I hate Valentine’s Day. It’s a strong word, I know, but I really do. I hate it most because it was invented by a card company to increase their after Christmas sales. “Why not St. Valentine’s Day?” the big card company executives thought. “We could sell millions of heart-shaped cards. We’ll do it by making men feel guilty for not getting their sweethearts something on one specific day every year, February 14th.” It has now exploded into every possible thing imaginable. For example, how do you go on a Valentine’s Day Weekend? It’s Tuesday, isn’t it? But they’re advertising it, and on television too. Maybe you could go on a 7-day “Valentine’s Day Cruise” on Carnival. Yep, or just the thousands of dinner cruises available around the country if you want to stick to the one day. But why not take those extended trips to celebrate the “holiday” and hell yes, propose? WTF
So, yesterday, I’m fighting the crowds in my local “Walgreen’s” on a mission to get something for my wife for Valentine’s Day. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon on a work day, and I can’t even get into the seasonal aisle with all the heart-shaped crap, so I force my way into the card aisle. I find an open spot and start reading cards specifically designed for “My Wife On Valentine’s Day.” Should find something here, right? I pick one up, read the message, sounds perfect, hold on to that, and read a few more, not as good. While I’m doing this, without moving from my spot, evidently other “husbands” want to see the cards in front of me and are pushing me and reaching across in front of me. It’s starting to feel like ordering a beer at a crowded bar, and I don’t want to get into a shoving match over a card, so I decide the one I have is perfect, if not good enough. I’ll add some personal message to it to make it just right.
Now I need something to go with it. The choices seem endless. I sneak into the seasonal aisle from the back and start my search with eatable panties and body paint. Don’t think so. There’s a “Love Kit” here, but they want too much for it, $14.95. I have a budget. Something like ten dollars. There are now 25 feet of heart-shaped boxes and tins with every kind of candy you can imagine; The Whitman samplers, M&Ms, Mrs. Fields Chocolates. I thought Mrs. Fields made cookies? I almost go for a lighted heart filled with Skittles, but put it back on the shelf. Who knows how long the batteries will last, and are they replaceable? Everything seems too obvious. There’s an eatable rose, one that sings, one that smells, even a real one, and one that pops up a message from the center. Then I turn to the other side of the aisle, and the entire length of the gondola is filled with stuffed things. I almost go for the coffee mug with the little devil sitting in it, but I resist. There is this giant stuffed frog with a big heart on his chest. I’m thinking, “What does a stuffed frog say about Valentine’s Day? Maybe kiss me and I’ll turn into a prince?” Anyway, it’s out of my budget, $24.95. A guy is standing next to me pushing the “try me” button on a white teddy bear with a big red heart on its chest, playing “I-I-I-I-I-I-I, uh I-I-I-I will al—-wa—-ys Lo-ve You…I,I,I,I…” a song, frankly, I can’t take much more of since the untimely passing of Whitney Houston. I liked Whitney Houston’s music well enough…back in the 90s. I’m kind of bored with it now, but this character just wants to hear it over and over again, so I eject myself out of the aisle.
The next thing I think, is why is there so much “stock” of Valentine’s merchandise still in the store. It’s the day before the event. I guess us guys don’t plan this stuff, huh? Ya think? Or maybe we’re thinking they’ll have markdowns. Which they do, but nothing that interests me. We have hundreds of stuffed animals anyway. Mostly from Valentine’s Day, I should add, Teddy Bears with big bulging red hearts, and bunnies, and little devils in baskets, and god knows what else. They’re “stuffed” under the bedside table in the guest bedroom, at least what is left from the hundreds we gave away at our last garage sale to some little tyke who loved them all but her parents wouldn’t put up fifty cents for one. So we tortured them and gave her the whole box.
So, on a bay-end, I find a display of Ghirardelli chocolates, extra dark, with extra cacao, the kind she likes. Perfect. I grab it and head for the check-out. Mission accomplished. The lines stretch to the back of the store. I pick one, always the wrong line, and this is no exception. A strange lady in front of me, holding a lollipop in one hand and a bag of candy in the other, turns to me and says “Can you hold my place while I grab one of those?” She points to display of weird Valentines. I assure I will hold her place and I watch her grab a box of “Tattoo Valentines.”
“I think she’ll like these,” she says, and I answer, “Oh, I’m sure she will.” I wondered why she didn’t have the valentines in her hands already, since that was probably what she came into the store for in the first place. She went on for another few minutes about the types of valentines, I assume, her daughter, would not like. I smiled pleasantly. When she got to the check out she further delayed us by using a Food Stamp card for the candy and a Debit card for the box of valentines.
Safely back in my truck in the parking lot, I watched the people exiting the store for a while. Many guys walked out carrying assorted stuffed animals that they tried to hide under their arms, or even behind their backs. Then the guy came out holding the big green frog. He shifted it from arm to arm, obviously uncomfortable carrying it, and looking from side to side to make sure no one saw him. I smiled to myself. I wonder if he’s going to use the “kiss the frog” routine.