The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Budd McLaughlin

January 9, 2013

I am now in the ‘Christmas spirit’

— When it comes to Christmas shopping, there are generally two camps of people — those who enjoy the hustle and bustle and those who prefer to shop online in their pajamas.

I fall into the latter category, as I’ve never much cared for crowded malls full of disgruntled patrons carrying armloads of stuff their relatives won’t like anyway.

As my sister pointed out on Friday, however, mingling with those people is part of the whole Christmas experience. I argued and said that I had, in fact, beaten the shopping system with the luxury of the Internet and a list that only had to be checked once.

I got to thinking about her point, however, and decided there had not been a single Christmas season in which I did not mix it up at a crowded mall with disgruntled patrons carrying armloads of stuff their relatives would not like.

So, against my better judgment, the wife and I decided to head to the Parkway Place Mall in Huntsville on Friday night. It was a selfish trip; I felt it was necessary to fulfill my Christmas experience.

The trouble started in the parking lot, which being a Friday night, was predictably full.

“Oo, oo, there’s one,” I shouted to my chauffer (wife).

Of course, as soon as I could point one out, someone else would pull in ahead of us. (People get shot for that sort of thing in Birmingham.)

She spotted another car that had its reverse lights lit. The driver of the car must have been mixing a martini behind the wheel because she was in no hurry to leave.

“Stupid lady,” my chauffer said.

“Yeah!,” I echoed. “Give her a dirty look!”

We finally found a spot after making a couple of more circles. I mentally psyched myself up for what was ahead.

We entered through the Belk side of the mall, near the women’s shoes. It was a madhouse, as if every woman in Huntsville was in search of shoes. We tried to walk on through the virtual minefield of stray shoes, baby strollers and lost-looking husbands.

After a few minutes, we made it through to the main part of the mall. The chauffer insisted we go to FYE, and so we did. The music and movie store was blasting Christmas music, though I was not aware that Metallica or some other lame heavy metal band had made an album of holiday music.

“It’s the Trans-Siberian Orchestra,” the chauffer said, noting my distaste.

“I’m sure the baby Jesus would have been pleased,” I said.

After leaving there, we entered back into the corridors of wall-to-wall people and the dreaded “mall smell” — a mix of cheap counter perfume, fresh-baked pretzels, cookies and incense, wafting out of such stores like Pottery Barn. “Mall smell” tends to give me a raging headache.

We continued to walk around the mall, exploring the sights and nauseating smells of the season while increasing my gait to pass slower traffic or decreasing because of a stall.

By the time we left — about 45 minutes later — we had purchased only one item and I had a raging headache. Still, I was glad I had temporarily risked my sanity and olfactory organs to be put “in the Christmas spirit.” However, it was a trip I don’t intend on repeating this year.

For the record, I finished my shopping online.

— Managing editor Adam Smith can be reached at

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Budd McLaughlin


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