This Christmas season marks the 30th year that I have had enough of my own money, or at least enough of my own credit, to do a significant amount of shopping. When I was a kid, my parents took me shopping, and in college I spent all my money on ... um, books.
Anyway, I've learned a lot in those three decades, one of which is that having credit and having money are not actually the same thing. But let's talk about some of the other important lessons of the Christmas shopping season.
First, I've learned that it's more fun if you don't get all your shopping done too early. There's something about a festive, crowded mall, complete with fake Santa (sorry, kids), that just says "Christmas." Fake Santa may say other things, too, when he's taking a cigarette break, but that's beside the point.
Sure, there are advantages to getting your shopping done early. It may even be worth battling the barbarian hordes to get a great bargain on Black Friday. But that just doesn't feel like Christmas, unless of course one of your holiday traditions involves losing a body part.
Another thing I've learned is that, when it comes to parking at the mall during the Christmas season, there's absolutely no point in driving up and down the rows looking for a space close to the entrance. You could literally be doing that until Valentine's Day.
Instead, just find a space in the back and walk. That will be much quicker, and the exercise will do you good. Yes, as you make your way through the parking lot, you will pass approximately 72 cars backing out of spaces that are much closer than the one you settled for in the next ZIP code. But remember that unless you are Kyle Busch, or happen to be driving an M-1 Abrams tank, you weren't going to get one of those spaces anyway.
Once you have finally gotten inside the mall, and paused to refortify yourself with at least 2,500 calories from the food court, the important thing is to look straight ahead while walking down the center aisle.
Whatever you do, DO NOT make eye contact with the 283 kiosk attendants, especially the prematurely balding 20-something guy whose job appears to be playing with a toy helicopter in public. Or the teenage girl in the Lady Ga-Ga make-up. Or the middle-aged gentleman wearing a bright red Santa Claus tie with a lime-green shirt. They are cunningly trained by diabolical foreign agents to sense any sign of weakness.
Also, guys, don't glance at any of the women's clothing store window displays. Especially if you're with your wife. And especially if it's one of those stores where the signs saying "Take an extra 30% off" might not refer to the price tag.
Otherwise, this Christmas shopping season could be your last.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.