A Nightmare before Christmas

Hattie Klotz on why online shopping isn't always convenient

As the dust settles on another frenzied season of holiday shopping, where online sales grew by 19 percent in the United States and Amazon Prime memberships in Canada grew by 60 percent, it’s safe to say that I got it all wrong. This is a cautionary tale.

Shopping can be a divisive topic. My mother, who lives in the United Kingdom, far from any large town, shops continuously on the Internet. Packages plop onto her doormat several times weekly. I have pointed out that in doing so much online purchasing, she will lose her local retailers. She counters that other than the butcher, the baker, and the greengrocer, she doesn’t have any. I cede the point.

However, I live in Ottawa. I can get anything I need and want, within reason and a twenty‑kilometre radius. I like to think of myself as a conscious consumer: I shop locally and vociferously support the sustainable food movement, buying from farmers who till the soil not far from the city’s borders. This year, I chose differently.

My three children and husband all have birthdays in the last forty days of the year. December is therefore a month of misery for me. I returned from a month of travel near the end of November with nary a present lined up. I applied myself with vigour to solving all of my shopping needs from my screen. After two days, I felt confident I’d got it all wrapped up, with no hassle, no struggle to find parking, and no fighting through the crowds.

Then my garage was broken into, and a round of presents was stolen from my car. A panini toaster proved just an empty box. The 3-D pens I ordered for my children never showed up. A gymnastics suit, intended for a birthday, may eventually make an appearance by the end of January. Extra plates for Christmas dinner are still in transit. Several books have clearly been used as kindling by someone else. Printed T-shirts, ordered from the U.S., await me at the post office—complete with $30 in duties (even though the company promised not to include a receipt with the parcel). And I’ve had several calls from the bank about suspicious credit card activity.

Convenience is only convenient when it works. Otherwise, it’s a recipe for anxiety, to say nothing of disappointment. A few days before Christmas, I wandered to the bookshop at the end of my road. I had a lovely conversation with the bookseller. I plugged several holes for the thriller readers. My hand hovered over Ann Patchet’s The Dutch House, but I resisted the urge to buy it for myself. Instead, I departed bearing gifts—and the knowledge that I have a mouth-watering credit to spend in the calm of the new year. That’s real shopping, at Christmas or otherwise.


Hattie Klotz is a journalist, gourmande, and gardener.

Elsewhere in Canadian Letters


OUT OF COMMISSION.
In November, Will Johnson was fired from the Humber Literary Review for supporting Meghan Murphy’s right to speak at the Toronto Public Library. Shortly thereafter, the journal asked him to remove “Former Interviews Editor @HumberLitReview” from his bio. He complied—but the story has prompted backlash from Barbara Kay, Laura Ingraham, Barrett Wilson, and others.

THE CHAMBER OF DISPUTE. J.K. Rowling’s controversial tweet in support of Maya Forstater, the tax expert who lost her job for stating that sex is “a biological fact,” sparked reactions from Canadian writers, including Anthony Oliveira, who wrote that Rowling’s “bigotry is no surprise,” and Casey Plett, who retweeted, “Twitter is great because you no longer have to meet your heroes for them to destroy your respect.”

TOPPING THE CHARTS. Jordan Peterson’s latest book, 12 Rules for Life, was recently released in China and has made the country’s bestseller lists—despite substantially censored portions, including critiques of Marxist ideology and authoritarian Communism.

DISTINGUISHED COMPANY. One hundred twenty individuals were named to the Order of Canada at the end of 2019. They include newspaper publisher Phillip Crawley, film director James Cameron, and Anne Dagg, the prolific zoologist, author, and “Queen of Giraffes.”

WELCOME HOME. In a recent CBC interview, John Irving revealed why he became a Canadian citizen. “This is a love story, not a political story,” he said. “I fell in love with a Canadian woman.” That said, he professed “anxiety” for an America under Trumpian rule.

POPULARITY CONTEST. Michelle Obama’s Becoming was the Vancouver Public Library’s most borrowed non-fiction book of 2019 (just as it was in Toronto). Louise Penny’s Kingdom of the Blind and Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give topped the adult fiction and young adult lists, respectively.

BEHIND THE CLAIM GAME. Darryl Leroux appeared on the Redeye podcast to discuss his new book, Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity. “My goal is to support Indigenous peoples,” he said. “The rise of white people claiming false identities… is a direct attack on Indigenous sovereignty.”

BROADENING SCOPE. Last month, Calgary’s Central Library opened its Indigenous Languages Resource Centre. At the same time, twelve children’s books, written by Treaty 7 residents in traditional languages, were added to the library’s permanent collection.

IN MEMORIAM. Bruce Smyth, co-founder of Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium, in Vancouver’s West End, has died at sixty-three. The LGBTQ bookstore gained notoriety in the 1980s, after the Canada Border Services Agency began seizing imported materials it deemed “obscene.”

 

Originally published on January 4, 2020, as part of LRC Weekend.