Oh, the humanity — and the poultry
I now know the price of humanity, and it is exactly $2.30 a pound. But first, a little background. Christmas comes painfully early for me: the newspaper that I call home base has its offices located in a St. John’s shopping mall, and, as with any mall, the focus as far as the holidays are concerned is “it’s time to spend.” I’m not a fan. I like Christmas just fine — as a handful of days to celebrate with family and friends, rather than as a full-blown cashtastic months-long event.
I’ll confess — and I’m not proud of this — when I come in to the almost-empty mall at 7:30 in the morning, I compose scatological and obscene verses to the Christmas carols that started playing here virtually as the Halloween candy went on final sale. (To give you an idea about how pervasive mall Muzak actually is, here’s a littleknown fact: in this mall, when there’s a total power failure, when the emergency lighting comes on and all of the patrons are ushered out, the Muzak never even misses a beat. The toilets might not flush during a power failure, but you can still shake it down to “It’s all about the bass, no treble.”) And the music is loud: I can identify Christmas carols right through the wall of my office.
But if you want to see a measure of the holidays — and people — look no further than a $0.99-apound turkey. Because, at $0.99 a pound, you save exactly $2.30 a pound off the regular price for a rock-hard frozen bird. And Turkeypalooza isn’t pretty.
For three days last week — “two per customer while quantities last” — St. John’s-area Dominion stores were selling turkeys for exactly that.
Iâ should have known something was wrong when I saw people grabbing shopping carts away from the weather-weary cart guy who was trying to bring carts in from the cart corral. Or maybe when I noticed that every cart or basket had exactly two freakishly-large things that looked like orange plastic-wrapped oversized bowling balls.
Those small observations, however, didn’t prepare me for the chaos of the meat department, the pushing, the shoving, the deployment of shopping carts to slow your competitors from reaching the discount prizes.
There is a measure of man’s inhumanity to man when a store employee is pulling a hand-lift stacked head-high with boxes of frozen turkeys, and people are reaching up and into the head-high, still-moving stack of boxes while the employee vainly tries to direct the full pallet to the meat department.
Frozen turkeys bounce with a hard, frozen sound that’s strangely close to the dry click that billiard balls make on linoleum. And frozen turkeys skitter. Later, I worried about that man directly in front of me in the long checkout lineup, clutching two frozen turkeys against his chest, one in either hand — how long, I wondered, before some sort of contact frostbite ensued? Turned out he was in no mood for holiday conversation. Ho, ho, ho.
A store employee confided that, in years past, an employee at another store spent Christmas on worker’s compensation after a customer threw a frozen turkey at her and broke her foot.
When I warned an employee in the adjoining liquor store about the turkey mayhem next door, she said that, for her, it was old news, that during her first few weeks in the building, she’d seen the police arrive to break up a fight between two women over discount pork chops.
More than just a holiday celebration, I guess. But this year, I’m not buying turkey.
Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic Regional columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com; his column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in TC Media’s daily papers.