Remember how in the movie Ghostbusters 2 there was that vicious ooze that bubbled beneath the surface of New York City, roiling and bubbling and feeding off of the natural anger and frustration rampant above ground? And the angrier people became, the more powerful the ooze got, which in turn caused rage levels to grow even higher until finally people were basically just punching one another’s lights out over the slightest provocation? Remember that? I feel like we’re getting there.
In the last month, we’ve heard all kinds of stories of erratic, rage-induced behavior. There was the California woman who pepper sprayed a store full of people in order to get an X-Box, who claims she only did so because her teenage kids were getting the crap kicked out of them by other X-Box-hungry zombies. There was a woman in Southington, Connecticut who was arrested for assault after allegedly stabbing another woman with a Christmas ornament at a holiday crafts fair. You see, she’d only meant to shoplift the thing, but then some meddling lady attempted to prevent her from escaping, and she wasn’t about to go down without a fight. So she did what any reasonable, craft-obsessed, ornament hoarder would and used her purloined tree trimming as a deadly weapon.
This past weekend, my friends and I were gift-shopping at a Bloomingdale’s in the suburbs when we accidentally stumbled upon two employees engaged in some sort of loud and unselfconscious argument. From what we could gather, one of them was always getting yelled at. But he does his job and he does what he’s told to do, and still he gets yelled at. So stop yelling at him. The other guy just kept shrugging his shoulders while the guy who gets yelled at yelled at him. It was extraordinarily uncomfortable, so we made our purchases and got our frozen yogurt and we skedaddled.
The following day, I found myself in the Michael’s Crafts on the Upper West Side, clutching a bag filled with fake snow and wandering from aisle to aisle bumping into people in a shell-shocked state in a vain attempt to find fishing line (don’t ask—about any of it). The line snaked around half the store and moved at a glacial pace. Children ran in and out of the aisles, bored out of their minds. Line-dwellers looked haggard and deflated and a little greasy, miserably leaning on carts filled with giant glitter bows and stickers and fake poinsettias, inching forward, coming closer to a complete existential meltdown. “Why do I need this stuff?” they’re thinking. “Is it worth it, making this blown glass elf village? Or these bedazzled sugar cookies? Or making this garland out of hand-painted ornaments? Is any of this worth it? Why did I buy the tree? Why did I plan that party? Why do I celebrate a holiday at all? I don’t even like my family. Do I even like myself? What does any of this mean? Why am I even here, in this store, in this city, on this day, on this planet?”
So as you might imagine, tensions were running high. I’d been in the line for about 15 minutes when I heard a male voice rising above the dull hum of the store’s hustle and bustle. No, make that two male voices. What were they saying? Were they talking? Holding a lecture? Fighting? Suddenly, from the indistinct bleating came a sentence crystal clear:
“WHY DON’T YOU GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY?!”
Ah. Fighting. Perhaps crafters are a more hostile crowd than I’d originally imagined (all that focus and manual precision must come at a cost), but I really did not expect to hear words of that level of hostility in a store that has an entire display devoted to holiday scrapbooking and metallic pipe cleaners.
The ectoplasmic ooze is burbling and rising beneath our feet. Watch yourselves, people. Be careful out there.