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Me? Done shopping? You're kidding, right?

(Since Santa rewarded my exemplary behavior in 2020 with a little COVID case of my very own, I resurrect this from 2013. Yeah, I know, no fair that you have to suffer, too.) A hundred sixty-eight hours is a lifetime. If you're a worker ant. If you're a middle-aged mostly non-ambitious man who hasn't even started to think about Christmas shopping as of late afternoon on Dec. 17, well, not so much. After taking away the time I'll need in the next week for eating, sleeping, working, showering, watching football, shoveling snow, napping and making nuisance phone calls to credit card advisers (they don't like it so much when you waste their time), I figure I've got about 45 minutes available to shop for the 17 people and one cat on my list. Oh, wait, that's almost three minutes apiece. And here I thought I was leaving myself short ...

In my Grinch-inspired opinion, I believe far too much time that could be better spent pushing one's fingers into the whirling blades of a Cusinart is wasted in malls in the months preceding the 359th day of the year. Is it really Christmas shopping, I argue, if one does it in July? Is one's heart really in the spirit of the season when they see a piece of junk at a late May garage sale and buy it while thinking, 'There, my stupid sister's taken care of for another Christmas.' And most of all, aren't you all making me look really bad by wrapping all of your gifts before I've even decided whether I'm gonna' buy anything for anyone or just book a late trip to Acapulco and avoid the whole mess? I hear you can get some great trip rates this time of year if you're willing to fly in the luggage hold. And I am.

Those of you who don't procrastinate on tasks such as Christmas shopping and trips to the doctor to get the hardened wax blasted out of your ear canals (surprisingly, I get an equal sense of satisfaction from both) probably do not realize there are distinct advantages to shopping relatively late in the season. For starters, you get all those pesky bargains out of the way and can settle down to paying full price or even inflated rates for merchandise that is only on the shelf at such a late date because the menial laborers who were supposed to put new stuff out are picketing in the parking lot to try to get the minimum wage raised so they can afford to buy their own snotty-nosed kids some new Spiderman footsy pajamas for Christmas.

Just think about it: if I buy a $50 gift in October, I do not have that money available to work for me any longer. Let's say I instead invest that sum in a 2-month CD, at .0000015 percent interest, and withdraw it on Dec. 24. I now go to the store, where that same item now costs $56 because the crabby store manager fully admits that the 'We won't be undersold' sign is a big fat lie intended to entice gullible people into the store. Anyway, the 12 cents I made in interest on that $50 is now way more than enough to offset that $6 extra I will pay ... hold on a sec ... 12 cents, plus three, carry the five ... well, I can pencil this out later. Just believe me when I tell you it's possible to save money by shopping late. C'mon, please. It'll make me feel better.

Another obvious benefit of shopping at the final hour is the sharply reduced number of options to consider when buying the loved ones in your life that perfect something, or anything remotely similar. If you're buying a romantic gift for a certain someone, for instance, an early trip to the store might find you faced with 18 different sets of diamond earrings, all of different carat weights, varying prices, and minutely diverse gem clarity. My goodness. Which to buy? It's enough to give a guy an anxiety attack.

On Dec. 24, however, just as the jewelry counter clerk is trying to shut off the display case lights so she can get home and cook a ham for her husband's ungrateful family, you walk up and find that there is only one hideous broach left. Yeah, sure, the chain is tangled into knots and some of the fake sapphire stones have been knocked off the edges, but it's marked 98 percent off and the clerk says she'll even wrap it for you (at least after you tell her you've got her car parked in so she can't leave anyway.) And the best part is, the broach is the perfect size and shape to cover up the hole in the sweater you just bought your special gal at The Shirt Barn, just as the clerk was going to toss it into the dumpster on her way out the door. See, sometimes great gifts are all about timing.

I also like to be in the stores in the final frenzied hours of the holiday shopping season to watch the faces of the poor slobs who know they've put this off way too long, and there is no way possible they're ever going to find anything worth buying at this late hour. They sprint over to the toy aisle, hoping that by some Christmas miracle, there will be one Dora the Explorer backpack left (because that's the only thing that will help his baby girl forget that she lost her legs last summer in that shark attack), but he's far, far too late. Those Dora backpacks were gone in late September, the pimple-faced stockboy says, but there might be a Monsters 3 figurine kicked somewhere under a shelf if you're willing to crawl. You're not. Neither is he. Not for minimum wage.

At the checkout line in the wee hours of the season, the cashiers numbly scan the items brought to them, the 'beeps' from their register scanners long ago having erased all data from the chips inserted into their brains when they applied for seasonal employment just after Halloween. 'Did you find everything OK?' they ask, fully prepared to shoot you in the stomach with the .38 revolver tucked under their counter if you might say, 'Well, no, as a matter of fact, I was wondering if there might be any Dora the Explorer backpacks in the back of the store ...' Just forget it, man, there is no 'back of the store.' You failed. And by the way, that pair of ballerina slippers might not have been a bad second option if your little girl had any feet left. Just sayin.' The last reason I prefer to shop late is because I then remember what I got everyone. See, if the family get-together is at 3 p.m., and you finish your shopping at 2:25 and your wrapping at 2:57, then all your gifts are completely fresh in your mind when they're ripped open less than an hour after you plucked them out of another shopper's cart when they foolishly went into the dressing room to try on a pair of jeans that was four sizes too small for their wide bottom anyway. I just hate it when some smart aleck who finished their shopping the prior June watches as you open your gift from them and says, 'Oh, my, I almost forget that I bought you a used toilet seat at that estate sale.'

Well, enough of this jibber-jabber. It's getting late. Time to get my list together, set my spending budget, develop my shopping plan, and then think about it for another six days. Just as long as I can find out where that jewelry counter clerk is parked, I'll be fine.