There’s an excellent Czech phrase that sums up my Christmas shopping: “Co nenÃ v hlavÄ›, je v nohou.” (If it’s not in your head, it’s in your feet.) That phrase will come in handy the next time you realize you don’t have enough mineral water or booze or butter – or Christmas lights, as was my case.
I spent some quality time in line at the local hypermarket last night remembering that phrase as I waited half an hour in a checkout line that snaked through the aisles, looking around at all the people doing last-minute shopping. Slavs celebrating the birth of a Jewish king by buying goods made in China.
Who are these people? What do they want? I asked myself.
Yeah, but who are you, and what do you want? , the little voice in my head asked me. What does any of us want, after all? The man in front of me in line had a cart full of hockey sticks and booze. The woman behind me – poor soul – had a loaf of bread and some milk.
At one point a particularly brazen teenager came up to me as I was next to the cash register, asking if she could cut in. I tried to summon up my best RuPaul impression and tell her “nu-uh, sister! You’re going to the back of the line!” But all I could muster was a Charlie Brown-ish “uh, I’ve been waiting here a long time.” The girl, whose head must have been 2/3 nose, tried another line.
If you have to wait in an interminable line in a Czech hypermarket at 10 o’clock at night on the night before Christmas, I suppose there are worse places than the CD and DVD section. So I was lucky to be able to browse while shuffling along. As I waited in the line, I tried to put together two lists of Essential Christmas Media, Czech and English.
Essential Czech Christmas media:
Essential English-language essential Christmas media:
Finally, it was my turn to pay, and I was greeted by a checkout clerk who looked like she’d been around the block and then had been around the block on her head. But she was the cheeriest, happiest soul, which was a truly pleasant surprise.
As I fumbled with everything, as is my usual habit at the checkout, she looked me in the eye and said, “you have a the happiest of Christmases.” To which I said, “And you too.”
“Oh, I already am!” she said, without any irony whatsoever.