Monday, December 19, 2011

The Christmas Snail

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.


  1. Gerry--This was a wonderful, wonderful post. I loved the connection to the snail story. It's so true...

    This year I'm doing very little shopping, due to a shortage of the green stuff, and a shortage of little ones (they're mostly big now). I DO wonder what is motivating so many people to spend such vast amounts on surface s#@t. The important gifts are the ones we know, we can feel, but cannot buy...

  2. Gerry, beautiful commentary. It is like a frenzy of ants in the mall. You are so right, the presence of loved one is more meanigful than any present to me.

  3. I appreciate both your comments. Others I've received by direct email - for some reason there's a problem with commenting here - express the same shared feelings. Thanks.

  4. As per Randy Newman:

    In America you'll get food to eat
    Won't have to run through the jungle
    And scuff up your feet
    You'll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day
    It's great to be an American

    Ain't no lions or tigers ain't no mamba snake
    Just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake
    Ev'rybody is as happy as a man can be
    Climb aboard little wog sail away with me

    In America every man is free
    To take care of his home and his family
    You'll be as happy as a monkey in a monkey tree
    You're all gonna be an American

  5. Love Randy Newman, Dennis. Your musical taste matches my expectations of you. And I love these lyrics. I saw Randy at The Sheldon earlier this year; what a treat. Let's do one of those strange lunches again soon.