I decided that Vess and I needed an ornament to commemorate our Christmas together in the Wild West. I figured an ornament with some sort of western theme would be easy to find out here. I set out on a voyage with one goal in mind: a Southwestern Christmas ornament.
My first stop was the local mall. Upon arriving, I realized that it was more warehouse outlet than mall – Costco taking up around three-quarters of the space. Having no Costco membership card I searched everywhere else. I scoured, entering every store that wasn’t clothing oriented. It was around this time that, from sheer boredom and monotony, I started developing my opening question that I would ask every clerk afterwards as I entered a store.
“Hi! I’m from back east and my wife and I are spending our first Christmas out here together and I was looking for some kind of ornament that was southwestern with maybe a boot or a cactus or a coyote or something.”
I admit, it needed work. I made a mental note: Maybe cut out the whole “first Christmas together” thing in the future. I was also learning to slow down when I said it because my accent can sometimes assault people’s ears with the veracity of a claw-hammer. Bad grammar and run-on sentences aside, it seemed to get the point across. The thing was, everyone knew what I wanted, but had no clue where to get it.
I then searched every single kiosk. There was nothing – not a single ornament in the entire mall period, much less something themed.
Next came Target. Not just any Target, but a Super Target. Surely a massive store such as this would have anything I was looking for! I broke out my revised question speech, trying to keep the run-ons to a minimum and the accent subdued.
“Hello! My wife and I are from the east coast and I was trying to find a Christmas ornament that had a Southwestern theme to it.”
My accent was better, but the question sounded a little formal. Also, does anybody really care where I’m from? Probably not… definitely drop that next time.
“Our holiday ornaments are over there, sir. If we had anything like that it would be over there.” the clerk replied, being noticeably careful not to say the word “Christmas.”
I thanked him and headed over. No such luck. Sure, they had just about any ball ornament size and color you could imagine but that was about it. At my old job I could have had fifty different Southwestern ornaments ordered and overnighted to me in two seconds. Here it was like finding a needle in a haystack. The sun going down and my feet aching, I decided to end my search for the day.
Day two I went to the bane of my existence, Wal-Mart. I needn’t mention what a pain in the ass it is to try to shop at super-centers during the holidays. After elbowing my way past a few herds of people who were more like stampeding cattle, I found the holiday selection tucked away in a back corner with the gardening section. Choices were pretty slim. There was mainly the standard stuff: snowmen, reindeer, angels. Nothing I would really call “Southwestern.” I did find a few ornaments with the Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State Sun Devils logos on them, but decided to pass because I HATE sports in general and couldn’t give two shits about either one of them. I left empty-handed.
At the second, third and fourth Wal-Mart I visited (they’re spreading like cancer!) I found, more or less, the same situation. The quality of Wal-Mart was also getting more dicey the further and further I was moving out from the city. I remember being worried at the fourth one that my car was going to be missing when I came back out of the store. I had exhausted the Wal-Mart option. On one hand, I felt good because I hadn’t given them any of my money. On the other hand, I still had nothing to show for all of the gas I was burning and I had wasted another day. Also, I didn’t get to work on my speech because there were no clerks to be found.
Early the next morning, I set out on bike. My first stop was a CVS that was close by (the same one I had flattened my bike’s tire riding to here.) Luckily there were no tire hazards this time and I arrived safely. After going over their ornament collection with a fine-toothed comb and finding only sports team logos again, I decided to ask the cashier if she had any clue where I should try next. I rolled out my newest pitch.
“I’m trying to find a Southwestern ornament that has something like a cactus or a cowboy boot on it.”
There was no mention of Vess this time, but it was still a little verbose. “Like a cactus or cowboy boot” sounds kind of awkward. I’m sure people out here know what “Southwestern” entails. Be sure to whittle it down some more in the next revision.
“A cactus. That would be cute!” She turned me away, “Nope, nothing like that around here.”
What was it with these people? You can’t swing a dead cat around out here without hitting a cactus and no one thought to put one on an ornament? Things were getting desperate.
Next, I backtracked a little and headed toward a Walgreens downtown. This Walgreens was huge. It was the size of 4 Walgreens back home, and they usually had a pretty good selection of Christmas ornaments. I rode over to the bike rack and as I was preparing to lock up, I was greeted by a startling sight.
The good news was: that was the exact same lock I had for my bike, and that frame sure looked secure.
The bad news was: there were no handlebars, chain, seat, pedals or anything else for that matter.
I locked up and went inside for what was probably the fastest store search I had ever done in my life, but all for naught. I found Scooby Doo, Snoopy, Spongebob Squarepants – pretty much everything but what I was looking for. Fearing the safety of my transportation, I didn’t bother asking if they had what I was looking for. I ran back outside, probably being suspected for shoplifting in the process, and found my bike very much intact.
There was one more possibility on my list of places. Earlier that morning I had found an import store online that had Christmas decorations. It was several miles away and I would have to backtrack yet again but I was entertaining any option at this point. I hopped on the bike and headed north.
After a while of riding on a sore ass and counting dead lizards flattened on the side of the road, I finally pulled into the import store parking lot. The place looked shut down. My heart sunk as I started to turn around until I noticed a little sign.
“Parking and Entrance in Rear”
There was still a chance! I rode around the side toward the back with high hopes. As I rounded a corner and the back lot started to come into view it still looked empty. This had been a waste of time… but wait! There’s a car!! Hold on!!! There’s, like, four or five cars!!!! I walked up to the entrance and held my breath as I wrapped my fingers around the door handle. I sighed in relief as I pulled on the door at it gave no resistance. The store was open – now to see what they had. Inside I greeted two friendly Asian ladies and debuted my newest revision.
“Do you have any Southwestern themed Christmas ornaments?” I said, having stripped the question down to its essence and removing every hint of Southern-twang.
“I think I have what you need. Follow me.” she said, in an equally accentless voice that you can only get from having to over enunciate for years.
She directed me around a corner and down an aisle. There they were. Three little glass ornaments that stood between me and the end of my quest. There was a covered wagon and a Christmas tree coming out of the top of a boot, but my eye was drawn by the third ornament.
I made my purchase, thanked them about a million times after telling them the trouble I had gone through, and met up with Vess at a restaurant for some celebratory Margaritas.
Looking back, it seems silly that I was obsessed on finding something so little. Because it was such a pain in the ass to find, I love my little glass sombrero and treat it as if it’s made of gold. If it would have been easy to find I wouldn’t have appreciated it nearly as much. I guess most things in life are like that.
And now… for posterity… the much-quested-over ornament hanging on our Christmas tree!!!