Your Survival Guide to Last-Minute Shopping
Your mission objective: Assemble the present you (surprise!) need to buy for your sister's new boyfriend that you know nothing about.
Potential suppliers: your local Chinese food restaurant, one of 3 national chain gas stations, a potential movie theater open for family showings between presents and dinner, and -- early in the day -- a single grocery store.
Known enemies: constant calls from family members asking you to "just pick up one more impossible-to-find thing," that man with the hat spending 60 hours crossing the street every time you hit an intersection (possible clone?), and the impossible Xmas Santabot who will always think you're naughty and act excessively accordingly.
Step 1: Gather Information
Assemble a list of stores open on Christmas that could be relevant to your objective, whether for their return policy or because you have a vague knowledge about from hours of texts from your sister about the amazingness of their new partner and how much she can't wait for you two to meet.
Step 2: Plan Your Path
Plan an efficient route that allows for minimal store interactions, up to and including going the lazy way and printing out an Amazon/other store gift card/holiday card 2-in-1.
Step 3: Establish Parameters
If the gift card route seems too “I don't value you as a new member of this family” for you, decide on what your gift cost limit is, and what sort of generically “I value you as a fellow human being and am attempting to know you in some basic way” un-generic present you can/are willing to buy, and cross-compare with stores that you know are open (Wal-Mart, Target, etc, gas stations, even liquor stores if you know they drink, because a decent bottle of liquor of their preferred type doesn't just say “I know your stuff and I want you to have fun and relax,” it says “I pay attention to small details about you,” which is a very important part of inviting someone into your family.)
Step 4: Prepare Yourself
Once you've decided on what you're buying (and a back-up gift if your first choice is unattainable) you're ready to head out! Be prepared for the worst pile of mobs that you've seen in any video game, with all of the added frantic stress of playing with shouting 14 year olds. If you have a prescription for anti-anxiety medication, now is the time to take one, or, if you drink, plan on stopping after all is said and done and getting yourself a 6-pack of something you only buy on special occasions, because shopping on Christmas is a very special sort of occasion.
Step 5: Thunderdome
Step into hell, battle the beasts of “I forgot there was a holiday and must do all of my shopping now!” and acquire your desired items. Make sure to get yourself something, because the Season of Giving doesn't exclude self-care. Wage war until you are safe in your car, and then, if necessary, do it all over again at a gas station. The gas station will likely be the easiest part of your mission, so relax a little bit. Put on that Spotify station that hits all of the right spots in your brain.
Step 5: Fancy it Up
Attempt to wrap said present, but honestly, go with a gift bag and some tissue paper. There are hundreds of tutorials online to show you how to make it look fancy and like you paid for store wrapping, and nice wrapping can make a present seem much less spur of the moment and much more planned in advance by someone who knows exactly how your brain works.
Step 6: Pat Yourself on the Back
Relax. Your quest is done! You'll turn it in and get your reward soon, so why not sit back and congratulate yourself on a job well done? You did what most fear: You took down the beast of poorly planned shoppers and inconvenient store hours, and you did it all without losing your cool.
This mission wasn't easy. There were so many variables and unpredictables, as well as hazards everywhere you looked. And now, after so much time spent on something so small and worth the thought only because of the happiness it will bring others, you have to dig deep into your every wells, maybe take a stim-pak/nap-pak, and actually deliver the goods and complete the mission. But think of the looks on their faces when you walk in there with a real present, something kind and thoughtful, when everyone thought you'd go the easy way out: the bought-online-and-printed-at-home gift card instead of the carefully selected and hopefully appropriate gift. The truth of the matter is that shopping on Christmas Eve/Day leaves you feeling like you're a warrior who just survived a battle for your life and soul. And you, this Christmas, are the true warrior of the family.