I love having a tricorder. I grew up with Star Trek and everytime I pick up my smart phone I hear the Star Trek pinging noises that accompanied every gadget they used. I adore having a smart phone. its unceasingly amazing to me that anytime, day or night, I want to look up anything at all, I can. The name of that guy in that movie with the character who said that line. I can find that out. What kind of flower is that? I’ve never seen it before. I’ll look it up. What time does the store close on Sundays before Christmas? I can look that up while I’m in the parking lot of the place that didn’t have what I was looking for. Instant access to information when ever I want. So when my phone started slowing down until I started checking for spilled molasses, I was a little bereft. I can live without a smart phone, but I don’t really want to. I mentally braced myself for the ordeal and headed for the phone store.
When I walked into the store, there were two employees standing in front of the doors. Together, they paused, looked directly at me then back down to their oh so precious tablets. Clearly they weren’t doing customer service, they were curing cancer on their break in the middle of the store. I walked past them to the very back of the store and spoke to the guy behind a counter. He refused to help me because the two rocket scientists at the front hadn’t checked me in. Let’s pause here: Its not a hotel. Its a phone store. And newsflash – it’s not an Apple store with built in cult followers willing to filet their neighbor for access to their gods newest, most precious (until next year) offspring. As I looked around the store, I could feel my stomach sinking with an unfortunate realization: Verizon is selling Apple products and their store now looks an awful lot like the Apple store. My eye started to twitch a little. I just want a working phone. I don’t want to join a cult so I can talk to my friends and family… But…for round the clock access to the growing sum of human knowledge and point-to-point audio navigation I’d consider joining a cult…so fine…I’ll wait.
Now, I would assume that a modern phone store that forces people to “check in” would have a reason that benefits the store and the customer. Check me in, tell me how long I have until its my turn and if I have a working phone, text me 5 minutes before I’m up. If I don’t have a working phone, hand me one of the cheap-ass pagers that every Outback Steakhouse on the planet uses and let me do something useful with my day.
Nope, they can’t do that. Really. I asked. I got a deep sigh, and eye roll and ‘it just doesn’t work’. Gotta sit in their store and just wait while being bombarded by the most teeth rotting sugar-pop music from the eighties. Really? TLCs ‘Don’t want no scrubs’ is the best you can do? You could at least pipe in soothing classical music on your oh so fantastic wireless speakers. Instead of doing any of the thousand things I wanted to accomplish, I just sat there, on a chair too uncomfortable for Ikea to sell. Waiting. While my eye starts twitching in time with the beat.
I know they wanted me to wander aimlessly around their shrine looking at shiny things in the hopes that I’ll spend more money than I planned to. I could even see their helpful christmas display with convenient categories above each section: “$20 and under”, “$50 and under”, “$99 and under”, and lastly, I kid you not: “For special people”. Because if you don’t spend at least $100 on someone, you don’t really believe they’re a special person. I thought I was grumpy before reading the display.
That display is why I hate going to stores between Halloween and New Years. Christmas in my mad mind is for spending time with people you like and being joyously grateful for the good things in your life. It’s a time to bake cookies so the air is filled with delicious smells and the house is warmed by the oven. Then bundling up in warm clothes and taking still warm cookies to you neighbors – because my life is so good, that I can make cookies that I don’t need, dress in warm clothing that I already have, and share something I’ve made with others with no need or expectation of anything in return. It’s for going to zoo lights and having a cozy stroll through the freezing cold with my true love while watching millions of tiny colored lights create a second ephemeral zoo on top of the daylight structures. For being filled with wonder at all the human ingenuity that makes even the smallest part of that spectacle possible. It’s going to Christmas Revels and singing and dancing with hundreds of strangers all joyous at a shared moment. It’s having friends and family over for hot chocolate and playing boardgames or watching a movie. It is not about buying things or feeling obligated to do anything at all. Its especially not about buying cheap crap from China that will be discarded in less than a year because it doesn’t work anymore. And thats all there was in that wretched display on the wall across from me.
As I watched the smiling hipster in his regulation black glasses cross the floor with tablet in hand to greet me, my eye twitched again. I looked at the noxious wall display behind him as he approached.
The rest of the lunacy and silliness in that store, I will share some other day. For now, let this suffice: I think I ended up in that store with enforced time to kill so I could sit still long enough to think about what it is I like about Christmas and it’s not ‘stuff’. It’s time. I have a home, good food to eat, warm clothes to wear and people who love me. Tomorrow is time enough to go on a new adventure, learn something new, strive to make my tiny corner of the world a little better. Today, I’m going to drink hot chocolate, hug the people I love, and enjoy this moment. Maybe I’ll play with my tricorder for a little while too.