Sunday, December 27, 2009

27 DEC 09: Calm After the Storm

Around 5:45 Saturday evening, I saw my first line of shoppers. But strangely, it was NOT inside the Walgreens store. It was outside the store, at the Redbox movie rental machine. I'm not sure if this reflected people with new DVD players, or a stunning lack of good sports events on TV.

Because I keep a seventh-day Sabbath, I didn't go to any stores until sunset Saturday. That means I missed the 5:00 a.m. after-Christmas sale at one of the big department stores. At first I considered this absurd - but then I remembered how I woke up my parents at 5:15 a.m. on some Christmas mornings when I was a boy.

A few Columbus stores were open until 12:00 midnight Thursday. I don't remember stores doing that in recent years. Were they trying to help every last-minute shopper they could -- or trying to salvage a bottom line for the year?

For one store in downtown West Point, the "Christmas rush" was the end of the line. Hengstler's Jewelry Store closed after 95 years of business -- which should be a hint that salaries at the Kia plant aren't quite as large as we dreamed.

The midnight pinch on one end and the 5:00 a.m. reopening on the other end left Friday like an island. The only businesses which seemed to be open were convenience stores, 24-hour pharmacies and movie theaters. Speaking personally, eating buttered popcorn at the movies makes more sense than stringing it around a tree.

(I was reminded this year of a former co-worker who likes to say certain things are "slower than Christmas." When WTVM doesn't even have a 12:00 noon newscast, you know it's slow.)

But anyway: I went to Walgreens to follow my sweet custom -- taking advantage of half-priced chocolate. Yet when I walked inside, the place was practically empty. And even though other shoppers had a 13-hour head start, some half-priced bags of M&M's actually remained. Now this is a chocolate lover's version of a "Christmas miracle" - well, after the fact.

"It must be a lot calmer now than a few days ago," I said as I walked right up to the woman at the Walgreens cash register.

"Oh my g**h," the woman answered. For some people, the "peace on earth" part comes after the deadline.

There's another group of workers now relieved of annual year-end pressure - teachers, especially in elementary schools. One substitute teacher told me this weekend about some second-graders, who tried to get her to take a stand on Santa Claus. No, NOT whether he's a conservative Republican because he leaves gifts only for good girls and boys....

The woman told me she dodged the question. "I'm here to teach social studies. We're not going to get into that," she told the second-graders - knowing if she declared Santa Claus a myth, she'd get in trouble with school administrators. Who would have thought Santa and Darwin have something in common?

We probably won't know for a few days how the year-end shopping binges went in the Columbus area. One man reported online he couldn't find "Wii Rock Band" sets anywhere in town. So I assume he cried "Wii! Wii! Wii! Wii!" all the way home.

One Auburn business reported sales of college gear are better when the football team has a winning season. So let's see -- that means the Tigers are up. Crimson Tide items are way up. And based on the news of Saturday night, Gainesville, Florida is on the brink of a depression.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. People around the world visit "On the Flop!" <--

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus fireworks specialist Stephen King told me Saturday night he faces at least 15 days of hyper-baric treatment, starting Monday. He still could lose his feet, due to infection after an assault in Richland. I'd suggest police there go ahead and arrest a suspect - before a lawsuit makes them wish the entire city had tracked him down.

Now let's check other news items from the holiday weekend:

+ The Friday late-afternoon temperature on the Columbus Civic Center sign was 59 degrees F. -- which is strange, because the official temperature at the airport was 47. The sun wasn't shining on South Commons, so what could explain this? There weren't even that many skateboarders burning up the concrete.

+ Columbus Police reported someone was robbed at gunpoint at the front door of RoadAmerica on Victory Drive. Aw, c'mon - I don't think that office really looks like a strip mall.

+ The mayor of Union Springs was arrested on drunk driving and obstruction charges. If recent history repeats itself, John McGowan could be on the Hurtsboro City Council in a couple of years.

+ The mayor of Taylor, Alabama was arrested on public lewdness charges. Dothan police say Joel Napier was undressed and (ahem) making love with a younger woman in a car, in the parking lot of a Waffle House. So I guess she was smothered, but not covered....

+ Words of Wisdom Christian Center had its annual all-comers holiday giveaway. From what I saw on TV, several children were given toys - but I keep waiting for Bishop Barbara Shepherd to give away part of her collection of big hats.

+ The Atlanta Thrashers were topped by Tampa Bay 4-3. Atlanta made a late rally, but Columbus radio listeners missed it because WEAM-AM/WIOL switched to the Emerald Bowl at 10:00 p.m. ET. Did that many people want to hear Jarvis Jones's name called, making tackles for Southern California?

(Davis Broadcasting apparently set a computer to switch games, based on when the staff guessed the hockey game would end. WSTH-FM "Rooster 106" seemed to do the same thing with a NASCAR race in August. And then we wonder why Columbus rates so low in national rankings of "top sports towns.")

+ Instant Message to Lisa Rowe of Uptown Columbus: Did I hear you right on WLTZ - all downtown businesses are locally owned and operated? If you think the Ledger-Enquirer is locally owned, you should talk to the employees who went through furloughs in recent weeks.

2009 IN REVIEW CON'D: June was a big month for the Columbus economy, as NCR announced a move from Ohio and plans for a new plant. The City Manager wanted federal stimulus money to cover the move - but instead we're stuck with a bike path which isn't even being moved to go by the front door.

But not all the local economic news in June was positive. This blog broke the news that Victory Pawn and "Indian Joe" were about to disappear, and that the Rod Hood Football Camp quietly was canceled. Things were so bad that a newly-crowned Miss Georgia couldn't hold the job more than 24 hours.

Another big event in June was the formal grand opening of the National Infantry Museum. The entrance has a giant statue of a soldier, who seems to be waving at you. The best the Port Columbus museum can do is pretend to have friendly ghosts in the hallways.

June was a month of changes as well. The commanding general of Fort Benning was transferred. State Representative Vance Smith was named Georgia Transportation Commissioner. And several Columbus television stations switched to digital signals - but this did NOT explain why some employees were pointed toward the door to pick up final paychecks.

The Georgia Supreme Court had Columbus on its mind in June. It ruled in favor of the Education Park Coalition and "greenspace," but against Expedia in a fight over hotel-motel taxes. Columbus Council voted in June to increase those taxes - which should prove which ruling was more important, because nothing's happened regarding the other case.

The Columbus Police Department faced another embarrassment in June, as two officers were fired in a scheme involving stolen motorcycles. But things could have been much worse - those officers could have fixed the outcome of Saturday poker runs.

June was the month when state experts officially declared the drought in Columbus over. We still have alternate-day watering rules - but after all the rain we've had in December, is anyone still bothering to water their lawns at all?

But all the rain through a leaking roof forced the closing of the Chattahoochee Valley Community College library in June. As far as I know, Owen Hall remains closed - and students probably wish country singer Jake Owen had raised some money for repairs, while he was in Phenix City for a concert.

Perhaps the most stunning sight in June occurred on WLTZ, when news anchor John Beard suddenly appeared without any hair. His medical treatment apparently is going well, because the hair is now back. And I'm thankful Stefanie Tiso and Maria Jones didn't shave their hands in a show of support.

Columbus's version of a "big June wedding" occurred at the Botanical Gardens, when 20 Third Brigade couples either were married or reaffirmed vows in one ceremony. Hmmmm - were those couples in favor of that short-lived "no pregnancy" rule in Iraq or not?

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