Sunday, December 6, 2009

Blackbelt in Shopping

We live so far from civilization, we approach Christmas shopping with a fierce strategy and unrelenting energy. Even with the internet, it's difficult to purchase everything without physically entering a store and seeing every piece of merchandise presented for sale. Besides, half the fun of shopping is the shopping itself: the browsing, considering, imagining. Even the other shoppers, sharing small talk, shopping tips or even coupons. Grandma had taught us how to shop; we invoked her guidance on this longest shopping day of the year, fondly remembering the way she dealt with indecision: "If you can't decide between the two, just buy both."

I picked up my sister at 6:30 am. We each had our travel mugs of coffee, and we each brought snack bars, bottled water and tote bags. For interest's sake, I had my pedometer on my cell phone activated. Oh, and I had two extra pairs of shoes stashed in the truck in case my feet started to hurt. During the three-hour drive to Traverse City we discussed our itinerary, our shopping lists and restaurant choices. The plan was to finish our Christmas shopping in one day, then drive back home.

We started at a couple box stores, stretching our legs and finding our shopping groove. It's important to accelerate slowly--if one enters the first store at full speed, one's energy will lag early on and ultimately peter out. A definitive sign of a rookie shopper is one who bursts into the store and jogs from department to department, maniacally shoving hangers around until she finds the prize. Maintaining a steady rhythm throughout the day will ensure energy for the long haul as well as preserve personal dignity (always a consideration).

After trundling our first purchases to the truck, we proceeded to the mall where we parked in a strategic location outside the store where we planned to purchase the most. We carried our tote bags in to reduce the number of plastic store shopping bags; our first stop was at the pretzel vendor for a hot pretzel. A professional shopper always plans time for refueling, as shopping is miserable when one is hungry and progresses to nearly impossible when one is fainting from lack of nutrition. Shopping is an endurance sport forcing participants to focus on hydrating and eating light meals to maintain the pace.

We pushed our heaping cart out to the truck after covering half the mall; it was time for lunch. We emptied the cart, carefully stacking our purchases on separate sides of the truck to simplify the unpacking, which would occur after dark. Still feeling fairly energetic, we re-entered the mall and found a comfortable eat-in restaurant. Once we placed our orders our lists reappeared for revision and additions, and we planned the remainder of our afternoon and evening: the rest of the mall, then a few more box stores (including a book store), a cruise through a furniture store just for fun, and the long ride home.

Christmas shopping finished, we headed north and arrived home just before midnight. The pedometer read 6.3 miles; the Christmas budget was reduced to $1.15; the list was fulfilled. Grandma would be proud.

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