Monday, December 12, 2016

The Christmas Not-Rush

Yesterday, the husband and I indulged in a day of Christmas Store Touring.  I hesitate to call it “Christmas Shopping” because that’s not really what we were doing, in the sense that we had no roll of “giftees” and their wish lists to work from.  It was more a “Let’s switch on retail mode and get in the mood” sort of trip.

We started out at the Portland Saturday/Sunday market, which even at this late date in the dismal Oregon almost-winter, is held outdoors.  If you can catch the market on a crisp day when the sun is peeking out from behind long scarves of wispy winter clouds, it can be magical.  On those days, there are carolers and buskers and street musicians setting the mood and keeping the crowd jolly and eager to buy.  On ugly, drippy days like yesterday, not so much. 

We browsed through the whole cold, sodden mess in less than an hour.  Yes, I’ve lived in Oregon for 32 years—more than half my life.  But I’m a born and bred Midwesterner, and rain just does not say “Christmas” to me.

So we retrieved the van from the downtown parking garage and headed out of downtown…to the mall.  I wonder if anyone else who did a multi-year stint as an employee at a shopping mall finds, as I do, that the mall is still the place to get an instant infusion of Christmas spirit. 

I don’t hang out at malls much anymore.  Living in the sticks as we do, it is a 40-minute drive to get to any mall.  That, plus dwindling finances and basic “stuff overload” have made visits to the mall little more than once or twice yearly affairs.

But I was determined to shop, and the yucky weather drove us out of the market and into the mall.  And, of all places, we ended up at Sears.  I’ll confess, when I DO go to a shopping mall, Sears is never at the top of my list of stores to visit. Poor old Sears, Roebuck and Co. went out of style decades ago. It’s more of a relic than a legitimate retail destination nowadays.  Sears has spent the last thirty years trying to reinvent itself to keep up with rapidly morphing retail trends; and, for the most part, failing dismally.  It has never quite been able to cut ties to all the many and diverse product lines it carries…never been able to streamline into a sleek, stark 21st-century retailer.  It’s still just a big, clunky department store; a jack of all trades, but master of none. 

But, you know—these days, I find myself more attracted to relics than repelled by them; possibly because I am one myself.  Wandering around Sears yesterday, I was oddly comforted.  I had this sense of coming home to a place I knew, of tapping in to a retail concept that had served me well for decades, before the whole world revved up and went technical, trendy, pop culture and electronic.  

I felt that Sears was just out of step enough to appeal to someone like me—an aging baby boomer who does try to keep up with the tech and the pop, but finds it more and more…exhausting.  It was as if Sears had …waited for me. 

And if the powers that be at Sears ever read this, they would be horrified.  Because the world does not revolve around us Boomers any more.  We are to be written off, or tolerated, or blamed.  To Madison Avenue, we’re invisible…certainly not a market anyone desires to court, much less cater to.  I can just imagine what the reaction would be at Sears headquarters if I wrote them a nice letter about how much I appreciated their store because it reminded me of happy Christmas shopping trips of forty years ago!  They’d fire…everybody.

Be that as it may, I’ll just quietly thank a musty old retailer for providing me with some comfort and joy this season.             

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