'Twas the day after the elections and I toodled out to the mailbox thinking all the while, "Thank goodness no more political ads in our mailbox!". I may have been whistling as I strolled across the courtyard and down the driveway to our mailbox. I do remember waving to a neighbor who was walking her dog on the other side of the street, big old smiling howdy do on my face. Then I opened my mailbox and found......this. Nine Christmas catalogs. Nine. Wow.
Now it's early days in the big holiday season that stretches from Halloween to New Years and Christmas ads, Christmas greetings, Christmas sales and yes, Christmas catalogs are to be expected, but to get nine of them in one day? That's a lot. AND these are the first in my mailbox this season. I am secretly harboring a suspicion that the post office was hoarding these catalogs during the political ad onslaught and didn't deliver any until after the election. I have no proof at all, but deep down in the recesses of my curmudgeonly heart, that's what I am thinking.
The funniest part (to me anyway) is that I haven't bought anything from one of these sorts of catalogs in years! Way back in the day before everyone shopped online, I actually did a decent amount of shopping via mail order catalog. These kind of specialty ones that only come during the Christmas season were a wonderful way to find something unusual, something different, that thing that the gift recipient never knew they always wanted. Often it's a gift that I didn't even know existed until I saw it in the pages of one of these catalogs. It was a perfect solution for those things I couldn't find in actual local shops, which is still always my first choice. (Shop Local!)
So way back then, in the olden days, I would read carefully through all of them, folding down the corners of pages that had something appealing on it, often making notations of different people's names/size/colour preference in the margins. Shortly after Thanksgiving I'd force myself to make some serious decisions. I'd drag all the dog-eared catalogs back out, look at everything I'd considered the first time 'round, make my decisions and start making phone calls. That's how it was done. You would call, be put on hold for quite some time, eventually singing along with the Christmas Carol Musak blasting in your ear, then eventually get one of the real live human beings who were varying degrees of jolly to be honest, tell them what you wanted, the page number, the product number, the size/colour/whatever and verbally give them your credit card number which they would always repeat back to you to be sure it was correct. Within a week or two, the mysterious boxes would begin to arrive. Yay! It was all so exciting. Long and drawn out but exciting.
But I think that is where the impersonalizing of Holiday shopping began. With catalogs.
Now of course, we all shop online. We do not interact with actual humans at any point. Just one computer to another. Often the packages arrive the very next day. I can even have the gifts sent directly to the recipients. And if I wasn't so dang cheap, I'd pony up to have the gifts even wrapped! (I don't). It's convenient for sure. But honestly I'm not a fan. I do it. But sometimes I wish I didn't.
It's so clean and sleek. It's almost a clinical transaction. I can shop in my PJ's in the middle of the night without touching anything more intimate than my keyboard. I haven't smelled anything different. I haven't tasted anything new. I haven't stumbled across something unexpected. I didn't wiggle my way through a throng of other shoppers. I didn't have to put on a coat and constantly be too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold going in and out of stores. And at the end of the day I didn't walk back in the house with armloads of bags of goodies that I stash in the back of the closet until I can wrap things. Nope. I curl up on the sofa at 3:00am with a cuppa cocoa at my side, the TV on, muted, in the background with my laptop, shopping. It's certainly convenient. Easy Peasy.
But maybe it's not supposed to be that easy all of the time. Maybe there really is something special about inconveniencing ourselves a little bit now and again for the sake of someone else. Or maybe I'm Christmas Sam Quixote, fighting the windmills of days gone by.
Sorry, I must be feeling nostalgic today.
I have the catalogs stacked on a table in the family room. And I'm quite sure that at some point I will even flip through them. Probably in the bathtub. But I know for a fact that I will not be buying anything from any catalogs again this year. And I'm equally sure that while I will do a lot of local shopping, I will also succumb to the siren call of convenient online shopping. How 'bout you?
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.