lifestyle

The 3 stages of last-minute Christmas shopping.

It all started the very first year I got my drivers’ license.

I did my Christmas shopping on my own for the very first time. I drove to the local shopping centre, parked my car, bought some stuff and returned to my car. Except my car was not there. My car, as far as I could tell, was not anywhere.

Stress, confusion and anxiety: This is what I go through every time I have to buy gifts for men.

If you, too, have ever had to sit outside McDonalds for four hours wondering whether Santa spirited your car away in some kind of Christmas prank and waiting for the other cars to leave so that you could perhaps locate your own by a process of elimination, you’ll know that I did not have a good day. I may have cried a little into my cheeseburger.

Okay, I ate six cheeseburgers, and I cried into all of them. A lot.

The good news is, I found my car (eventually). The bad news is, I’ve never gotten over it. And I never will. Because somehow, every year, Christmas shopping seems to get EVEN WORSE. Especially if, like me, you leave it to the last moment.

There are three distinct stages of Christmas shopping horror. I hate all of them, and I can only assume that every other sane person does too.

WHERE WILL I PARK?

Before I even venture inside to the shops where they sell the things that will bring me closer to the ultimate goal of leaving the godforsaken place, I have to find a park. The rules of Christmas parking go like this: if you don’t want to drive around in circles for hours on end, you have to follow an unsuspecting shopper back to their vehicle, which I can only imagine makes them very uncomfortable.

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I want to shout out the window ‘Just following you for your parking spot! I swear I’m not a serial killer!’ But that’s just what a serial killer would say. I swear, you cannot win with Christmas shopping.

I often get really uncomfortable and chicken out from this low-speed chase at the very last second, at which point a soccer mum in a mini-van invariably swoops in and steals the spot that was rightfully mine. Eventually I stalk someone to the bitter end, and they jump on their motorbike. That’s just the way Christmas shopping goes for me.

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE HERE?

When I reach the shops, I realise that I’m in the EXACT SAME SITUATION I WAS JUST IN, except instead of trying to manoeuvre my car around a pole and into an elusive empty parking spot, I’m trying to manoeuvre a giant bag filled with things I can barely remember choosing around other people’s giant bags of things onto an elusive empty cash register.

Everyone hates each other when they’re Christmas shopping. There is no such thing as Christmas cheer. There’s only the manic gleam in every mother’s eye as she prepares to fight you to the death over the last Frozen toy on the shelf (Calm down, crazy lady! I don’t even want that Elsa doll! I just want to find the toilets so I can sit in the cubicle for five minutes and whisper inspirational mantras about the power of the mind under my breath to muster up the strength to go on!)

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I’m hungry and I’m thirsty, but the lines at every café are kilometres long and I’m afraid that returning to McDonalds will set off some kind of flashback, so I soldier on. For hours. And hours. And hours.

WHAT THE FA LA LA LA DID I JUST BUY?

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When I finally get home, I suffer the ultimate indignity: I realise the things I’ve purchased bear absolutely no relation to the people I bought them for.

Merry Christmas, four-year-old cousin! I know you love horses, so I bought you this kettle!

Merry Christmas, Grandma! I know you like brightly coloured scarves, so I got you this sparkly iPhone case!

Merry Christmas, Dad! I know you’re into old movies right now, so I found you this clock with a picture of a kitten on it!

I only have one wish this Christmas: Please, please, don’t make me go back.

Did you get sucked into last minute Christmas shopping this year? 

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