Our Sister Phoebe, a Deacon

Theological musings inspired by the Spirit and totally Ellen…

Do You Really Have to Ask That?

This is the time of year my ‘grumpy old woman’ persona comes to the fore.  I’m not talking about “Grammatica – the Bitch Goddess of Lexiconia,” the mythological Me that has issues with the lack of proofreading and other foibles of writing; I’m writing about the woman who doesn’t like the questions, “Last minute shopping?” and “Why’d you wait so long?”

Yes, I’ve been asked those questions by hopefully well-meaning store clerks/cashiers as I bring my Christmas purchases to the counter and put down the dollar bills.  They usually come with a bright, cheery, smile and a giggle.  I understand the clerks have the hardest job in the world in the busiest season.  When a shopper is stressed, worried about life other than what to put under the tree, it doesn’t relieve that stress one bit to be second-guessed about their shopping habits.

Why, you may wonder, does this make me angry?  You may ask, why not just let it go?

I’ve been letting it go for a very long while.  Now I’m at the point of my life where I don’t want to hear it.

I’ve never agreed with, or ‘bought in to’ the Industrial-Christmas-Retail-Complex (and my thanks to clergy colleague and Facebook friend Tim Schenck for that label or facsimile of that label) that has become our holiday season.  No, no, no, not to worry; I’m not going to rant about putting the Christ back in Christmas, nor quote Dickens by saying we should keep Christmas in our hearts all year ’round.  I don’t like the emphasis on when and where you shop, what you shop for and what you eventually purchase being the true measure of your affection for the person for whom you are purchasing a gift.

I tend to follow the little lists my sons have been leaving for me for years, first for Santa Claus, and now out of habit, to me – left on my cluttered desk.  I’m always amazed at how practical and simple the lists are.  This year the oldest son asks for a new watch and a sweater.  I know the youngest would be happy with new, fresh, sketch books and more pencils.  They usually get what they ask for but it all depends on my financial situation.

I tend to wait until the last few days before Christmas before I shop and it’s for a practical reason.  I usually don’t have money until then, or time.

I never knew it was imperative to shop early and often.

When I get asked those questions, I wonder about those people in line behind me or before me that are in the same situation or worse – not having money or time.  A few years ago one of my acquaintances on Facebook posted a story about a man who went out on Black Friday not to grab up a 50 inch flat screen TV or the latest techno toy, but to buy a pair of shoes because he needed them and he was hoping for a sale or deal.   I also read a story about a woman who waited until that day and during the Christmas season to get her children new clothes and coats because it was the only time of year she could do it.  For some people, a Christmas bonus means a warm coat or an extra couple of weeks with food on the table.  There was only one time when the clerk wouldn’t stop with her critical mass of negativity on the subject that I literally walked away from the counter, leaving my purchases there.   Whether she was venting because she hated her low-paying, high-stress job or she just said the first thing that came up in her thoughts, I don’t know.  I just know that I’m past ignoring the commentary.

Where am I going with all this?

My wish is that people who ask those questions would stop.  I wish the local media wouldn’t run stories about ‘last-minute shoppers’ and interviewing them, asking, “Why’d you wait so long?”

Why do you care?  Why is this a news story when there are people sleeping on our streets and going hungry because they have no where to live and not enough to eat?

Dear Clerks, smile and ask if I’ve found what I was looking for, ask me how my day has been, but don’t wonder if I’m someone who likes to wait to last minute because I don’t care about the person for whom I’m buying a gift or assume I’m a horrible, selfish, person because I do wait to shop.  You don’t know me, you don’t know my circumstance.  I won’t get mad at you if you don’t ask me dumb questions.  If you ask me how my day has been I’ll tell you it’s been great because you thought to ask that while you packed up my purchases and money exchanged hands and I’ll tell you so.  I’ll probably come back to your store and recommend the store to my friends.  Your kindness and sensitivity are true gifts of the season, especially if I’m not the only person in the store you take the time to ask questions that put a smile on faces and show that you care about something other than the day’s receipts.





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