8 Dec 2012

Jingle Bells

I could already see the headline. "Santa strangled by tourist", the US papers would title. And I would read them in a library administered by the California Department of Corrections. Typically, I do not consider myself to be of the violent sort.  So what was it that made me feel these strong aggressive tendencies so suddenly? 

When I arrived in San Diego for a conference just after US Thanksgiving, the tune on my mind was Albert Hammond's It never rains in Southern California, a title apt for a tourism campaign. And a lie, at least during my stay. Luckily, just as the business events drew to a close and a free afternoon of shopping at the nearby mall beckoned, the feted California sun decided to make a first hesitant appearance. Which was just as well, given that the mall was entirely outdoors, with open alleys and courtyards surrounded by various stand-alone stores. One could have almost believed to be in a proper little town, were it not for the sterile cleanliness, the sign-posts, the neatly arranged patio furniture populated  by mums sipping Starbucks and, crucially, the loudspeakers hidden in every tree.

And this is how the madness started. Despite the late summer weather, the mall administration deemed it necessary to get everyone in a holiday mood, and thus continually piped the familiar fare of sugary Christmas tune through the broadcasting system. I tried to ignore it and concentrate on the shopping quests at hand instead. But eventually, as I scoured the mall looking vainly for a quiet corner, my defenses crumbled. The melodies of snow and jolly started nesting themselves into my head. And they pursued me into every single store: It seemed like each one of them had its own playlist of holiday muzak. From fitting to rest rooms, from Tommy Bahamas to the Banana Republic, and from Williams & Sonoma to Crate & Barrel, Christmas Carols haunted me with their bells and jingles. There was no escape from the faux merriness.

By the time the sun had set and the last item on my shopping list had been crossed out, random holiday tunes were wreaking havoc on my mind, leading to uncoordinated whistling and a thirst for revenge. I experienced lurid visions of mutilated Santas and Bing Crosby caught in an avalanche.

Fortunately the man from the North Pole had already ended his visiting hours for the day, and thus lives to reward children for another holiday season. His musical gift to me is a lasting one, for the songs of the season now also play joyfully all around me in Montréal. And with the wintery weather and dark days in Canada, it almost starts feeling right. Perhaps this was my Nightmare before Chistmas. But give it two more weeks, and all promises to be merry at last, come that famous Silent Night.

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