With the holiday season in full swing it’s been all about the shopping. It seems like that’s what this time of merriment and wonder has really turned into, a big shopping fest where we get minute by minute reports of how the big chains are faring in these economic times as we buy more and more cheap junk made overseas in an effort to show our loved ones how much we care about them.

Shopping has become such a chore. Those of us on a modest budget used to have numerous choices for holiday shopping. Here in our small city we used to have two functional malls and several large shopping plazas to choose from with a selection of stores: Bradlees, Ames, Montgomery Ward, K-mart, Caldor, Steinbach; the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately one mall was replaced by a Super Wal*Mart (Always White Trash, Always) 10 years ago and since we now have four of these monstrosities within 20 miles of our house the rest of our choices are gone. Our discount choices have been whittled down to Wal*Mart, Target and K-mart, and I can’t even mention the local K-mart without laughing because the best thing that could happen to that store is a devestating fire, and it pains me to say that since I was practically raised a blue-light baby.

I think one of the reasons I get cranky about shopping this time of year is because what’s left of the shopping choices in this area are all crammed into big box plaza after big box plaza along a road aptly (and creatively) named “Commercial Drive”. Traffic flow is like molasses at best and quite frankly it’s a chore to get in and out of all the little parking lots they have thrown around the once farmland in a hapazard fashion. So today I decided to stick to a more rural locale and headed to a free-standing JC Penney that was built sometime in the 1960s. I haven’t been there in at least 10 years and quite frankly I had a wonderful experience! Not only has the store been updated and it’s easy to get in and out of the plaza it’s situation in, in the 20 minutes that I was there I was approached by three different sales clerks to see if I needed assistance with finding something AND the cash stands were in full use with clerks that were actually smiling! I felt like I had stepped back in time a little bit and it was a wonderful change of pace. I then decided to go to a local store that specializes in outdoor clothing and found the exact same experience there; they were friendly, helpful and while both stores were considerably busy, I didn’t feel rushed, shoved or in need of a firearm or cocktail.

I think I’m going to stick with the slower pace in the smaller city for future shopping adventures and what I can’t find there I’ll just order online and have it brought to me. I’m a much saner person that way.

I still miss Ames though.