Sunday, December 26, 2010

December (bah humbug...)

This year, for the first time ever, and after a particularly pleasant Christmas (as in everything jelled - food, gifts, company [apart from a minor incident where hot wax was flung over not one but two of my best tablecloths]), I found myself at the shops on Boxing Day. Now this is something I've always studiously avoided, in fact in bygone days I would have rather had hot wax flung over myself, and then peeled off with the aid of a rusty stanley knife which is then jabbed into my right eye, than go anywhere near a cash register on this particular day. But this year it so happened that my youngest was rostered for a three-hour stint at McDonalds at Knox City and, somewhat buoyed by the success of the previous day (and now in need of new tablecloths), I decided to have a look at just what all the fuss is about.

Oh. My. God.

From the snarly traffic jam in the carpark to the chattering, babbling sea of humanity ebbing and flowing from shop doorway to food court, this was one of the most horrible experiences I have ever experienced. At one stage, pressed against a shop window, I tried to wrap my mind around how we would explain this tradition to a third-world country, or even friendly, tourist-inclined aliens. "Why, yes, I know we've just indulged in an orgy of consumerism in the lead-up to Christmas, and yes I know Christmas was just yesterday, and I know I've barely found places for everything I received. But, see, I really needed this hand-bag, these jeans, this half-price wrapping paper, this piece of mock snakeskin luggage with the shiny gold zips."

And the most horrible thing is that you get caught up in the hype. The bright lights, the sales banners, the bargain-price today only don't miss out subliminal messages of fulfillment and success. The cheerful, purposeful throngs of people, each with lovely smooth plastic bags hanging from their hands. Containing happiness, contentment, pride. I wanted some of that - especially if it was half the marked price. And even as I fought my way towards the exit I was thinking I must buy something while I'm here. As if it was some sort of crime to leave sans purchase. Failure.
It's not that I don't like sales; it's just that the timing of this one seems a little... well, off. The day after Christmas? Why couldn't it be a week after Christmas, like a New Year sale instead? Then we'd have a few days to enjoy our gifts before starting all over again. And I wouldn't get catalogues in my letter-box on Christmas Eve, advertising - at a cheaper price - DVDs that I'm about to hand out the following day. And then retail staff wouldn't have to spend their own Christmases preparing for the busiest day of the year. And, anyway, isn't Boxing Day supposed to be more a family day - for picnics and barbecues and backyard cricket - than a day to hurl yourself - and your family (seriously, do kids enjoy that?) - into a sea of surging humanity in search of a bargain? Especially when that's what we've been doing for the better part of the entire month already!

And, lastly, why don't we see some of that - as in the picnics and barbecues and backyard cricket - on the evening news instead of segment after segment that basically celebrates greed, while providing a free advertisement for the ongoing sales. For god's sake show me some kids running about in the sunshine, parents drinking chardonnay under the trees, the smoke from a barbecue juxtaposed across the wedgewood-blue of our summer sky - instead of the anticipatory gleam of a shopper's eye as he/she/it prepares for the competitive event of the year.

Or am I just becoming a Grumpy Old Woman who doesn't know what fun is?


  1. It's not just you, I find it all very bizarre too! There has even been a cultural shift in gift-giving for some people - they simply exchange store cards in place of gifts on the 25th, then head out as a Pack to spend them at the sales on the 26th!

    The whole public holiday/retail employees thing has me stumped too. My son in law and nephew both worked on Christmas Day (both in hospitality industry), my daughter (hospitality, in a shopping centre)did on Boxing Day, yet none get extra pay for doing so, because Monday and Tuesday were the designated holidays because of the weekend! So my other daughter (retail) worked the Tuesday and got extra pay, while her sister had to give up her real Boxing Day for normal pay!

    It makes a mockery of the whole holiday tradition.

  2. I went to the Boxing day sales at Chadstone once, many years ago (I'm sure it was before I had children and my oldest, like your youngest, also worked on Boxing day this year). I went up the escalator in Myer, looked out over the sea of heads, and had to make my way straight back to the car and head for home. The crush of people was disturbing!

    When I recently told my brother, who works in a whitegoods retailer, that I avoid boxing day sales like the plague, he informed me that it really is the best day of the year in his store for cheap prices. Personally I'd prefer the poke-in-the-eye thingy than having to negotiate that many people, even if I did save a few dollars.

    BTW, great blog. I love coming here every few weeks to look for updates...

  3. So glad it's not just me! Sometimes I think I'm being a bit of a whinger, especially as so many people seem to think it's an ideal family outing. Maybe it's like an extreme sport? Or parents testing out Darwin's survival of the fittest theory. But how unfair, Yvette, that your daughter didn't even get PH pay - to go through all that for normal pay just adds insult to injury. So glad the shops are all getting back to normal now.