Mangle all the way…
Hardly seems like enough time has passed for you to sing ‘tra la la la laaaa, la la-la-la‘, but Christmas, in all its glory, is here once again. And before you actually read this entry completely, it’s probably wise for me to wish you in advance, ‘cos I know you’re busy today. So here goes – Merrrrrry Christmassssss, one and all, Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum. No, wait…. The bottle of rum part didn’t quite belong there… Well, then again, for some people, it certainly does. If you don’t belong to that set, however, then maybe you noticed I put in a few extra ‘r’s and ‘s’es in my greeting up there. Yes, I did. And I did that especially for you. A personal touch. I knew you’d like it.
Christmas was, as most of you are aware, once touted as the birth anniversary of the Christian Messiah, Jesus Christ. But this has been squarely refuted by the world at large. However, since nobody really has a credible fix on an alternative date, we still abide by the traditional ol’ 25 Dec. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m quite thankful for the holiday season. And so are my credit card companies. Tradition counts. And the most poignant of all traditions in the Christmas season is the solemn promise of getting trampled at the malls by overzealous shoppers. Sometimes, you’re the trampled; sometimes the trampler. Neither makes you feel particularly good about yourself, but you still do it. You can’t help it. It doesn’t matter what your interest is; electronics, entertainment, books, clothes, whatever… they all come up with some tempting offers around this time. Of course most offers are bogus, and you KNOW that they’re probably bogus, but you just HAVE to check it out yourself. Are they really going to give away a free DVD player? Are they really offering 75% off on ALL goods? “Too good to be true“, your brain echoes; “SCAM. SCAM. You better scram“, it continues.
But you still need to go over and read the fine print. It’s the natural compulsion. And it’s quite inexplicable too, because you don’t really NEED to read it. You know what it says. Yes, you do. You’ve read it a thousand times, and if you are honest to yourself, you’ll admit you know the exact words printed there, but you still read it anyway.
“Aha. Conditions apply. I knew it!”
Yes, you knew it. There are conditions. CONDITIONS. Unnamed, unmarked, mysterious conditions. Tucked away at the right hand corner somewhere. Conditions so restrictive they didn’t even lay it out in the fine print. Bogus. You were right! You feel validated. But do you walk away? No. Of course not. It’s too vague. “Conditions apply” could mean anything, really. For example, the condition might be that “This offer is not valid for terrorists” – which, you reason, is a pretty good condition. Let the terrorist bastards go to hell. Full price for them. No way they’re getting the same deals you are! They made their beds. Let them lie in it. Unless, of course, the bed came in a buy-one get-one-free offer. Then you call dibs. But let’s not count chickens before they hatch. You need to confirm what the mysterious conditions are… You need to check with the salesman. A good strategy, except the salesman himself is fighting for his dear life from around 200 customers asking him from all sides about returns policies, warranty coverage, credit card acceptance, delivery options, loyalty programs, directions to the restroom, and of course, whether the product is available in a different shade of pink.
It’s plain to see that this guy is on the edge. How long will would it be before he jumps on a table, pushes the crowd with sticks and yell “Back, back, ye savage mongrels!“… You finally decide to risk it; just take it to the counter and hope the conditions are fair and square. After all, if they decline the offer citing the ‘conditions’ then, you can always just walk out, perhaps stopping to yell at the salesman for a second.
“Hey, you! Yes, YOU! YOU!!” “Blue? No, sir. It’s not available in blue. And yes, we can deliver the TV for you, madam. No, sir. No returns policy for the electric razor. And for the last time, madam, we are an electronics shop. We do NOT sell blueberry muffins, and if we did, we would NOT have it in a shade of pink!”
It’s hopeless. Of course it’s hopeless. It’s how shopping is designed to be during the season. And with experience as a teacher, you KNOW it is hopeless. But you still do it. You may just strike gold and walk off with the ever-elusive bargain of the season. And you know that’s good enough to brag about till next Christmas. So you HAVE to check out all the shops. The lure is unavoidable. Do we really HAVE to follow this tradition? Do we always have to give in? Do we really NEED to fall prey to the marketing gimmicks of greedy corporate marketeers? Can’t we all just ignore the bait, stay at home, and enjoy the quality family time we know we’ve been missing out on? I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, Hammy, ol’ boy… are you just saying all that so we’d all stay at home and you’d be free to shop around all by yourself?“… Damn straight, I am. I’m on the lookout for a Blu-Ray player, and I’d love to get a good deal without people walking all over my face.
But seriously, now. This season, I am not going to contribute to the trampled masses at the malls. I really am not. Instead, my contribution to the trampled masses would be at the theaters.
As some of you may know, I’m a sucker for Hollywood movies, and for suckers like me, there are few things stronger than the lure of James Cameron’s latest science fiction blockbuster, Avatar. There’s action, drama, suspense, mayhem, chaos, twists, turns, fights, spirited dialogue, intense pressure, and a tense atmosphere. And that’s just at the ticket counter.
I am currently spending Christmas with family back home in Cochin, and I plan to have my first viewing of the movie with them. Unfortunately, the tickets are already sold out. But I’m not deterred. No, siree, I have a plan. If you were to look at me, you’d be looking at a man with a plan. Saturday night, before the show starts, we’ll be waiting; my brother and I. I intend to start with the war cry of William Wallace, following it up with the brashness of Maximus Meridius.
This, of course, will be the kind of situation where my bulk finally comes in handy. Wrestling off tickets from people waiting at the door. Simple, efficient and yet a thoroughly underused strategy. Why didn’t I think of it earlier? My brother, however, is against violence-for-ticket strategies. He plans to lie in wait for the mad stampede as the theater gates open. Once that crowd gets in, he can then simply sweep up the tickets from the poor trampled souls who didn’t make the cut. An equally well-reasoned plan, I had to admit.
Either way, I’m sure we’ll treasure the tickets much more than if we had just paid for it without all the drama. We’d feel like we earned it. We would actually read it. The tickets we get in this theater, I know, have some text printed on it which we typically ignore. When was the last time we actually took time out to read through a movie ticket other than to check the seat number? I really can’t remember.
But this time, we will… We’ll read the big bold letters saying “Admit One”, and we’ll read the subsequent explanation to this statement, saying something like “This ticket enables the holder to admit exactly one person for one show“, and I don’t know about my brother, but I’ll certainly cringe if it’s followed by a fine print that says ‘Conditions Apply‘ — Merry Christmas, everybody. Have a blast.