There’s an old joke that seems appropriate about now. It goes like this.
A man is in his living room one night when there’s a knock at the door. He opens it and there, at his feet, stands a small snail. The man grabs the snail and flings it as far as he can, across the street into a neighbor’s yard. He closes the door. One year later, the man is again in his living room when he hears a knock at the door. He opens it and the same snail is standing there. The snail looks up at the man and says, “So... what was that all about?”
I thought of that snail the other day when I went to The Mall. Doesn’t matter which mall, does it? It’s like asking, “Which Denny’s did you eat at?”
Long lines of traffic lined the highway and roads leading into the parking lots and garages,an annual pilgrimage. Like a Ridley Scott movie where an endless column of Roman soldiers, stretching to the horizon, march resolutely to lay siege to the castle.
As I walked from the garage through some sliding doors into The Mall, I saw signs on the doors with two words. “Shop More.” It meant stores are open later, I think until midnight or 2 a.m. or dawn. The deeper meaning was obvious.
The mood inside The Mall was energetic, to say the least. People moved in all directions, Christmas music seeped through the very walls and ceiling. People on cell phones or hands-free mobile devices seemed to talk to themselves or passing strangers or to the air. People carried logo-decorated bags large and small. Their attitudes covered the range from fun and relaxed to frantic and stressed.
I saw Macy’s at the end of The Mall. Its logo took on a new meaning. The Red Star. I used to equate the Red Star with the Red Army back in the good old days of World War 2. But now it became a religious beacon, calling out to shoppers, guiding the Three Wise Shoppers looking for 20% off, plus another 10% for using their Macy’s charge.
The swirling shoppers, the patient traffic, the determination and enthusiasm, the sales. Always the sales. It’s the same scene as last year, the year before, and every year before that, stretching back to the horizon.
On Christmas night, after the nation has unwrapped presents, admired choices and colors and considerations, hugged and kissed each other, thrown another log on the fire or poured another cup of coffee or glass of wine ... on that night I will drive by The Mall. I will scan the vacant lot and empty garage, the empty roads, the dark and silent buildings. And I will think about that snail.
And I will wonder, “What was that all about?”
I wish you a happy and peaceful holiday season, that you enjoy and appreciate your family and friends, that the season brings you all closer together and pushes problems further away. That your hugs last more than three seconds. The realization that some presents are transitory and can be returned on Monday. Just keep in mind, the time we have together is precious. Use it wisely.