The smell of desperation
I think there are three times in life when you can smell desperation.
- At the Hickory Farms mall kiosk (or really any mall kiosk) at about 5:30 pm on Christmas Eve.
- At a Walt Disney World Gift Store at 10:30 pm on the last day of vacation.
- On the candy aisle at a grocery store at 7:30 on Halloween.
At all three places it’s not just the sunken eyes and shallow breathing of a desperate man; rather there is a palpable stench of desperation, the rank odor of a man about to let a key moment in life pass him by, and he does not know what to do.
I know, because I have been there.
I have been that stinky, smelly, desperate man. I have sweated the sweat of Christmas without a good gift, vacation without a souvenir, and been through Halloween without candy.
And having lived through all of them, I can say, without a doubt that Halloween without candy is the slinkiest of all.
With Christmas, you can always re-gift something from the closet. With Disney, you can always grab something at the airport, but if you find yourself at Halloween without candy, well then you my friend, are a man without hope.
Early on in our marriage, at our first little house, perhaps on our first Halloween in the neighborhood, we (or more likely I) underestimated the amount of trick-or-treaters we would have at our house. It became apparent in the first 30 minutes, when the doorbell sounded like a machine gun, that we were in big, big trouble.
First we burned through the couple of bags of mini-Snicker. Then we moved on to the “safety” bag of root beer barrels (“Uh…this is it, thanks, I guess…” was the typical response.)
Bags and bags of candy, and yet the bell kept ringing and ringing. Every chime was an indictment on my lack of preparedness.
When we were down to grabbing old Sonic peppermints out of the floorboard of the car I decided that I needed to man up, admit my failure, and make a run to the store. So I wished The Beautiful Bride good luck as I handed her a box of cereal and said “make this last as long as you can” and I headed for the store.
The grocery was a wasteland.
One quick stop and I would be in Boo-la Land.
I headed straight for the candy aisle. It was empty.
Except for halfway down on the left was…no way…it was a bag of Snickers. The holy grail of Halloween. Was it real or was it just the stench of desperation overpowering my ability to think.
I took a step forward. I was moments away from saving Halloween. Moving us from being “the new people who handed out pennies on Halloween” to “the new people who gave out 2 Snickers bars on Halloween.” I was just 20 feet away from victory.
Wait…what is that smell? It seems slightly familiar.
(And now everything went all Matrix-y slow motion like.)
“Ohhhhh nooo….that smell is the smell of desperation. And it is rounding the corner at the other end of the aisle and it is headed straight for the last bag of Snickers….Ohhhh nooo….”
Before I could move from my spot in the aisle, the other smelly candy desperado had grabbed the last bag and headed to the check-out.
I was alone.
Smelly. Desperate. Hungry. And alone.
I knew that I was defeated. That even if I did get into the car and drove 15 minutes o the Wal Mart and even if they did have some candy, it would be another 20 minutes before I got home, and by that point The Beautiful Bride would be giving away paper plates with pictures of candy glued on them as Halloween IOU’s.
It was not “too little, too late.”
It was just “too late.”
So I headed home.
Nearly straight home.
Except that I made a quick detour to the brand new Hickory Farms seasonal kiosk at the mall, to make sure I got a couple dozen Summer Sausage and Smoked Cheese gift sets, to make sure this did not happen again at Christmas.