A Christmas story: Mr. Scrooge goes shopping on Beacon Street

Had Kate and Marton not rented their apartment across the hall, I doubt that Carol and I would ever have fully appreciated the neighborhood of Coolidge Corner. Let alone live here.

But discover this place they did, and we count ourselves as the beneficiaries of a carless life within walking distance of most of what we need.

Including Christmas presents.

Which brings me to this confessional of bargain hunting gone bad, a Christmas Eve tale that’s painful to tell but that, thanks to the spirit of the season, ended better than it began.

I’m pretty sure the last time I’d shopped at Wild Goose Chase was December 2016, when I bought Carol some funny socks for her birthday and a colorful knitted hat for Christmas. The enterprising clerk invited me to join the store’s mailing list, which I reluctantly agreed to do.

The store, a go-to spot for interesting, high quality gifts, was restrained in its email marketing. I was glad to get a $10-off coupon at Thanksgiving this year that I stashed away in expectation of a return visit in December. I showed up a week ago Saturday, this time picking out another cool Wild Goose Chase hat for Carol’s birthday and another gift for her stocking that cannot yet be revealed.

I knew my coupon had expired the day before, but I walked into the place figuring the store would be glad for the foot traffic and happy to grant me a day’s grace on my coupon.

Sorry, said the friendly woman who waited on me, but this coupon expired yesterday. There then ensued an exchange that was, on her part, unyielding but conciliatory and, on mine, full-on Scrooge.

After I asked her to remove me from their mailing list, she asked if I’d still like to go ahead with my purchases. Reluctantly yes, I grumped.

Undeterred by my attitude, the store staff proceeded as if they were dealing with a normal human being and offered gift boxes I was glad to get.

Trudging home on a chilly walk down Beacon and Harvard Streets, I passed by several vacant shops apparently driven out of business by the neighborhood’s soaring rents. It occurred to me that grumbling about ten bucks with a locally-owned store trying to stay in business had not been my finest hour.

In retrospect, Dickens’ sketch of old Ebeneezer was beginning to hit way too close to home:

The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.

It got worse. By the time I got home, it hit me: My first stop on this outing was the post office, where I dropped off several dozen Christmas cards espousing a message that I’d just completely trashed. I didn’t sleep well that night.

The next day, I addressed one of those cards to the folks at Wild Goose Chase along with the following note:

Good morning, Wild Goose Chase.

I’m the guy with the white beard in the red jacket who was so grumpy Saturday about missing the holiday shopping discount by a day. I stopped by right after dropping off a batch of holiday cards at the post office. The card, as you can see, encourages people to do their best to see things from perspectives other than their own. It wasn’t until I got home that it occurred to me to follow my own advice. 

So sorry for showing up as Mr. Crabby Pants in your shop. Here’s hoping all your other holiday shoppers behave better than I did.

And thanks for hanging in there as so many Coolidge Corner shops appear unable to survive what looks like big and widespread increases in rent.

It’s nice to have you in the neighborhood.

A couple of days ago, Kate was out Christmas shopping and, you guessed it, made some purchases at the Goose.

A braver (and certainly more cordial) person than her old man, Kate confessed her relationship to the bad actor from the week before.

It turns out that the woman who dealt with me is the co-owner of the store. She told Kate the encounter had stayed with her throughout the day, I’m guessing not in a good way.

I have some ideas about how I’ve become such an entitled consumer, but that’s the subject of another post. For now, I come away from my Wild Goose Chase experience with a renewed interest in trying to set things right when they go off the rails.

Kate reports that the owner had placed my note and card in a binder so store staff could read to the end of this story.

Before heading home, she texted me a photo of the owner with a colleague and my card.

I messaged back: Please pass along holiday greetings from the former Mr. Crabby Pants.

Weclome your comments about your own Mr. Crabby Pants moments (or anything else) either below or attached to the related post on Facebook.

6 thoughts on “A Christmas story: Mr. Scrooge goes shopping on Beacon Street

  1. Excellent work, Mitch (as usual!). Reminds me to temper my own similar impulses that seem occasionally to use seven decades of what one might charitably call “perspective” as justification for channeling my inner “Mr Crabby Pants.” Today’s post ATH-reading realization: it is just as valid to use that justification to find and cite the Good, and ten times healthier for me and the worlds I live in.
    So thanks for a pretty good homily. Not bad for an Edmundite dropout!

    • Well said, Jimmy. I’d not thought of it that way, but you’re right. I guess we really do have a choice how to channel all these decades we’ve racked up.

  2. Wonderful of you to share this, Bill. We have all been guilty at times of being a Mr/Mrs/Ms Crabby Pants — and the holiday rush in particular can create an environment where our most selfish/ least caring & understanding selves appear without warning. Your story makes an important point for us all, and encourages me to try harder. Merry Christmas to you and all from me and Roy.

    • Thanks so much for chiming in, Eileen. It is a little jolting when those selves of ours show up. Hope Carol & I can connect with you and Roy in the year ahead.

  3. Your point, I believe, was to apologize when you’re wrong or rude or stupid. Not to just fret, but to say something. Bravo! Bravo! I love this story and will share it widely. I’m proud to call you my friend.

    • Thanks, Susan. It turns out that fretting makes it very difficult to get a decent night’s sleep. So, yes, in a wrinkle on See Something, Say Something, I’m hoping to follow a Be Rude, Be Stupid, Say Something philosophy of life.

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