IT’S Cyber Monday as I write and the adrenalin is flowing. Not for me, though. I don’t do Cyber Monday, partly because I’m technologically challenged, but mostly because I’m financially disorientated.
I don’t know where I stand, ever, and if I started shopping online at this stage of my life, I wouldn’t know where to stop. I’m not even sure if the laptop could handle it, not to talk of the accountant.
Anyway, I’d be mortified if truckloads of goods started arriving in the driveway in front of the neighbours, and himself, in the run up to the holiday. To be honest, I wouldn’t know where to look to avoid the stares or even to find the meaning of Christmas. It’s hard enough to find it normally.
Nevertheless, the whole thing is making me feel like an alien. Everyone else is doing it and, by all accounts, getting great discounts as well. This glorious Cyber Monday, according to economists is expected to generate €53 million for Irish retailers. And God knows it’s welcome, because shops had been reporting a slow-down in pre-Christmas trading up to Black Friday. But they can’t have it every way. They can’t expect queues at the tills while they’re up to their ears in online orders. They can’t expect the splurge to begin until the command is given.
But, as I said, this is all about me and my distrust of all things virtual. At the same time I don’t like being on the outside, completely unmoved by the thrills of Cyber Monday, and I hate being left behind. I’d like to be part of this new phenomenon, if only for the companionship. Because, whatever they may say about the loneliness and disengagement of the long distance shopper, it must be great to feel that you’re part of a growing band of brothers and sisters, your head ever tilted downwards looking at you smartphone. Or am I talking through my hat again – the hat that I bought in a reality shop? When someone admired it recently and asked me where I got it, I was tempted to say ‘online’, just to be with it.
My biggest fear, however, is that shopping as we know it will grind to a halt and every trading transaction will eventually be done online, creating a dystopian disaster for our neon lit cityscapes. I fear that High Street stores will be transformed inevitably into grey soulless warehouses, constantly re-stocked to cater for a spate of frenzied online orders. Not even a footfall will be heard anywhere. I don’t know how we’re going to re-design our downtown architecture to cope with the new reality, but it’s going to be a total disaster for me, because technology is the least of my challenges when it comes to shopping. Usually I have to fit on at least ten dresses before I can find one that even fits me. Could Cyber Monday even cope with me?
Then there’s the fear factor and the anxiety that constantly plagues me, even when I know it’s irrational - especially if everyone else is doing it. I’m telling you, if ever I’m forced to shop online, I’ll be awake all night wondering if Russian hackers could possibly have secured access to my disorientated bank account or to other sensitive information, like how I really feel about Donald Trump.
All that, however, is not to say that I don’t indulge in the commercial Christmas, although sometimes I do wish that I had the courage of my inner Grinch and could head off to the sun for the holiday. I even enjoy the hustle and bustle of the shops, something that online shoppers now regard with disdain. Because of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the festive season started earlier than ever this year and caught me unawares. Everyone I know has her Christmas shopping under control and ready to go at the click of a mouse or a button. I’m in a frightful panic because, being a strict Sabbatarian as well as an anti-cyber shopper, I now have only 20 shopping days left. And what with Paddy Power slashing the odds on a white Christmas, I mightn’t even have that much time. I could be snowbound for a week, with nothing at all in the house. Who knows, I might yet get a chance to find the true meaning of Christmas, like being saved from starvation by neighbours who were savvy enough to do the shopping on-line.
Meanwhile, I fear for the spirit of Christmas – not the spirit of the Christmas that I knew as a child growing up in rural Ireland – but the spirit of the commercialised Christmas that I was always too quick to condemn in later life. I never thought I’d be saying this, but I think it’s time to mount a rescue bid to save that spirit from becoming dull and robotic. We could start right here in Limerick and revive the traditional Christmas shopping day – the eight of December – the former splurge day, sanctified by being the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
It was the day when the country people invaded the city streets for the Christmas shopping – after first attending Mass, of course.
There were no discounts as far as I can remember, but it was the day when the city and country met in one big spending spree, putting a smile on the faces of the shop-keepers, café owners and publicans. The true meaning of Christmas might not have been apparent, but there was a connectedness that Cyber Monday couldn’t compete with.
So how about it then! Bring back the eighth of December - with massive discounts and free parking of course – and the city centre could experience a revival the likes of which had never been envisaged. Meanwhile, those of us who are too old for the giddy delights and lonely deals of Cyber Monday would be much obliged.