Among my friends with various learning differences we joke about being easily distracted by….squirrels and SHINY THINGS. There is no more distracting time in our world than the holiday season. Driving around downtown there are lights twinkling in every open space. In the stores there are wrapped boxes, baubles on trees, tinsel draped everywhere, and bells ringing.
It’s a miracle when I can drive through downtown Portland, Maine without being honked at by another driver or yelled at by a pedestrian because I have slowed to a near stop or nearly run someone over while looking at all the shiny things. In the stores I cannot settle my attention on one thing before being distracted by something just a bit more interesting. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked out of stores with merchandise because I saw something else just outside the door that I had to inspect. I hate those security monitors- because when they go off EVERYONE is paying attention to you!
When I go holiday shopping I have learned that I have to carry a list of what I am supposed to be purchasing. I also make a plan of how to find these items as quickly as possible so I can get out with my wallet and sanity intact. I hold the list in my hand and frequently refer to it. With the list in one hand I have one less appendage for touching things that look soft and cuddly. I also give myself a limited amount of time and wear a watch. So – monitoring my watch and my list I make my way along my pre-planned route to pick out the pajamas my younger son wants, the video games that were just released, the toys for the dogs— and that shiny thing over there—-.
The truth is that advertisers are smart. They know how to package items to appeal to us. The stores know how to display items in a way to capture our attention. Sales people have a way of describing items and convincing you that you NEED something you didn’t even know existed until now. Even with my lists, a floor plan and a time limit sometimes I just can’t help myself. But, when I look at this shopping adventure as a game to outwit and overcome the lure of the pretty packages, witty sales banter, and shiny things I can focus on having fun without breaking the bank. When Joe Sales Boy tries to tell me how much I would love to have the latest and greatest new gadget I agree and tell him I probably need two of them, but that if I get two then my sister will want three just to outdo me, and if that happens the rest of my family will likely do the same and no one else in the area will be able to buy any. If that happens it would be terrible for my friend Sarah, who I know would love one….. The bigger the story the better. It’s my little gift to them- because I am NOT going to buy the latest greatest gadget. At least not until it goes on sale after the holidays. But then the shiny stuff will be gone and I can focus on evaluating whether it is really what I want as opposed to just being caught up in the shiny moment.