An atheist goes Christmas shopping
The Perfect Gift
I don't believe in God, but every year I get dragged into his son's birthday celebrations.
Since I can't penalize those nice people around me who always shower me with gifts, I'm obliged to shop for something of equal value and equal emotional impact.
Please understand, I'm not cheap; it's not that at all. If it were just a function of exchanging cash, this would be over by now - I can handle one trip to the ATM. No, No, this requires thought. It's the thought that counts, or so say all those emotionally imbued Apple commercials. Well, I've got a thought for Apple; how is further enslaving someone you love to a technological tether a thoughtful gift? Fusing them to a digital alienator designed to separate, segregate and ensure no useful form of human contact exists. Virtual popularity? Hardly - the feeling of connectedness is about as enduring as a battery charge.
But come to think of it, it might be the perfect gift for an antisocial like me, and I've heard they even have an app that provides swear words in every language, corrected for cultural context and significance. This could be really useful since I've grown tired of "Christ."
At least all this spending's good for the economy, right? Bringing prosperity to children in the deepest darkest parts of the third world. Maybe one day, they can save enough of their factory earnings to afford the very products they manufacture seven days a week. I bet they'd enjoy the swearing app. Then my UNICEF kids can text me the daily aids tallies in real-time. How efficient would that be?
OK, sorry, sorry, I'm done; I've stepped off the soapbox and into the Mall, for penance and annual punishment.
Each crowded store is filled with shit and its selling fast, an obvious sign of the seasonal insanity that overcomes shoppers this close to the birth of their savior. Not just shit, but shit nobody would really want or need, excepting the grocery store at the end of the mall. I could get everyone cheese! Everyone likes cheese, but I suspect it's frowned upon and might make me look lazy were everyone to receive a big bag of Gouda.
I hate crowds, meaning more than two people, me being one of the two, so I only visit stores that look empty. So far, my options are Plumbing Supplies, Tax Preparation, Optometry, Tires, Liposuction and a place that makes sports trophies. The four-foot gold bowling trophy is a stunner.
I briefly thought of giving the gift of music, good music, but I was surprised to learn they don't sell music in stores anymore, and I need to visit a cloud. I don't have enough Scotch on me for a trip like that, and besides, apparently there's no such thing as good music anymore, so what's the point?
I escaped to the parking lot to regroup. OK, fine, there's no intention of going back. But on the way to the car, I walked past an old man sitting in a bus shelter. He was under-dressed and shivering like the little dog that sat on his lap.
I stuck my head in the shelter and asked if he was alright. He smiled, a bit toothless, saying he was OK, and that he was waiting for the bus to take him home. He had a grocery bag beside him, but all it contained was dog food, peanuts and a box of Christmas chocolates.
He continued his long salutation, telling me he thought his children might actually be visiting from Buffalo this Christmas, and he wanted to hurry home and wrap the chocolates so they would have a gift to open.
I said that that was a very nice thought and wished him a Merry Christmas, which I never do. Then I introduced myself and shook his hand, he said his name was Henry, and his dog was Teddy. And I shook Teddy's paw.
This Christmas, my friends will only get a card for the holidays instead of the meaningless gifts I'd normally bestow. The card will explain that, sadly, sometimes people don't get what they really want for Christmas.
But once in a while, they do, and I'll sign it, Thanks for the train tickets, Henry and Teddy.