It is the ads that make me angry

Tonight's Bubonic Mouse™ award goes to Colortyme—and, by proxy, every other rent-to-own shop in northeast Alabama with nasty guilt-tripping ads.

The first thing I heard in my car this morning was a spiel about how you should placate your family this holiday season. For your wife, buy her a bedroom suite to keep her quiet. For your children, a Playstation 2 to stop their whining.

Then it finished with the following jingle:"It's not what you thought.
It's what you bought."

Good God, do we need more commercialism rammed down our throats? Is it any wonder that I listen to NPR and try to avoid television at all costs just so I can be sure that my thoughts are my own, and not what some advertiser tells me to think? Why I try to minimize the number of logos that I wear on my clothing?

What is so wrong about not wanting to be a walking advertisement when I'm not for sale?

I get this way every year. It's something about the fact that we're "supposed" to buy gifts for everyone we know—preferably expensive gifts at that—and that doesn't even get into the packaging.

While growing up, the volunteer firemen in my hometown took turns doing the town's weekly trash runs. Everyone dreaded drawing the week after Christmas—it was always so bad that it usually required two separate trips to the county dump. Packaging, packaging, everywhere—boxes and styrofoam, gaily printed and ripped paper, bows and ribbons, tissue paper and foil, bubble wrap and packing peanuts…

Because of those trash runs, I learned firsthand the fallacy of "throwing things away." Things don't go away. They're wadded up in ever-bigger bags and carted off to immense holes scraped out of hills and tossed into those holes to create one massive, stinking, fetid dump that's eventually covered over but never goes away.

The pity is that I can't bring myself to make a better stand about things like this. I buy presents for friends and family and curse the inadequacy that makes me feel that I'm slighting them if I don't give them gifts. (If they're so damned obligatory, why are they gifts?) I salve my wounded anticommercial spirit by not re-wrapping presents (I tend to save and reuse gift bags instead).

But right now, in my living room, are two enormous boxes with styrofoam packing and torn-up plastic bags. Because I can't do anything else with them, I'll put them out with Friday's trash. But they don't leave my mind. I know that those things don't rot or get reused. They'll outlive me. Is this my legacy—non-biodegradability?

Our inadequacy and insecurity makes us buy gifts for people we don't really like that much, and buy them things that they generally don't want or need. (Look at the $9 assorted gift packs in the cosmetics area of Wal-Mart and then truly, honestly, tell me I'm wrong.) We spend so much money that many of us run to credit counseling in January trying to figure out "how we're going to pay for Christmas." We dread the coming of the holidays and the making of lists of things to do and buy and say and mail, and we drink ourselves silly when we get a chance so that we can pretend to our co-workers and friends that it's really okay, and that none of us are accruing any interest at all on our platinum cards….

I'm hoping I get my Christmas shopping done in time, but I halfway wish that I could just send cards to everyone saying,

"You know, I've meant to tell you all year that I love you and that you're awfully special to me, and that I'm glad you're in my life."

Because somewhere, some time ago, I seem to remember that that's what this holiday schmooze was all supposed to be about. Somewhere inside me, there's a little girl that likes to sing Christmas carols, but she's a bit drowned out by the sound of ringing cash registers.

Merry Christmas.