Christmas Tradition

It is finally here, The last week before Christmas, I’m doing my yearly Christmas tradition. I’m at the mall. You would think shopping, but that is just a part of this tradition. I typically come to the mall one week before Christmas, to watch people. I have done this for years, I enjoy watching people at any time but the holiday provides for some interesting observation. Maybe that is why I studied psychology in college, I’m not sure, but human behavior is interesting.

I grab a coffee, and I watch people. Sometimes I notice patterns that lead me to think of the confusion somebody has. I suppose this is typical at this time. I notice the same people walk past me several times, and I sit in the middle of the mall. Maybe they can’t find a store, or maybe they are comparing the price between two items, that I’m not sure, but the back and forth is a bit odd, and they look distressed at times. I don’t shop, I don’t walk around, I buy. I know what I want, and I buy it.

What is most interesting is the interactions of people. People get so frustrated when they are walking behind slower people, and they can’t get by due to the crowd. Some get real close, almost like tailgating in a car. Some try and pass quickly on either side. There is a car theme here, no directional, passing on either side and into oncoming walkers. Very rarely do I see or hear, “excuse me” It is kind of disappointing, human behavior.

At the moment I’m watching a man argue with the Starbucks barista, I hate the term barista, you pour coffee for a living, why the fancy title? The argument is over his bagel and coffee. His complaint, he has been waiting too long. I’m sure the other 10 people waiting with you, have the same issue, but they are not assholes. If his goal was to stand out, then he has won.

I moved over a bit, I’m sitting with a couple of older guys. They have it correct. They just have their coffee. Two guys are talking impeachment, a couple talking sports, the F-bombs are flying but all of them interacting calmly, and it does not look like they know each other. Maybe I should blurt out my colonoscopy experience from a week ago. I bet we all have that in common.

The holiday makes for a strange dichotomy, it should be an enjoyable time, but I see stress levels increasing. People frantically look everywhere for that special gift. Some spend money they don’t have, which leads to more stress. We are less patient, which is very apparent. Everybody seems to be on a quest, forgetting what the season is about.

It feels like everybody is trying to complete a task, with some endpoint, or a sense of accomplishment. We have so over-commercialized the season, we have forgotten about the actual holiday. In the past, people seemed to be more patient, enjoyed the shopping experience, and the people around them.

Maybe we just start the madness to early now. I think we are overstimulated. Maybe Skinner was correct, Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an individual makes an association between a particular behavior and a consequence (Skinner, 1938). Maybe we are being conditioned to rush, buy, and shop as a task, like a quest. Our behavior is changing and the consequences become the new norm.

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