Today we woke up to the realization that we had no plan for the day. Mr. December and I were exhausted. K and N were ready for some action. Days like this are the reason I’m glad we have a membership at the science centre. Some googling revealed that there was a special planetarium show just for little kids, so off we went.
As we left the science centre three hours later, Mr. December and I disagreed on which route to take. I thought the highway would be nice and fast. He felt that the highway would be backed up with Boxing Day shoppers and that we should just take city streets all the way home. I was at the wheel, so I decided. Even if tons of people were going to the mall, how bad could traffic really be? And if it was as bad as Mr. December predicted, I was going to have to see it to believe it.
It was bad, y’all. Even worse than Mr. December thought.
The highway was backed up for about five kilometres. Five kilometres of stop-and-go traffic, barely moving at all. I joked that we were all waiting for one guy in the Yorkdale parking lot to finish loading his purchases and move his car so that one person could park and we could all move ahead ten feet. At the time it was a joke; thirty minutes later, still waiting, it seemed a lot less funny and a lot more plausible.
We were soon able to get to our exit, and as we peeled away from the masses of cars we got a good look at the rest of the situation. Had we wanted to go to the mall we would have probably waited another thirty minutes to actually get to the parking lot. As we passed the mall itself, the LED sign out front declared the state of the various parking lots: FULL. FULL. 6 spots. FULL.
I don’t understand what makes people want to go to the mall on Boxing Day. It’s a total zoo. Besides, didn’t everyone just get piles of gifts for Christmas? What more do people need?
Probably not much. I remember when K was about 2 years old I began to correct her when she said she “needed” something like a cookie, a trip to the park, a new shirt, etc. I was explicit about the difference between “need” and “want”. She now uses those two verbs appropriately, which is impressive given how many adults seem to have trouble telling the difference. At the risk of being flamed, I’m going to suggest that nobody actually needs a flat-panel LCD television. Probably most of the people at the mall don’t need new clothes either, but they sure want them – must keep up with the latest styles! And the retail industry knows this.
It’s amazing how a day that used to be about wealthy landowners taking boxes of gifts and necessities to their tenants and poorer neighbours has been turned into a push to buy more stuff. Heaven knows that if left to their own devices most people wouldn’t feel the need to go shopping again after the gift-buying frenzy leading up to Christmas, but wave a 50% discount in their faces and suddenly all kinds of “needs” crop up, needs dire enough to make folks want to spend two hours sitting in traffic and trying to find a parking spot, heedless of the value of their time and not thinking that those are two hours of their lives they won’t get back.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all went back to the original meaning of Boxing Day? Everyone could load up a box with things for a needy individual or family – toiletries; warm hats, gloves, and coats for the winter; some food; a toy or two for the children – and deliver it in person. Then we could all come back to our warm and cozy homes filled with all the things we need (and most of the things we want), and get on with enjoying the day off work. I’d even be willing to sit in traffic for that kind of Boxing Day.
In the meantime, today’s traffic jam taught me something important: when the zombie apocalypse comes and we all need to flee the city, don’t drive – take the bakfiets!