We have the kind of lifestyle where we are not obleejed to do much Christmas shopping, just a little, so we planned just one trip for the season to the malls in Lansing.
We went on Monday, in the afternoon, when we figured it might not be too fierce, and maybe actually friendly. Wrong.
For one thing, the weather is bad up there, in a hilltop micro-climate, and driving turned from safe downtown to slightly treacherous, with light snow turning to squall, and very poor seeing-action.
The traffic was nuts, with a convoy of cars trying to make a left at the Triphammer Road exit, and the exit lane on Route 13 was not lane, but line, a good ways down the highway.
Inside the mall, I can tell you briefly, I did not find a good quality in any of the things I wanted. It was also, not vaguely, harried and grim. So I sure split.
But the splitting was rough, indeed, with all roads clogged, and any semblance of driving civility subsumed, by people refusing entry to the roads to mall-leavers; running signals and signs; cutting and blocking, honking and glaring and mouthing stuff, etc.
What world is this, I wondered?- trying to keep my cool, and my spirit of giving, which was my reason to be there in the first place.
I came downtown and went to the Commons. I mean, all along, I had intended to patronize both venues, as a generous Santa and a guy trying to spread the money action around. But I can tell you, next year I don't think I'll bother with the mall.
I am partisan, as an owner of a business on the Commons (Small World Music, CD's and LP's, shameless plug; hello to all our fans who still don't know we have moved from our old place to the basement of Autumn Leaves Books, joining Angry Mom Records there).
I found the good-quality things I wanted at Benjamin Peters clothing store. I also found some nice things at Now You're Cooking and Ten Thousand Villages. That's the main thing. But another thing is that I had a pleasant time.
The traffic downtown was busy, but easy, and not heated with hate. I parked for free in the Green Street garage. My fellow shoppers were relaxed and smiley. The store people were cool and nice.
I can tell you, as one of those store owners, we are nice because we really appreciate your business, and if I did not think it was hokey, or bad reading, I would insert that word "really" four or five times or more.
At the mall, God bless the workers there, but they really have no incentive to be nice. The small business owner, on the other hand, thinks of you as great sweetness.
The clerks at the mall don't care if they never see you again - and actually, as you simply represent more work, without attendant compensation, they'd prefer not to. But independent business owners and workers consider your very presence a success, an event, and a blessing. If you think I'm overstating it, ask one.
So: I wish you luck with your gift-giving. This is really a great time of year, an affirmation of humanity, when people give and act for each other, and say charmingly nice things even just in passing: "happy" this, "merry" that. "Merry" - you know? That in itself is a great idea and goal.
In the dead of cold and dark, we strive to bring joyful life to our loved ones and the world. Not bad.
Local First Ithaca and other community groups are doing a great job emphasizing how important it is, economically, to shop at home-grown businesses. I guess here I am trying to note how much easier and more fun it can be.
All the best - and much merriment! - to you and yours for the season.
for Ithaca NY Blog
and Small World Music/Angry Mom Records