Saturday, December 26, 2009

ladies and gentlemen, secure your hams

As we age, I think it's natural for the holidays to lose just a bit of their child-like magic. I don't mean to say that it isn't a great, happy, beautiful time, but with access to the Playbook, we adults now have to juggle both perspectives. We have to choose to take part in the Christmas pixie dust so to speak.

I think I'm good with that. I mean, I can scurry quickly away from the parking lot scene of two Christmas shoppers exchanging merry F-YOUs and throw myself headlong into the toy aisle for comfort.

I can pretend I didn't hear hissing and swearing from two Christmas hopefuls in the first 15 minutes of their black Friday extravaganza at Target. Merry's going to be okay. Those chicks need a serious dose of figgy pudding or something, but I can hum a really loud Christmas symphony in my head and concentrate on candy canes.

But when I walked into my friendly ham store to pick up the main act for Christmas dinner this week and there was a security guard at the door packing a loaded pistol on his belt, my mental Christmas music came to a screeching, clanging halt. Okay, so I was in West Valley, but we're talking the strip mall part, not the hood. No need to shoot, sir, I just want a ham and I'll be on my way.
Unbeknownst to me, these ham sellers know that actually waiting in line for something like a ham is for some people like putting their Christmas spirit straight into a juicer (even saying the word ham makes you think you need to come up with a joke or something, not devote an hour of your life to getting one). And in West Valley it requires loaded weapons to protect the hams and other innocent bystanders.

But count me one of the innocent bystanders...I was dumb to this yule-tide secret. I settled down for my long winter's wait in the warmth of the ham store while holding my 3 year old - who is too old to be held for long periods, but my Christmas spirit had not yet met the juicer, however alarmed I was to see the pistol-toting uniform a few feet away.

Several minutes went by before I was tapped on the back and turned to find myself directly in the firestorm of an irate ham shopper. Where is Mr. Indiana Jones Security Guard when I need him? Evidently I had unknowingly entered the store without first winding my way through the line in the tent outside the store - in the snow storm that was going on I had barely noticed the tent on my way in, hadn't even looked inside. It was too darn cold to figure out what those crazies headed into the tent were doing. I'll take my ham in the warm store, thanks.

I was so shocked by what was happening that I found myself weirdly focused on the fact that my accoster was wearing hearing aids on both ears. Could he hear me? Wait, what did that matter? I had yet to utter a peep. He, however, was going to town just fine. Still, the double hearing aids and the bellowing attack were incongruous. I was off my mark, on the losing end of this holiday battle. Where was my freaking security guard? Sir, can you at least wave your pistol around a bit to deter this madman? I need to get back to waiting for my delicious ham. And really, I'm holding my little girl who albeit is protected by a solid armor of Christmas cheer and magic sugar plums, but still, she doesn't know about the jolly business of Christmas F-YOUs and I feared we were quickly headed in that direction.

I lamely sputtered that I had no idea there was an outside line meant to be endured before the lovely inside line. I think the appropriate thing to have said, what they are used to in this particular ham store, is a healthy, full-lung shout of F&*% YOU, FREAKY HAM MAN! Back off!! That must be what the guy heard in his head because my startled and lowly explanation garnered no sympathy. He merely kept stride and hollered more searing insults. I think I saw some spit take to the air.

Maybe if I'd shopped in this lady's costume he'd have remembered his Christmas spirit

Thinking back, I can't remember when he left my field of vision. All I know is that he was there and then he was gone, like a dirty little Christmas tornado. Later I looked for him; he wasn't in front of me or behind me. Tragically, at the moment of greatest need, my verbal gears had gotten supremely stuck. I was wrestling with what exactly to say, the fighter in me ready to link arms with Ava and physically take the guy down, or at least lash out with something acid and beastly. Sadly my life in times like these (which thankfully are not many) runs on a 5 minute delay. By the time I had found my rightful place in the poorly-marked outside tent, my defense gears were running like a well-oiled machine. Oh, if only he'd been winding around that annoying little tent with me.


No, he was gone, like an evil apparition. I have had the thought, Was he way ahead in line when I came in and had his little run-in with me on his way out? If that was the case how could he have mustered so much venom if I hadn't infringed on his personal ham-waiting time? I wonder if he thought of me while eating his precious time-bought ham this year. What does a person like that think of during Christmas at all? Though it shouldn't bear much thinking, it is an interesting question. I wonder if this is a Christmas tradition for him, waiting in the corner of the ham store out of sight of the useless security guard, arms loaded with purchased pork and pies, ready to pounce on the first person who makes the sensible decision to buy her ham in warmth, and then disappear into the snowy afternoon?

I found out that they don't have armed guards at this company's other ham stores. I bet this guy has made the West Valley store what it is. Next year I may have to buy my ham in Provo. I wonder what the security guard tells his friends and family. That he stood brave guard at the ham store?