Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Shopping trip to Capital City.

This was the day for my annual drive to Capital City to do my last minute Christmas Shopping.
Normally I take the train but considering the number of gifts I had to buy I realized I needed all the trunk space I could get. I got into my Lincoln early this morning and ventured north on Highway 1. My radio was tuned to Radio Cloverdale's nonstop day of Christmas Carols. I was hoping for a quick trip up and back, and no scars to show for it.

Today my eyes were open to the horrors of modern urban life outside my tranquil live in Cloverdale. Capital City's traffic reminded me of New York City. Cars everywhere. So many in fact there were times I just held my breath, said a quick "Hail Mary" and pressed on the gas hoping someone in the never ending line of oncoming traffic would take pity on an old duffer in a big Lincoln and let me in unmolested. It worked, for the most part. I was only honked at twice. I felt pretty good about that.

The lines at the traffic lights stretched forever. So far in fact that sometimes I'd get in the turning lane for a light you couldn't see in the distance. I inched my way up over several light cycles until it was my turn to turn. Even then I rarely got the green arrow. It was usually me pulling out into the intersection where I'd wait for a break in the oncoming traffic to make my turn. That was dangerous in its own right. Today the break rarely came so I'd sit there until my light changed from green to yellow and finally to red. Of course, I didn't dare go on the yellow, or the red. I had to wait until I was sure the oncoming traffic was stopped. That usually meant holding up traffic from the other two directions. Pleasant isn't a word I'd use to describe the mood of the cars waiting for my hugh Battlestar to maneuver the turn, catch the wind and sail free of the intersection.

Finding a parking place was laughable. Luckily I planed ahead for that and brought hiking boots, a canteen and energy bars for the long trek from the last parking place in the 30 acre lot to the store's entrance. I'm happy to report that WalMart was prepared and had drink and first aid stations set up at regular intervals throughout the lot to rescue and rehydrate exhausted hikers. It was so bad at the Capital City South WalMart that the Salvation Army swapped the Red Kettle and bell ringer for a 50 cot MASH aid station caring for the holiday's shopping casualties. I stopped for a moment to take a whiff or two of pure oxygen. A nurse took my blood pressure. I think I was OK. They let me go.

The interior of the stores were a nightmare. Shopping carts were everywhere, leading dazed shoppers aimlessly around the store in a macabre version of bumper cars, only with carts. Children swung from the overhead light fixtures, giving one the feeling of jungle life. Every check out was open, even the ones not used since the middle of the Cold War. They were the ones with the big, non computerized cash registers where the cashier had to manually enter each price into the machine. Forget any sense of accuracy. Every employee of the store was manning a register so forget getting help with an item. It was a mad house. Some shoppers paid a bit extra for the shopping carts with GPS units attached so they could be found if they didn't return within a certain amount of time. The local Search and Rescue Teams were on hand to "go in" if necessary.

In one store the managers stood on tall ladders in every department directing traffic up and down the aisles with large megaphones and exaggerated arm waving. I found the fire brigade and paramedics at another store. They were called in to treat the wounded from a multi cart pile up near frozen foods. It was ugly, bodies everywhere, not to mention the horror of seeing civilization nearly break down completely as other shoppers were arrested for picking through the purses and wallets of the fallen. It was horrible. A sad commentary of modern life.

By the time I reached Target I was nearly done for. It seemed all was lost. It seemed the world was at an end. I began wondering if life was still worth living. I got out of my car a good 3 miles from the store's doors and started to walk. What I saw caused my heart to numb. Bodies of shoppers everywhere. Some half in their cars and half out, others overcome while loading their purchases in their trunks. The smell of exhaustion's fumes tainted the air. I felt all holiday joy ebbing from my body. I sank to the tarmac ground, I could hear the sound of wild, rabid dogs nearby. I thought all was lost.... and then, a miracle. I heard singing. It was coming from my left. It was the sound of Christmas carols.

I struggled to my feet. Pulling every ounce of strength out of my being I walked. Ten minutes later I came into a clearing. In front of me was a congregation of shoppers, all gathered around what appeared to be a Priest standing high on the top of a large Hummer. He led the crowd in holiday songs and urged us onward. He reminded us of the true meaning of Christmas. He told us that with God on our side nothing was impossible.
"Remember your families waiting for you back home," he shouted. "Don't forsake them. Find the strength to continue. Do it for them. DO IT FOR THEM!"

The crowd cheered. I felt new breath filling my lungs. Yes, I could get through this day. I could make it back to Cloverdale. Yes, this could still be a Happy Christmas.

With my new found strength I persevered and finished what I had to do. I made it home. All is well now. All is well.

Happy Christmas Friends. May your Holidays be full of fun, good food and good company.


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