MAD DOG: 'Tis the Season to be Shopping

For years the great philosophers of the world have told us that people can be divided into two basic groups: shoppers and rational human beings. As opposed to other classifications of the human race -- such as "Those without a life" and "Those who think Bob Saget is funny" -- it's easy to tell shoppers and non-shoppers apart. Shoppers are the ones with ink stained hands from scouring the newspaper looking for a chance to spend $10 in gas so they can save 50 cents on a sleep sofa just in case they have guests stay over for the first time in recorded history. Shoppers will cut across three lanes of traffic, running two semis and a minivan full of nuns off the road so they can hit a Going Out of Business sale at a garden shop, even though they live in an apartment surrounded by miles of concrete. And the most obvious sign of all? Shoppers pack more plastic than Pamela Anderson Lee.Non-shoppers, on the other hand, are even easier to spot. They're the ones with more time, more money, and much lower blood pressure.If you're still not sure whether you or someone you love is a shopper or a non-shopper, now is the perfect time of the year to tell. Pretend you're reading Cosmopolitan and take this little quiz:1. True or False: Thanksgiving is the unofficial start of the Christmas season? (TRUE. But shoppers know that the official start of Christmas season is July 4th, when the drug stores pull the suntan lotion off the shelves and replace it with tinsel, garland, and chocolate covered rice cakes vaguely shaped like Santa Claus.)2. In three words describe the best shopping trip of your life.(ANSWER: The next one.)3. You're taking this test while standing in line waiting for the department store doors to open because:A. You don't want anyone to buy the last sterling silver Erik Estrada commemorative ice cream scoop before you do.B. You had to get up at 4:30 am to meet the Toy R Us truck at the loading dock so you could make sure you got a Serial Killer Barbie to go with the Ginzu knifes you bought your niece and there was no sense in going back to sleep at that point, was there?C. You really don't remember, but you're sure you had a good reason.In America, shopping is based on Sun Tzu's "Art of War", which explains why shoppers spend more time preparing for the day after Thanksgiving than Eisenhower did for the battle of Normandy. Of course, keep in mind that Normandy didn't put everything on sale for 30 percent off.During Christmas season, stores open as early as 5:30 in the morning and stay open until the very last shopper has taken out a second mortgage on their house. Only then do the shopkeepers get to close their doors, turn out the lights, and dance hysterically because they never thought they'd get rid of those 342 microwave fondue pots they accidentally ordered.But it's not this easy or convenient in other countries. It wasn't a couple of years ago that Germany declared that stores could stay open until 8 pm on weekdays and 4 pm on Saturdays. Until then they were required to close at 6:30 during the week and 2:00 on Saturdays. (Note: If after reading the previous sentence your palms are sweaty, your breathing is labored, and you feel a tightness around your chest, don't call 911. It's just further proof that you're a shopper.)It's hard to say what's odder about German shopping: that the stores weren't open longer all along, that the labor unions are still claiming it will destroy the nation, or that the government can mandate a store's hours of operation. But one thing's for sure, if they had a Thanksgiving, American shoppers would be taking junkets over there the next day so they could snap up all the marked down lederhosen, bratwurst, and copies of "The Von Trapp Family Singers perform John Tesh's Greatest Hits" they could get their little hands on.So enjoy this holiday season, for soon the shopping will be over, the bills will be due, and you'll be spending your evenings at Shoppers Anonymous meetings saying "My name is Bill, and I'm a shopper." Hey, if you buy this, you'll buy anything.


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