I am a self-professed
Grinch. Not the Salvation Army executive
who steals from children Grinch, but the Grinch who hates Christmas.
My dislike of this season has
nothing to do with religion, but more about the commercialization of it. The bright, garish lights, the noise of
endless repeats of the same old Christmas songs, and especially the crowds….
The date is December 23. Presents are wrapped, food is bought, goodies
baked and I'm just about to head out to work for my last day followed by a 5
day weekend. I'm standing in my
bathroom, when I happen to look down and notice there are only a few sheets
left on the toilet paper roll. I open
the linen closet, bend down and..... oh, no.
There's one roll of toilet paper left – in the entire house.
Being the logical thinker that
I am, I quickly do the mental math. 1
roll, 10 days – can I make it? I
mentally assess how many napkins I have in the house and realize that this
really wouldn't go over very well should I get an unexpected drop in
I sigh. Looks like an after work visit to the mall.
I also have a frugal streak in
me, so it never actually occurs to me that I could stop by the grocery store
two blocks from my house – even if it costs a dollar or two more. My first and only thought is Wal-mart.
I battle my way through the
parking lot, find a spot that's about a ½ km from the door and the only free
space in the lot. I trek across parking
lot, dodging what I call the Shopping Cart Roadkill. Parents with carts piled high with gifts for
their demanding children can't see and are steering on instinct and let's face
it: if you are hit with one of these overstuffed carts, who do you think will
win: you or the shopping cart?
So, with eyes wide open, I
dodge not only the cars driving at breakneck speed searching for that elusive
spot, but also trying not to become another Shopping Cart Roadkill statistic.
I reach the doors of the
Wal-mart, take a deep breathe and push open the doors. Flashing lights on the Christmas trees that
rival the Griswolds, the blast of music assaults my ears and frantic shoppers
nearing the end of their shopping marathons.
I wind my way through the throng and head to the house wares section to
find that damn package of toilet paper.
I stand at the front of the
isle and fall in behind a woman pushing a cart, holding a very young boy by the
hand. Her shopping cart is virtually
empty and it takes great restraint on my part not to point out that if she
doesn't want her child knocked out by a random elbow or rogue cart, she should
place her child in the cart's basket.
But I hold my tongue and
shuffle forward until I'm standing in front of the toilet paper section. I grab the cheapest store brand package off
the shelf and push my way through the isle to the checkout line and grunt with
The lineup extends halfway
across the store. There is just a single
cashier on duty; it appears as if everyone else has left for dinner. The cashier is new, having been hired just
for the Christmas season – which I found out later by the 'trainee' sticker on
her name badge. She appears to be a
teenager who is having trouble working the cash register and counting out
In front of me in line is a
parent with a screaming kid in the basket of the cart who is constantly
reaching out and pointing to the displays saying, “I want.” The parent looks like she has not just run
one marathon, but two.
I balance the package of toilet
paper on my hip and try very hard not to tell the kid to shut up. From behind and I can hear more screaming and
this time it's a parent, on a cell phone who has no idea she has already bumped
me twice on the butt with her shopping cart.
I switch the package of toilet
paper to other hip, close my eyes and try to imagine my zen place – which
happens to be a beach in St. Lucia. But
that doesn't long as I listen to the loudspeaker announce that the cashier of
the open line at the Wal-mart has just run out of loonies.
Slowly, the line shuffles
forward and I'm next in line. I place
the package of t.p on the conveyor belt and again sigh with frustration as an
elderly lady in front of me insists on dumping out the contents of her change
purse on the belt to count out a dollar in pennies and nickels.
Finally, it's my turn. The young cashier rings through my single
purchase and I hand over a $10 bill. I
shove the uncounted change into my pocket, wave off her offer of a plastic bag
and hurry out of the store.
I stop just outside the door to
zip up my coat and check my watch: my one item of necessity cost me an hour of
time. I stomp back across the parking
lot, dodging cars and carts and as I reach the darkest section of the lot, I
notice a car inching along behind me.
a single female, my Spidey sense tingles that its creepy, but my logical brain says,
“He wants your space, so he's following you.”
Now that I have my purchase and
I've wasted an hour anyway, I decide to have a little fun. I turn around, scrunch up my forehead and
pretend I don't remember where I parked.
I rub my chin and wander up and down the line of cars until the guy
following me throws up his hands and drives off.
I mentally give him the finger and push the
keyless entry unlock button on my key fob.
The taillights on my car, which I just happen to be standing in front of,
blink in response. I throw the package
of prized toilet paper in my car, fire up my car and peal out of the parking
That was the year I vowed that
I would never shop anywhere that close to Christmas ever again.
This year, I finished my
shopping two weeks before Christmas, and I have a full package of toilet paper,
paper towels, facial tissues and cat food in my linen closet. But I’ve forgotten something, I’m sure. This
year, though, I’ll spend the extra dollar and buy it at the grocery store. Or figure out a way to make due until January
2 when the world returns to normal.
Terry works as a full time office manager/bookkeeper and writes to fulfill
the creative side of her brain. Although she has taken a number of Brian Henry's
courses and workshops, she has yet to find her niche. She is still hopeful it
will come to her one day, perhaps in the shower or through a dream. On December
6, Amanda gave a reading of "The Toilet Paper Conundrum" at LaVita Café in Georgetown.
Brian Henry's schedule here, including
writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough,
Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St.
Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock,
Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Gravenhurst, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel,
Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.