“I’ll be home with bells on…” Dolly’s tinny voice comes blaring through the speakers. Perusing the environment around me, I come to the conclusion that I most likely will not make it home for Christmas Eve dinner, bells or no bells. Outside the window, snow begins to fall with fervor.
“Oh perfect,” I growl under my breath. “Now I’ll need Santa’s sleigh to make it home in time.”
I glance to the lane on my right and see an infant sleeping peacefully in her car seat, pink blanket tucked snuggly around her. Sleep in heavenly peace, little miss, ‘cause you have no idea what comes in a few years.
In the supposed ‘fast’ lane at the far left, which is not moving any faster than my lane, a young couple carries on an apparently one-sided conversation. Her arms flail wildly while he stares straight ahead, appearing to hear nothing.
I cock my head slightly as a faint, continuous siren steadily increases in volume. Seconds later, flashing red, blue and white lights streak by in my peripheral vision. I silently pray that the unknown crisis will quickly be resolved, and that damage from any accident will be minimal.
In front of me, the horde of humanity and steel moves…just a little. I creep forward to occupy the vacated space. Realizing I have traveled as far as we’re going to move for now, I settle in for another wait.
I reach for my cell phone to call my wife before remembering that it went dead two hours ago. The last words I spoke to her were, “I’m doing the best I can to get home on time.”
In my solitude, surrounded by throngs of people in the same predicament I am in, I succumb to Satan’s accusing spirits.
It’s Christmas Eve, and because of your poor time-management skills your family is at home, and you’re stuck in this mess.
You always put your job before your family, and now look where that’s got you.
If you weren’t so prideful, and listened to your wife’s pleas and suggestions, you’d be home by now.
“Oh Lord,” I cry out silently, “forgive me for being so stubborn and for being selfish with my time. Please help me get home to my family for Christmas Eve dinner.”
Way in the distance in front of me, I sense, more than see, mass movement. Craning my neck, it appears that an additional lane is opening up. That will certainly ease some of this Christmas Eve congestion.
Moments later, deliverance is in sight.
“Just the Malibu Barbie, sir?”
“Yes,” I mumble, reaching for my wallet.
“Are you sure you don’t need the convertible or the wardrobe to go with it?”
The saleslady and bagging-girl both look at me like I just arrived from another universe.
“I don’t think so.” I briefly think about calling my wife and asking, but…dead phone.
“Is this for your little girl?”
What’s it to you, lady?, I momentarily contemplate asking. Instead, I nod silently.
“Sheesh. You’re going to totally blow it, aren’t you? You can’t show up at home with just this. Aisle twenty-eight has all the Barbie accessories. We’re open for two more hours.” She finishes with a tsk-tsk and hollers out “next.”
I look from the condescending saleslady to the multi-pierced teenage bagging-girl, simultaneously shaking their heads in disapproval.
Buying myself some time—in an effort to regain control of this rapidly disintegrating situation—I do a quick mental recap of my afternoon activities. Let’s see…I left the office early and fought crowds at four stores to find this doll, then waited in a line that wraps around the store…twice, only to be told by Mrs. Patronizing and Miss I’m-Smarter-Than-You-Even-Though-My-Head-Is-Full-Of-Holes that I don’t dare go home without accessories?!
“Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays…” With Perry Como crooning in the background, I make an executive decision.
“Just the Barbie…I have to get home.”
After completing the transaction for my single purchase, I unceremoniously grab Malibu Barbie and escape through the sliding doors, feeling the penetrating glares from every female in the store. My wife and daughter can come back after Christmas to accessorize…right now I can almost smell the Christmas Eve lasagna waiting for me at home.
I sprint out of the mall and run smack into the disappointing reality that ‘home’ will remain an elusive fantasy. It’s dark outside now…and I have no idea where I parked.
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