Nothing cattle prods the luster out of Christmas shopping like the forty minute prelude jockeying for a parking spot. It has become the Canadian Gladiator extreme elimination challenge and a sport more suited to type ‘A’ gamers than the average Joe or Josephine.

This was brought riotously home to my wife and me when we ventured over to a local big mall to ‘snap’ up a prize or two to add to the holiday offerings. Obligation is the word of the day when buying gifts these days, even if it’s for a person who potentially, just might, maybe get you something and you don’t want to be embarrassed. I call it the tyranny of gifts. Every Christmas afterwards you have to mount the awful bit of business they thrust upon you on the mantle or forever live under the shadow of fear they’ll ask about it.

Guys honestly could care less. It’s not that we’re cheap (we are) or that we’re thoughtless; we’re thoughtful, we just think about buying someone something before we don’t. We’re kind that way. We certainly do not see the necessity for the ritualistic pre-Christmas parking lot scramble. It’s why we love gift cards. Nothing proclaims Merry Christmas like a nice piece of colorful plastic that says, “Here buy your-self something nice, as long as it’s under $50.00.”

The lurching about in parking lots certainly primes us for the season. It’s the outright tossing out the window of politesse that irks me to no end. Then you have to adopt the very tactics you despise in the competition.

With all spots taken you resort to spotting the returning shoppers with bags, anyone fishing for keys or scanning the lot wistfully trying to remember where they parked. You cruise close behind them like a hunter with a foliage hat. You second guess where they may be going – this row or that. Should you jump a row or wait? Will they duck between cars to get to …? In desperation they lift their keys upward in a tired salute. You strain to hear the beep-beep of their car lock, the squeak of a trunk popping opening. Heads rotate and eyes narrow to peer into the maze of roofs. There – you see the car lights flash and the shopper moves to it, taking their sweet time. Don’t they know you’re in a hurry? Then you see it – they’re only dropping off packages; your shoulders slump.

So off you go hunting for another prospect. It’s then you notice a palpable heave of disappointment around you and realize three other cars are following every move as well. Off they scatter like roaches to follow another lead, your lead, your spot.

It’s a game of chance. When you finally snag a prime spot a mile from the mall doors it’s usually because a car has just popped out right in front of you previously unseen and unexpected and you are poised at just the right angle to cut off the other three cars who couldn’t reverse backwards fast enough. You can’t help but do a victory dance in that moment, something your spouse always finds distasteful.

When my wife and I finally found a spot, the parking ordeal was quickly forgotten and we plunged into the chaos inside the mall, shopped, did our obligatory duty and exited relatively intact. There is no greater joy for a man than when he leaves a mall.

As we walked towards the car we were acutely aware that there were eager eyes upon us and the air held hopeful anticipation. As we vacated the coveted parking spot I don’t believe the air even had time to suck back into empty space before it was quickly and victoriously filled.

Stephen Ilott is a Professional Home Organizer/Declutterer lurching about parking lots in Oakville Ontario. His company is and can be found and hired via 416-460-8098 or Web site