I ran into my old buddy Jake at the local outpost of a well-known, high-priced donut chain. I had just spent the better part of a sawbuck on a powdered donut hole and thimble of java when I noticed Jake seemed to be lacking his usual Christmas spirit.
His brow was furrowed, and he looked worried and perplexed. I wasted no time asking him what in the name of sugarplum fairies was wrong. Didn’t he know this was the holly-jolly time of year for chestnuts roasting on open fires, one-horse open sleighs and stoplights blinking a bright red and green?
“That’s it: It’s the holidays, man, ” he sighed.
The holidays? How had the holidays depressed him? Had he gone into a store for a flat-screen TV sale, and been steam-rolled in a customer stampede?
“No, that’s not it, ” he moped.
Had one of his zero percent APR credit cards been targeted in a major discounter’s massive data breach, leaving him to discover his number was being peddled around the globe by black market privateers?
“You’re not even close, ” he lamented.
Had he bivouacked for days and nights outside a mall in freezing temperatures prior to Black Friday, only to be rushed by ambulance to a hospital with a case of pneumonia mere minutes before crowds stormed the opening doors?
“Don’t make me laugh, ” he moaned.
Well, what is it then? What would make a normally cheerful dude look grimmer than Bob Cratchit trudging in to work Christmas morning at the corporate campus of Scrooge & Marley, Inc., LLC?
Hydra-headed holiday harangue
“It’s these conflicting messages we’re always being fed by the media, ” he said. “On the one hand, they tell us that we’re not saving enough money for college and retirement and medical expenses and everything else.”
“And then they tell us that retailers are not enjoying the kind of Christmas shopping season they had anticipated, that sales are off, that customers are being too tight-fisted with their dollars and that they’re so used to sales that they don’t shop anywhere but where they can score the best deals. They’re saying some huge retailers might not make it if they don’t rack up big profits this holiday season. And you know who’s to blame? We are!”
I see what you mean. You feel kind of guilty?
“You bet I do, ” he continued. “The other day I went out to the mall, and I was going to load up the car with tons of presents and holiday ornaments and boxes of candy for all my friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors. I flipped on the radio just before I got there and heard an announcer saying that millions of people are going to have to depend almost entirely on Social Security in retirement.”
So what’d you do?
“Well, I jammed on the brakes, pulled a U-ey and went right back home. That’s going to be me if I don’t start conserving the cash, y’know. If I don’t get going, I might spend my 65th birthday feasting on Whiskas for Kittens.”
Damned if you do — and don’t
“Don’t you get it? This dismal shopping season could be a signal that the economy is weaker than expected, sending us spiraling into another recession and making it even harder for me to save. I might not even be able to afford Whiskas for Kittens on my 65th. It could turn out to be 9 Lives.”
Well, you’ll just have to head back to the mall, then.
“I did, but when I got out to the mall, I heard another radio report about Americans’ awful saving rates. So I turned around and was almost home when I got another earful about how stingy we shoppers are. I just kept on driving back and forth to the shopping center all day. Didn’t buy a thing.”
Later, I ran into Jake at the tire store, picking up a couple steel-belted radials.
“Turns out the left-side tires on my car are bald, ” he explained, “from all the U-turns I made this holiday season.”
Happy holidays, Everyone!