Shoppers are predators, and baubles for others are their prey. Houston has its own unique hunting ground, and as you're out there beating through the crowds with your handbag in order to net whatever gift your loved one most desires, be on the lookout for many species of shopper that are most active in this winter frenzy of capitalism.
10. The Soccer Mom From Katy: According to the voices in my head, Katy was founded when a spaceship crashed west of Houston, and the aliens just stayed there and joined the nearest PTA. However they and their descendants become ill if they travel too far from the crash site, which makes them quite irritable when they come to the city to shop for the things that can't be had out in Camazotz. To avoid this, they usually have their husbands pick up purchases held in advance whenever possible on the way home from their daily commute.
9. The Football Brander: What with Texas being one of the nation's primary footballocracies, the religion of gridiron competition is often expressed the same way most religions express things; with flashy branding. Though this can manifest as a deep love of the Texans, mostly you see this breed crowded around mall kiosks filling bags with every conceivable Longhorns or Aggie emblazoned product as they glare at their opposite numbers. Occasionally, you spot a rare Red Raiders fan, standing back quietly and not bothering anyone as they consider purchasing the lonely Texas Tech shirt you find in these locations.
8. The Missionary: We're one of the more worn holes in the Bible Belt, and since Christmas is such a big part of the Christian calendar the more loudly devout tend to use it as a chance to go on and on about the J-Man while trapped in line with others. Their primary hunting grounds are bookstores, Hallmarks, and Hobby Lobby, where they will buy the soul's equivalent of Coke Zero in literary or folksy sign form and wish every single person they see a Merry CHRISTmas with a defiant twinkle in their eye.
A subset of this species uses the holiday to buy "comedic" political gifts meant to mock the beliefs of the recipient. Their breeding is under threat from repeated kicks to the genitals under the family dinner table.
7. The Geek Missionary: Similar but not closely related is the geek missionary, and with the fine selection of comic stores in Houston they are getting more and more numerous. Geek missionaries are elitists who view the gift giving season as the perfect chance to indoctrinate friends and family with whatever pop-culture vehicle they feel should be given more validation than, you know, whatever they actually like. Knowing that etiquette prevents a recipient from turning down a gift the way they would the offer of a loan of a book or DVD, it generally a sophisticated version of giving out tracts.
6. The Preening Local Music Buyer: An endangered species, this creature's habitat is reduced to a few small protected enclaves these day like Cactus Music. They take great pride in stalking smugly through their territory holding local releases and flagging down anyone holding something even remotely similar in order to try and convince them that this would be a better gift. Having handed off vinyl editions of the last Folk Family Revival album to my dad last Christmas, I can promise it is actually possible to purchase such things without looking like some kind of hipster evangelist.
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5. The Wrapper Territory Marker: We eat a lot in Houston, and between the host of diverse restaurants and food trucks all tastes can be sated. There is a brand of foodie here that can't stop to eat, though. Not when there are bargains to be had. So they pick up whatever exotic fare they want to indulge in, eat it in the car, and ask the cashier who attends them to throw it away for them. This has the double purpose of signaling to other that the shopper has singular taste, while also scent-marking the store with the hint of the food's origin.
4. The English Aggressor: The diversity of Houston is second to none in the United States, but that diversity is not always celebrated by all its inhabitants. Testy men with vague xenophobic anxieties are quick to pounce on any perceived accent or language barrier from a clerk as proof of invading hordes ruining America... and on Jesus' birthday at that. Requests for an "American" manager are common mating calls for this thankfully declining species of bigot.
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3. The Professional Christmas Shopper: Houston's got a lot of money, and living here is cheap. That means that there are more than a few folks who live quite well in single-income households, and that leaves them with plenty of time do Christmas in a way you or I never will able to. Up and down Shepherd and Kirby you'll see an endless parade of Earth-tone SUVs festooned with reindeer horns blaring that Faith Hill Christmas album handing out tidings of joy and good cheer sincerely wherever they go... yes, I'm aware I'm a bitter and petty little troll.
2. The Reluctant Local Buyer: Last year a law was passed requiring Texas residents to pay sales tax on online purchases from places like Amazon, and the resulting gnashing of teeth could be heard from sea to shining sea. Formerly this group would inhabit a store briefly for shopping ideas, and then run home to Amazon to get it at a discount. Now there is usually juuuuust enough tax being applied that they actually buy things and grumble throughout the purchase about liberal taxocrats... an ironic point in Texas I'll just leave right here.
1. The True Southern Hospitalier: There exists a one-of-a-kind person in Houston who is as wonderful to behold as it is rare. This shopper embodies true Old South manners in every transaction, but he tempers it with the modern Houstonian's acceptance of every race, religion, creed, and heritage. You'll see them saying please and thank you to the cashiers, accepting all holiday greetings with sincere thanks, complimenting everyone they meet no matter how briefly with some kind remark on their dress or personality, and they never let a Salvation Army bucket go without a few coins at least. They are ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, and you act a fool to the staff in their presence at your own peril. They are fearsome when roused.