The Dollars and Sense of Online Shopping

The smell of a peppermint scented candle. The sound of bickering relatives. The sight of holiday lights strung around the tree. The taste of hot buttered rum. The feel of your plastic credit card between your fingers as you use it for what you hope will be the last purchase of the season.

Can it really be happening already? It seems like I was just biting into my first juicy peach and now the winter holidays are barreling toward us. No matter how tightly I close my eyes, cover my ears and duck my head, that dreaded four letter word creeps into my life. It's time to SHOP.

Why, this year Black Friday sales started while some people were still eating their Thanksgiving dinner.

When did everything become so rushed? I remember November and December as wonderful months. The days grew cold and crisp. The leaves fell onto the ground. We sat by the fire after dinner, watching TV.

And the word shopping meant grabbing our coats, piling into the car and driving to the mall. A place where my senses would come alive with the surroundings.

No so anymore.

With the invention of the internet, shopping has changed drastically. Online sites offer better bargains, no waiting in lines and no confrontations with angry shoppers. But my senses are paying the price.

Instead of seeing life-like mannequins, I stare at clothes and shoes and purses inside little boxes lined up neatly on my computer screen. Cyber lights blink on and off in the borders with the intention of giving me that holiday spirit. But more often than not, they give me a headache.

I used to love to touch soft cashmere sweaters that I might buy for my daughter. Or pick up a book and flip through the pages. Now I touch my keyboard and scratch my head. Is the waist really that small on that jacket? Are those stripes too gaudy for my sister? Tapping on the screen enlarges the image. But I still can't feel the texture.

My computer beeping isn't the same as hearing the cash register ring up a sale. And unless I put on a CD (yes, I still own a CD player) there isn't any holiday music to keep me in the shopping mood.

Now instead of tasting all those delicious samples offered in food shops, I have a bitter taste in my mouth every time my computer "times out." Because it's inevitable. After hours of careful clicking and moving items into my shopping cart, suddenly I get an error message and the screen goes blank. And I have to start all over again.

After prolonged shopping sessions with my computer, the only thing I can smell is myself. I get so wrapped up in the wanting to finish that I sometimes forget to shower.

Online shopping doesn't require much grooming. It doesn't require interaction with real-live people. And after a while it drives me senseless.

Sure there are good bargains and no crowds, but something is missing: good old-fashioned holiday camaraderie. And Santa Claus. The last time I checked he only made house calls on Christmas Eve.

I may still do some online shopping this year. But I think I also need to grab my coat, get in the car and head for the mall.

After I take a shower, that is.