Oh, the hu­man­ity — and the poul­try

The Compass - - OPINION -

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 rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc; his col­umn ap­pears on Tues­days, Thurs­days and Satur­days in TC Me­dia’s daily pa­pers.

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