Shopping, to put it kindly, is not my bag. It’s overwhelming for me to enter any store that sells more than six products. I lack the innate understanding of which store corner a person must venture toward to find a specific product. Whatever generic map most people have in their heads, I sorely lack.

Shopping, to put it kindly, is not my bag. It’s overwhelming for me to enter any store that sells more than six products. I lack the innate understanding of which store corner a person must venture toward to find a specific product. Whatever generic map most people have in their heads, I sorely lack.


At the grocery store, I wander up one aisle and down the next like a nearsighted nomad. Oftentimes, I’ll stare at exactly the item I’m looking for, only to wander onward after my shell-shocked mind fails to register what I’m seeing. A trip to the canned food aisle feels like a trip to that warehouse from the last scene of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I usually end up coasting around the store on the back of the shopping cart like a six-year-old, desperate to regain some sense of control over my aimless milling.


As you might imagine, this time of year is especially stressful for someone suffering from retail incompetency. Buying things that I know I need is one thing; "browsing" for presents is downright Sisyphean. Gift buying requires at least three steps: recognizing a product on the shelf, projecting how another person will feel about it, and then physically purchasing it. That’s two-and-a-half more steps than I’m capable of performing.


A mall to me seems like a cruel haystack that some tormentor has heaped upon my needle search. Presents on top of presents. Shelves on top of shelves. Stores on top of stores. It’s a retail house of mirrors; it’s madness. If only the Santa in the middle of the mall were less metaphorically like, "What do you want for Christmas?" and more literally like, "Just tell me what you want for Christmas, and I’ll go find it for you." That’d be St. Slick.


The rise of on-line shopping has been a godsend for me. Type what you need, eliminate the poorly-reviewed products, sort by price, buy whatever’s at the top of the list. Thirty seconds of effort and it’s on your doorstep a few days later. It’s shopping for the shopping impaired.


But the real loser in this gift-exchange exchange is the poor delivery man. Whatever they pay him at the brown company or the white company, I guarantee it isn’t enough to offset his annoyance at stopping by my house a dozen times between now and Christmas.


I wish there were something I could do to thank him. I’d buy him a gift, but, well, that would require more shopping.