STEADY, BOYS. Not yet. No need to panic. There’s plenty of time. Take your coat off, put the keys away, go back to the couch. The Seahawks are on TV today.
Some nervous Nellies in the media have been rattling on about the number of people, mostly men, engaging in “last-minute shopping” this weekend, which is obviously a gross exaggeration of Trumpian proportion. This is Sunday. Christmas is Wednesday, three days away. That’s longer than Britney Spears’ first marriage. Relax.
No, it doesn’t really count as last minute unless the gift card (and it’s always a gift card, because she doesn’t want windshield wipers or a Big Gulp) smells like a gas station hotdog and the receipt is literally date-stamped 11:59 p.m., Dec. 24.
It’s not really too late until, with the sun peeking over the horizon Christmas morning, you find yourself tempted to stage a phony burglary of your own home, trashing the joint to lend credibility to the “oh no, he stole your presents” ruse.
Sadly, not everyone has what it takes to hold off that long. Most don’t even get close. I read a story implying that it was a bad thing that, 10 days before Christmas, 15 per cent of Canadians had yet to begin their shopping. What it should have said is 85 per cent of Canadians are weak, slow and inefficient when it comes to time-management. (“But I forgive you,” I told her as, with early December rain streaming down her collar, she staggered in the door with her arms full of gifts for my side of the family. I’m big-hearted that way).
Some make it almost all the way to the end before cracking and, like marathoners stumbling within sight of the finish line, giving in and going shopping. Historically, Dec. 23 is the busiest retailing day of the year in Canada; Interac predicts we’ll make 24.74 million debit transactions Monday.
Even tonight, should you pop into one of the capital’s late-closing emporia, you’ll find solitary men drifting aimlessly, as miserable and fatalistic as a Trudeau at the Calgary Stampede.
Those with true balls of holly don’t lose their water on Dec. 23, though. They wait. Google says searches that contain the phrase “store hours” don’t peak until Christmas Eve.
You can bet most of those searches are made by guys, too. Not all men are last-minute shoppers, but almost all last-minute shoppers are men, as a sampling of Victoria retailers confirmed this week.
“Every year, it’s men who come in on Christmas Eve,” said Carly Craig, behind the counter at Francis Jewellers on Broughton. They have either A) no clue what they want, or B) an idea so specific that there’s no way the item can be found with Santa already packing his sleigh.
“Any suggestions?” the guys ask.
“Yes,” Craig replies. “Start shopping around Halloween, like women do.”
She says she sells a lot of gift certificates.
At the Bay Centre’s La Senza lingerie store, staff usually let women poke around a bit before offering help, but have learned to rescue men the moment they walk in the door.
The conversation goes like this:
“Do you know what you want?”
“Um, not really.”
“She’s about this big.” Then the man spreads his hands in the manner of an angler telling a fish story.
“Most of the time, they’ll get whatever we suggest,” said La Senza’s Sonia Hira.
At Victoria’s perfume counters, where by now the air is redolent of Dior J’adore, Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium and Male Desperation, they say the smart men come in with photos of the items their partners pointed out on previous visits.
Unfortunately, saying “the smart men” is like saying “the prettiest Sutter brother.” There aren’t that many to go around. Most guys will seize whatever the sales staff shove in their hands. One fragrance vendor said she could flog a gallon of insecticide if it came gift-wrapped.
To be clear, the Dec. 24 divide isn’t just a male-female thing.
“There are two types of people who shop on Christmas Eve,” said Zoe Dickinson, store manager at Russell Books. “There are people who are just there for fun, because they have already done their Christmas shopping, and there are people who are super-desperate.”
The latter are golden-retriever grateful when Dickinson can help them. “I have had people hug me. I have had people cry.”
Just like your beloved will cry on Christmas morning, boys. Tears of joy. Great, heaving sobs of joy.
Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloopsian who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.
Copyright Times Colonist