When I was much younger, I thought it was fun to wait until Christmas Eve to do all of my shopping. I’d go to Sears and get everything I needed. Then I started working retail, and it was impossible. Everyone had to work until closing. There were a few years in there when I did all of my shopping out of catalogs. I’d take my time choosing gifts, and then call in all of my orders in one afternoon. I can’t even remember all of the crap I bought for my family and friends from those catalogs. The Christmas after I got back from Latvia, I gave everyone Latvian crafts and jewelry — beautifully bound blank books, textiles, silver, and of course, amber.
In the past few years, I’ve shopped earlier — not as early as some (who cheerfully tell me two weeks before Christmas: I finished my shopping!) — but before Christmas Eve. I’ve done progressively more shopping online. That worked out particularly well this year because I was able to get two gifts that weren’t available in any local stores. Everything got here much earlier than I expected.
Even though I didn’t have any gift shopping to do, I did need to get some groceries, so I ventured out today. I wanted some new tennis shoes, too, so I stopped on the way at the Payless. Every single pair of shoes was made in China. Since I only buy something made in China if I can’t find or don’t have time to find it made somewhere else, I left, deciding to stop at the Academy on the way to the Central Market. Things looked bleak there, too, until I finally found a pair of Reeboks on sale — made in Vietnam! YaY! I also managed to find 2 shirts and some sweats made in El Salvador and India. (India is about to switch over to the no-buy list for me.) When I went to check out, as is my luck, the cashiers were changing. The new cashier couldn’t get his till to fit into the cash register drawer. No matter how hard he tried — pull the drawer out, shift the till, look at the drawer, then the till, then try again — it wouldn’t fit. He turned and called to someone in the manager’s booth, “The till won’t fit.” A young woman came over and stood by the cashier as he continued his futile attempts to make the thing fit. The cashier, with no help from the young woman, called to the manager’s booth again. Another woman shouted from the booth, “What’s wrong?” The cashier said, “It’s too big.” She walked over, watched him still trying and pronounced, “Oh, it’s too wide.” Genius. The cashier tries, the two women stand watching him try, I stand at the counter (I want to see what’s going to happen next — I’m in no hurry), and nothing different happens for more than a minute. The second woman finally says, “Ma’am, you should go to another line. This could take a while.” I smiled and said, “Clearly.” In the next line the cashier was cheery and asked if I needed a gift receipt. I said, “Nope. It’s all for me!” That got me a little laugh.
Next, I went to Central Market. It’s supposed to be European — meaning very narrow aisles and stuff from other places. I had wanted to get something unusual to dip into the super-duper chocolate fountain chocolate that I’m giving my mom tomorrow. I found some raspberries. I also needed to get some potatoes, but for some reason (European?) they don’t sell them in handy 5 lb. bags., and I’m not going to pay $2 something a pound for POTATOES (even if they are imported from Russia). They did have those creepy fingerling potatoes. After making that kind last year, I learned that they freak out my nieces. The place was packed with all sorts of people from all sorts of different places. I heard Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and English, of course. I got some dried apricots and then some pretzels. Moderately successful trip, I guess. Out in the parking lot, there was a guy with a BMer letting a Central Market employee put little gift baskets in his car while the alarm was going off. I’ll give BMer guy credit — he tipped the guy — but seriously, who doesn’t load their own groceries these days? Middle-aged wealthy guys who can’t figure out the alarm systems on their BMers?
I stopped off at Fiesta to get potatoes and sour cream (Central Market wanted a lot for the locally made brand). Oh, and some vino — in a box. Fiesta is patterned more on what you might call an American supermarket — as in the continent. There were probably as many people as there had been in Central Market, but they were way more laid back. I heard mostly English and Spanish — four guys were having an in-depth discussion about which beer to buy. As I walked through the store, three different people in three different aisles were singing along with the Christmas music playing over the speakers — not just humming or singing to themselves but singing — it was cool.
Near the meat counter, a woman asked the butcher a question in Spanish. The butcher listened to her and then said he didn’t understand. Within a moment, a man who wasn’t with the woman stepped over and translated. The butcher listened and answered the woman’s question happily. I smiled and thought, this language thing may take a while, but it can work, not just on Christmas Eve, but every day between everyday regular people.