Take A Left At The Toilet Paper
Published: December 28th, 2016
By: Jim Mullen

I should know better than to go to the store during the busy holiday season. But then again, when is it not a holiday season?

As far as the retail world is concerned, every day of the year is part of one holiday season or another. As soon as the wrapping paper gets thrown away from Christmas and the goofy 2017 glasses are in the trash, advertisers start obsessing over the Super Bowl. It's become Christmas, Part 2. The only surprise is that no one has started printing "Have a Merry Super Bowl" greeting cards yet, but as soon as someone figures out how to make a buck off of it, they will. Maybe the cards will smell like guacamole and corn chips.

Then, after the last spilled nacho bowl gets steamed out of your rec room carpet, along comes Valentine's Day and Presidents Day -- two more holidays that focus more on shopping than anything else. Am I crazy, or did some president die while buying tires that were on sale "that weekend only"? Because that's the only way all the Presidents Day sales would make any kind of sense.

Then come Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day. We all have to stop what we're doing and buy something themed for those. April has Easter, and in May, we get Mother's Day and Memorial Day. Would you ever in your life buy a chocolate bunny at any other time of year than Easter? Would you ever take Mom out to a fancy restaurant any other day of the year than Mother's Day? And so it goes.

When every aisle of the store is full of holiday cookies or Super Bowl snack trays or green St. Paddy's Day hot cross buns, and you come home with nothing but the butter and eggs that you went in for, you're a holiday pooper. Don't you have enough holiday spirit to buy stuff you don't need? How will the executives at Hook, Line and Sinker, Inc. put their kids through college if you don't buy these holiday trinkets, cookies and doodads?

I'm a holiday party pooper, then. Green hot cross buns are not an Irish tradition; stop making things up. Oh, and that Super Bowl snack tray I'm taking to your party? I bought it the day after last year's Super Bowl for half price. Enjoy the sausage and cheese. They've been aged for 365 days.

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OK, OK, I'm being a little harsh on the holidays. It's not as if St. Patrick made the green beer and the green hot cross buns, and it's not as if any president ran on a platform of selling tires and mattresses at deep, deep discounts. But if we were all nice to Mom all year long, and told her how much we love her and appreciate her, and took her out to dinner just because, then we wouldn't need a Mother's Day. The same with fathers. And if you're drinking every day anyway, do you need an excuse like New Year's Eve, Cinco de Mayo or Mardi Gras to raise a glass? If husbands, wives, friends and lovers would say "I love you" all the time, who would need Valentine's Day?

We've been taught, mainly by television, that buying things for each other is the same as saying things to each other. That it's the same as doing things with each other. Every day, the message from the tube is, "the family that shops together, stays together," despite the great weight of evidence against it. The message is that the more money you spend, the happier you will be. Did you see any smiling faces at the mall today? Is that couple that had the biggest wedding still married? Is the kid who got the most expensive Christmas present happy now? We should shop less and talk more during the holidays.

Besides all that, over-shopping has really changed our way of thinking. I was in a packed store a few days before Christmas and asked a frazzled employee where I could find something. She thought for a second, pointed down an aisle and said, "Turn left at the toilet paper." Is that our mental map now? Turn left at the toilet paper? What happened to "It's on aisle 6?"

Do we even know how to give directions without mentioning stores now? Or does everything start with "Make a right at the Target" or "Hang a left at the Costco"?