World Wide Web
Agoraphobia, acrophobia, photophobia, phonophobia, and rabies — just some of the afflictions that have plagued the Lauderdales for generations.
Why do I bring this up? Because these ailments have turned what might be a pleasant experience — buying gifts for the holidays — into a nigh-impossible task. Oh, how I have battled these demons over the years, driving to Schwab's to purchase overalls for the servants, and to Kent's Dollar Store to buy cheap shoes for the orphans clamoring outside our gates.
Still, the ordeal drained me, so it was a godsend when a coaxial cable finally brought the wonders of the Internet to the Lauderdale Mansion, and with it the miracle of online shopping.
No more fear of crowds, germs, or pickpockets. From the safety of my home, I picked out gifts that could not be found at regular merchants in Memphis. If Uncle Lance wanted a 1912 Guide to the Caverns of Tennessee it was relatively easy to find such a rarity on eBay. If Aunt Hildegard desired vintage postcards, I could pore over the amazing selection at the Moody Mommy's Marvelous Postcards website (I am not making this up). And for myself, it's a tragedy that Kentucky Nip can't be found in Memphis, but cases of the delicious elixir are just a mouse-click away on the Internet.
Other advantages of online shopping? You don't have to lug your purchases home. The happy-go-lucky postman delivers them right to your front door. Since you have paid for these items in advance, it's as if he's bringing you a present, just like Santa! And the exchange of currency — always an awkward moment for any Lauderdale — is not done in the public eye. Which is as it should be.
Finally, shopping from the comforts of home eliminates another issue entirely — a Lauderdale doesn't have to mingle with the commoners, jostling you aside to paw through the latest bargains, or coughing down your neck as you wait at the cashier. In the spirit of the holidays, I forgive these shoppers for these transgressions. After all, they are not Lauderdales, and never will be.
Now, let's see if Amazon is still carrying that 12-volume edition of Bound for Glory: The Compelling Story of the Lauderdales in America . . .
Maybe I've lost my mind. Maybe Vance is right. Why would I choose to mill among the throng of holiday shoppers when I could sit comfortably in my jammies and order my gifts online? Especially since my feet throb when I stand too long, my patience wears thin at idiotic delays, and, in my more cynical moments, I consider most merchandise fodder for landfills?
Because at Christmastime, an old familiar spirit bubbles to the surface and I welcome it and the memories it brings. Of hula hoops and pogo sticks. Of Beatles albums and a Princess phone. (Sadly, I never got the latter but my best friend did.) Of shopping with my mother on the day after Thanksgiving, and stopping at Goldsmith's Oak Court tearoom for pecan pie a la mode. (I know Vance is retching at this trip down memory lane.)
And though at times I think the planet may sink from the weight of so much "stuff," I admit to the pleasure of touching, smelling, and tasting the merchandise. To be honest, several people on my shopping list ask for gift cards, and that does make life easier on my feet. But I still enjoy choosing a more tangible gift, whether it's a silky shirt, a citrus-scented candle, sugared pecans, or earrings that gleam. If I bought these things from a website, what sensory satisfaction would that give me — dragging my items with a mouse into the electronic "shopping cart"?
In the real world, I like feeling the brisk cold air as I hurry inside a store, discovering just the right present, and paying for it with cash. I don't worry about identity theft. I don't dread the day that "virtual" bill will land with a very real thud in my mailbox. And I enjoy thinking that maybe I've helped a retailer stay afloat.
Taxes? They provide services we don't want to live without. We may someday be forced to if everybody shops in cyberspace.
But most of all, let's face it, folks, mingling with other humans is what the season's all about. Sure, people can test our patience, the music may grate on our very last nerve, and the holidays can wear us down. But when a weary salesclerk manages a cheerful smile, or a baffled gentleman, selecting a gift for his wife, asks me which sweater I prefer — the tedium and tension fade away, and I'm glad I'm out among the masses.
Now, if I could just find pecan pie like Goldsmith's tearoom used to serve. Care to join me, Vance?
Vance Lauderdale, Marilyn Sadler