The holiday buying season has officially commenced, as anyone who had the misfortune to go to the mall as I did this past weekend can tell you. In the rush to celebrate the birth of Christ, the solstice, and some old Roman god with various expensive baubles and trinkets, I've noticed that there are several types of people in our city who make the season particularly prone to me needing a drink at the end of the day. Let's meet them.
10. The Leftists I don't mean politically. I mean anyone who decides to do his or her shopping on Westheimer or Shepherd in Montrose who insists on turning into the shops with a left turn. Stop that. Stop it forever. Yes, technically it's not illegal to sit there for 15 minutes with your blinker working overtime waiting for a gap big enough to squeeze your car through into the parking lot of a vintage store, but doing so is clogging up the road like cholesterol. When you're shopping in Montrose, it's best to just pretend left turns don't exist and make your way around.
9. The Inuits I get it. It's cold, and Houstonians have water for blood. We don't do cold, and there's nothing wrong with that because it means we're much smarter than people who live in the tundra. However, if you're going to insist on putting on every piece of clothing you own to stay warm, please spend a few moments in the safety of your own home learning to maneuver with your increased mass. I'd rather you knock over your Precious Moments figurines than bowl over my kid like a human beanbag chair.
8. The Truckless If you've lived in Houston for any length of time, the odds are you've owned a pickup truck or been close to someone who has. Texas is the largest market for trucks in the country. You get used to the idea of there always being a truck available if you need one and it sort of skews your view of the size of purchased objects. Then Christmas rolls around and you forget that you don't own a truck or know anyone right off hand who does. Usually you realize this while trying to shove a mirror into a hatchback or a dollhouse into your trunk. These people are more to be pitied than to be annoyed at, though it's really aggravating to parking spot creep them and then watch them play a sad version of Tetris in their vehicle before they slink off back with the merchandise to inquire about delivery.
7. The Faithful These exist all over, of course, but in Houston, with the recent religious clash of HERO and the city government, they are a little bit more wired up this year. They're proud soldiers in the War Against the War on Christmas, and their season's greetings to every clerk and shopkeep is a "Merry Christmas" delivered with fanatical volume and bitter edge. To them, they're retaking the Lord's territory, not wishing you well. God forbid a store employee deliver the corporate-mandated "happy holidays" in return. In Entitled-ese, "happy holidays" translates as "your god is a candyass" and it prompts a fight.
6. The Cheesecakians I have some advice to you for the next six weeks: Do not eat at the Cheesecake Factory, the Rainforest Cafe or really any of the less expensive sit-down restaurants in the Galleria and the malls (places like Kona Grill and the Oceanaire seem to be immune to this). If someone in your shopping party suggests that it would be nice to relax at one of these places before doing more battle in the name of capitalism, you need to stuff his or her head into the little house-shaped carton you got from Build-a-Bear. Everyone had the same idea, and you will all be packed into tiny tables after an hour's wait, when overpriced food of dubious quality will be delivered by harried waiters from the hands of cooks who question the wisdom of God that He gave us such bottomless appetites. It. Will. Suck. Go to the food court or wait for home.
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5. The Tommyknockers There are two breeds of this species. The first hails mostly from Katy, and the rest exist inside the Loop. Both species absolutely loathe having to travel beyond their home range to buy something, and tend to batter poor clerks with repeated questions about why they can't open a branch of their store closer to them, dammit. I call them Tommyknockers after the aliens in the Stephen King story who would bleed and die if they got too far from their crashed mothership. That's the level of attitude you tend to get from these folks, who feel 30 minutes on the freeway is like having to cut their way through a jungle.
4. The Climate Change Denier There's a certain brand of conservative idiot that lives for the winter and long lines at the check-out so they can offhandedly say five words to fellow shoppers trapped next to them: "So much for global warming." I have no doubt that many of these people mean it as a joke, but I am equally sure that the joke is at the expense of people who actually, you know, acknowledge climate change is a thing that exists and is causing things like pre-Thanksgiving freezes. Like The Faithful, they're all over, but in Houston, where our memory of cold weather is as reliable as a goldfish's, it's particularly bad.
Pro-tip: I usually respond with "So much for gravity," then hop up and down while staring them dead in the eye until they turn away. It's a very sinister hop. I practiced.
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3. The Street Runners There's not a lot of walking going on in Houston, which is sad because not driving is awesome. Seriously, I encourage you to give it a try sometime. One of the downsides of our very car-centric city is that people completely forget that crosswalks exist for very good reasons. This doesn't seem to stop even families with small children from bravely trying to cross Westheimer on foot near the Galleria at whatever point they see fit. It's like they thought, "You know, Frogger is a good game. I shall base some of my lifestyle choices on it. Hail Frogger, rebel hero."
2. The Football Loyalist Football is religion in Texas, and as with most religions, half the fun is excluding someone else. You'll find UT and A&M football everything everywhere from the carts in the mall to the freakin' grocery store, but Rice, UH and Texas Tech stuff tends to be more rare on the ground. I understand that this is annoying, but please, in the name of Football Hero Jesus, can you try to take it in stride? The stores are trying to stock what sells, not insult your personal gridiron heroes. Every college has a bookstore full of licensed merchandise and every one of them mails orders all across the world. It's not worth berating a cashier over. Speaking of which...
1. The Ogres I'm going to say this carefully because I worked retail for 14 years. Texas has the second-largest percentage of the population of any state working at or below minimum wage. We also have the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the country. The holidays are a time when lots of folks are able to find or take on extra work to make a little scratch to tide them over in the leaner months. These people are often overworked, only passingly trained, badly paid, and just as stressed and worried about money and gift-buying as you.
They are not your servants. They have no need to listen to your opinions on their life choices just because a coupon didn't ring up right. You are not better than them because you can purchase a sweater that costs more than their paycheck. You do not need to speak to their manager. You need to say "please" and "thank you" and you need to get over yourself. Your negative comments on their ethnicity, grasp of English, religious iconography or legal-resident status belong inside your head and nowhere else. Our state has a bad habit of fawning on the wealthy and leaving the underclasses to rot. Don't be one of those people.