain because it just made no sense.
Not to sound sexist or anything, but maybe that is one of the differences between men and women.
For years, archaeologists have labeled men the “hunters” and women the “gatherers.” The essence of those classifications indicates that men tend to charge ahead, track down what they want, kill it and take it home.
Women, on the other hand, would tend to find something that required less violence, like gathering nuts, berries, fruit, vegetables and grain. They would gather what they found and take it home to add it to the meat and the group would then eat.
Does that sound sexist? I think so.
Admittedly, this is a rather simplistic explanation of something that archaeologists have been studying and researching for generation, but I think it can be applied to how men and women approach shopping. I go hunting for something. Debbie scouts around and gathers specific items for specific people. I hate to buy something expensive for someone, because I’m always afraid they won’t really like it. Because of that, I really hate shopping for Debbie.
Shortly after we were married, we came up with a simple plan that made Christmas shopping a whole lot more pleasant. Once we would arrive at the mall or shopping center, Debbie would lead the way. My job was to quietly follow wherever she led.
Griping and complaining were absolutely forbidden. I was the simple-minded pack animal. I was the beast of burden that quietly carried bags and packages from the store to the trunk of the car. If I did my job and helped without annoying her, I was rewarded with dinner and a drink.
Several years ago, I did overstep my responsibility. But luckily, I got away with it.
We had just entered the Fairfield Commons Mall. Near the entrance was a jewelry store. Debbie wanted to look around, so I did my job. I followed without questioning.
After several minutes of simply “looking”, I meekly asked, “What are we looking for?” Bear in mind that Debbie loves jewelry, but rarely ever buys any for herself. She answered, “Oh, nothing really. I’m just looking.”
However, something called a “tennis bracelet” had caught her eye. I didn’t even know what a tennis bracelet was, but I quickly found out.
The tennis bracelet that was silently calling to my wife was made with gold and diamonds. The salesperson carefully pulled it out of the display case and handed it to Debbie. I may have heard a slight gasp. She asked about it. She saw the price. She carefully handed it back. It was obvious she loved it.
We continued our shopping trek upstairs and downstairs. We entered all the stores that beckoned Debbie onward. We also passed a Starbucks that was packed with a line of shoppers that flowed out into the mall.
As we continued meandering about the mall, I couldn’t get that tennis bracelet out of my mind.
We were in the far reaches of the J.C. Penney store when inspiration struck. I asked, “Would you like to have a vanilla latte from Starbucks?”
“Sure,” she said.” So, I said, “OK. Take your time, shop around and get whatever you want. I’ll run down to Starbucks and get in line. If that line is as long as it was, you should have plenty of time.”
As soon as I got out of her sight, I took off running. I ran down the step instead of using the escalator. Rushing into the jewelry store, I found the same clerk and gasped out, “You have two minutes to sell me the tennis bracelet my wife was looking at.
She looked up at me, smiled, nodded, and said, “I can do that.”
In two minutes, I was running back up the stairs and slipped into the line with the other Starbucks customers. With her shiny, new tennis bracelet resting securely in my pocket, I looked up and saw Debbie headed my way. I told her to find us a table in the food court and I’d bring the coffee.
She had no idea that I had quickly tracked down her present, and with the help of a kind salesclerk had it boxed, bagged and hidden away.
My hunt was complete. I loved it. For the rest of that Christmas season, we gathered presents for family, friends, kids and grandkids, but nothing was more satisfying than the look on her face on Christmas morning.
My hunt had been a success.
Stay safe — and enjoy your hunting and gathering.
Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.