Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Shopping Survivor: Borders. Outwit, Outplay, Outlast

Monday, December 21, 2:37 p.m.
Quad Cities
Borders Bookstore on 53rd Street

I am a forty-year-old mother of three, and I have Christmas shopping to do. I walk into the Borders on 53rd Street, and I see the checkout line with, no kidding, at least 50 people that snakes three deep in front of the registers, around to the back corner of the store, and around the bend toward the children's section. Jeff Probst takes away my shopping list and my skinny vanilla latte and informs me that I am on a new secret reality show...Christmas Shopping Survivor, Borders.

PROBST: "Julie, you are now one of over fifty strangers competing to walk through the exit doors of Borders alive and with your Christmas shopping list item. You have five minutes to find your item and get in line. You are part of the Cooking Section Tribe. Good luck."

ME: "But Jeff, I have to get to Target and buy crickets for the frog and mail my Christmas cards and..."

PROBST: "Your time"

I am terrified. I'm not a very good shopper in the first place, and I can see already that I will be lucky to get out of Borders by Christmas. I only need one thing. My Oldest Daughter has inexplicably developed a love of the German language, and asked for a good German-English dictionary. Why she loves German, Ich hab keine Ahnung. I know exactly where the dictionary is located, and I have a Borders rewards coupon for 30% off. I walk past the people in line to the back of the store to the Reference section and grab the Barron's Dictionary. I take my place in line with my tribe near the Cooking Section. I meet Trina, from Lindenwood Ave, John from 18th St, Elizabeth from Eldridge, and Steve from the hood in Davenport. We confer as to how we can get checked out sooner. We whisper our strategy.

TRINA: "I think I should announce there is half off of all New Moon merchandise."
JOHN: "No, New Moon is over. I think we should say they are giving away free copies of Blind Side."
STEVE: "Man, no one will believe they are giving that damn book away."
ELIZABETH: "Steve, why don't you pretend to have a seizure."
STEVE: "Oh, I have the seizure because I'm from downtown Davenport? You're a racist!"
JULIE: "Steve, you're not even black. Let's all be rational about this. The Non-Fiction tribe is making everyone angry by being pushy. Let's kill them all with kindness and it will psych them out."

John sidles up to me and offers to remove Steve if I let him use my 30% off coupon. I refuse, and instead I form an alliance with Steve, because he is from Downtown Davenport, so he's tough. Steve tells John that there was a news post that Blu-Ray has been discontinued. John, flustered, leaves Cooking Tribe to get a different DVD, and Steve and I bump knuckles.

I strike up a conversation with Trina, and I tell her that Elizabeth told me she saw Trina stick a Happy Bunny bookmark in her purse. I ask her for tips on shoplifting without being caught. Trina turns to to Elizabeth, furious, and they get into a brawl near the David Sedaris display. Borders security walks over and escorts the women out of the building. Cooking Tribe is down to two players, Non-Fiction Tribe has one and Young Adult Tribe has two.

Probst gives the three tribes a challenge - whoever can use the Borders computers to find a House of Night book located in-store AND get a Seattle's Best Coffee AND a Dilbert 2010 calendar and get back to the Sarah Palin books first will get moved to the front of the line. The others will have to go before the Literary Council to decide who gets to purchase their items. Time is running out. I still have to get my dog from the vet and buy the ingredients for turkey lasagne, neither of which can be found in Borders. Losing is not an option.

The Young Adults beat me to the House of Night books, but nobody can outwit me to a cup of coffee. That's like jumping in front of a crack addict as the rock is being handed out. You just don't do it. The calendars are a challenge because no one is into Dilbert anymore, so they are at the bottom of the stack. It's down to me and Steve. We race through the store, looking for Sarah Palin. Steve goes to the auto-biography and memoirs section, but I know Sarah has most likely gone rogue, and I book it to the skin mags. Do I win the next register checkout? You betcha. Sorry, Steve.

After three minutes from the door to my item, and then 28 minutes in line at Borders, I have my dictionary. I look at all of the sad sacks still in line, looking dejected, and yell, "Auf Weidersehen, suckers!"

Jeff Probst waves goodbye from the Borders doors and yells, "Well played, Julie. Well played."

So if you need anything from Borders, go online. It will get there faster than standing in line, trust me. I hope your Christmas shopping is complete, your packages taped and your sparkling holiday cheer in hand. As they say in Berlin, Frohliche Wiehnachten!


The Insatiable Host said...

well i haven't started christmas shopping and i am nearly 30, have 3 kids and dont' have a hope in hell. If jeff probst could come to my house and take over my life with a good challange, I fear that i would just jump ship, take the trip to Batswaana and say eff xmas...but I can't. i have to stick it out...

great blog; how do you do it? is it one pot of coffee a day? are you injecting said coffee directly into your temple a la janice joplin?

hope you are great...if we dont chat, have such a merry christmas! i am truly lucky to have met you!

Nikki Allers said...

Funny, but I think I was in line around that time... It was crazy! Merry Christmas to you!

Julie said...

It was insane, no joke, I'm glad you can back me up on that Nikki. I could not believe I was standing there for a dictionary I had in hand three days before. Someone might have killed for your teacher's discount. Merry Christmas to you too! And I.Host, you are still my favorite craziest Canadian bacon. And it's meth. I use meth. I meant MATH, that's my son's teacher up there! Mandatory reporter!

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