I girded my loins in the early hours of December 24, going to our equivalent of Waziristan…Toys R Us….to add more heft to the pile of Hannukah gifts for a family party at the house. (Girding loins, biblically, is putting a belt or rope around the waist and tucking long robes into it to be unencumbered…and also preparing one’s self, mentally, knowing, like a boxer, this is going to hurt.)
I got to said emporium at 8:45 a.m., thinking I was still on the early side of mayhem. Little did I know of desperation. I got the next-to-last space in the parking lot. The gift-locusts had formed hours before.
Inside, however, there was a certain serenity. Shoppers were too last-minute to be aggressive and noisy. There was just a hum of folks ernestly picking through the remains of what was billed as a modest holiday season. I’d hate to see what a robust season looks like. Half the shelves were empty. Stuffed animals were with action toys; Tinker Toys were in the nursery aisle; Transformers were with the dolls and Legos were all over the place.
I actually found the two major items I wanted in ten minutes and then had the luxury of looking around for another hour to see what more loot I could accumulate. An hour and ten minutes and ten gifts later, I emerged, eyes dilated from the store’s industrial lighting into a blinding sun and squinted my way back to the car. At that point several traffic guards, having girded their loins, took up positions around the real battle zone…the parking lot, trying to keep bedlam down to a dull roar.