Gift stalker

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 18, 2004

As you read this, I’m in the midst of perhaps the most enjoyable day of the year.

Yes, today is the last Saturday before Christmas, which means I’m among the millions of other prognosticators that have waited to purchase their holiday gifts.

Bright and early this morning, just as the sun was peeping above the eastern horizon, I was still fast asleep. Maybe around 9:30-10 a.m., I’ll begin to think about rising from a blissful night of rest. After 5-6 cups of coffee, I’ll be awake enough to the point to take a shower, dress and mentally psych myself to the point where I’ll fire up the Ford pick-up and join in on the mad rush to the mall.

Why do I do this year-after-year? Why wait until the last minute?

Why? Because I love it.

It’s almost like a hunter stalking its prey, waiting for just the precise moment to lunge in and snatch away the last remaining gaudy sweater left on the 50 percent off table. Or elbowing some poor soul out of the way in order to have the center spot at the $2 discount CD bin. Gee, I wonder if all those names on my gift list will figure out that I purchased &uot;The Doors Live at Carnegie Hall&uot; CD for each of them.

What says &uot;I love you&uot; better than a $6 pair of almost fake 10 caret gold earrings?

How ’bout a cheap cheese ball from one of those booths set-up inside the mall? I bet’cha I could even stop by a fast-food joint that serves those tasteless garden salads and beg for some free crackers. What a great gift idea – a cheap cheese ball and free soda crackers! I think I’ll even wrap them separately.

Better yet, what about a big old bag of that cheap – not to mention, yucky – hard Christmas candy? I could buy two-or-three apples and oranges, a few candy canes and a small bag of those decorative, holiday-colored Hershey Kisses; divvy them up in a couple of sandwich lunch bags and pass ’em off as &uot;thought-provoking&uot; gifts.

Making these last-minute gift purchases is just half the fun.

Being the tightwad I am, I packed away, for my shopping excursion, a couple of tasty jam sandwiches (bread jammed together), a handful of stale Sugar Pops and a jug of water (no, not the store-bought variety, but rather from the tap of my kitchen sink; in other words, natural H2O from the bowels of the earth below Hertford County).

With my meal onboard, I hopped inside my Ford pick’em-up truck and made a beeline for the gas station. There, a fill-up cost me $31.75. So, with a shopping budget of 50 bucks (no, I don’t mind one bit splurging during the holidays), it’s off to the nearest mall. The bad news is that I’ve got a shade under $19 to spend on my loved ones.

With Robert Earl Keen’s &uot;The Christmas Song&uot; blaring on the CD, I’m immediately in the mood to shop. Spying an ideal parking spot, I’m not embarrassed at all to cut off some little old lady trying to make it to the same location. After all, the Caddy she’s driving wouldn’t fit in that &uot;Cart Return&uot; area.

Ahh, nothing says Happy Holidays more than a zillion folks crammed into the same mall. This is what I live for – sharing my only day off from work to be surrounded by the warm and sometimes not so friendly faces of total strangers.

If I’m lucky today, I’ll run up on some other poor souls like myself, each of us wandering aimlessly in an attempt to find gifts that be will not be the cause of our friends and family members hitting the return lines starting on Dec. 26.

If you see us in the mall today, we’ll be easy to spot. Just keep your eyes peeled for wandering old married men who look like a deer caught in headlights.