Tooling around town, burning gasoline, with a list of gift recipients in one hand and absolutely no gift ideas in the other. Figure I'll drive to one of the local malls. Malls are big draws in the Midwest (and, yes, Oklahoma qualifies as Midwest on this issue) because we don't grow up in the constant human crush of the big cities, so we tend to prefer being in a massive shopping rush. It's different. It's not the constant quiet you get in most parts of the Midwest. The hustle and bustle is totally alien, and a very welcome change. Of course, many city-dwellers in Oklahoma would disagree with me here, but they are of no concern.

I enter the mall and let the cool, enticing fumes of consumerism wash over me. I guess I'm supposed to be ashamed at the blatant commercialization of Christmas, but in my usual perversely optimistic manner, I find the gift-giving season to be a great opportunity to do the little things - let people know that you're still around, that you still care. Of course, for most people, this holiday is nothing but a hassle - they're part of families that are already spending way too much time around each other, anyway - but I tend to while away my time alone, reading, writing, drawing, etc., so getting out and focusing on other people's wants is good and healthy. And that's what it's really all about, to me... suffering the long drives and the pained feet and the strain on the checkbook just because it will make someone happy. Because it's not about you (or me, in this case). It's about the other, that you are acting on behalf of someone else rather than focusing in on your own stupid, juvenile wants.

But, as I said, with all of these honking horns and mad, harried urbanites and whatnot around me, I tend to be determinedly optimistic about this whole venture.

Let's see. Axis and Allies for my brother. A set of Garrison Keillor tapes for my father. Two large canvases and some good rice paper for my sister. The shopping cart fills up. I'm interacting with salespeople, trying to make them feel better about the day (ever work a service-sector job in December? It's hell.) A Pyrex baking set for a couple that's getting wed in a week. Nun-zilla, wind her up and watch her throw sparks from her mouth! That's for Guapo. It'll look nice next to the holographic cross-eyed Jesus. Something pertaining to the development of a child without being Dr. Spockish for my sister-in-law, who A. is a psychologist, B. is very, very pregnant and C. hates Dr. Spock with the same raw, burning passion that James Carville has for anything remotely Republican. Ignore the hurting feet, ignore the body's signals that sleep will be damn well needed soon. It's not about you, inconvenience yourself for the joy of others. Something for Ben, something else for Hatter (get seperate gifts so when the inevitable breakup comes, there will be one less thing to split up). Something for X, something for Y, something for Z. Absolutely, positively, do not forget Ginny. The gifts are starting to blur together, and the load is getting heavy.

I leave the mall, watching shoppers with tired feet and broken wills damn near crawl past me, heading to the car with glazed eyes so they can go home and have a beer and relax. At least, the urbanites are - the rurals are sprightly but sad, wishing they could stay as part of the anonymous crowd for a little while longer. I hop in my car and drive back to my apartment, my work for the day done.