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Camille Granito Mancuso: Chatterbox

Chatterbox: Making some good of it


So, we have all survived another holiday season … gift wrap stains on our rugs, long-distance family back home, inevitably having forgotten something we have to now ship, broken china, and at least one nice ornament gone the way of the Dodo. It happens.
But we’ve got wonderful memories too, and time with loved ones worth is worth any price. Plus, we iterate and reiterate, it’s imperative to remember, every day, come what may, that we are the lucky ones. The holiday seasons of 2020 and 2021 especially, have been exceptionally difficult and many of us exercised great discipline to make them healthy in every way possible. We’ve beat many odds for another year. Even though we must remain thankful that we avoided the new plague, we are aware that the old plagues are still around including drunk drivers, the dreaded “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” and, of course, natural causes. So, here we are, blessed, and we go forward.
Accompanied by a wonderful new year, many of us take stock: what we’ve accomplished; what we’ve completely missed; and what we’ve missed but can still accomplish anyway. We make promises too, most are to ourselves, and that’s a good thing regardless of whether we can or can’t keep them, don’t keep them or don’t even plan to keep them. Promises are dreams and hopes we hold dear, so they’re always allowed, whether they’re reality based, actively pursued, or feathers on a breeze. Who cares? We all deserve to be wistful. It truly is the magic in each of us that makes life tolerable and keeps us hopeful.
Sometimes, when a new year arrives and we feel what we left behind isn’t what we planned, we abandon the optimism required to renew those unfulfilled pursuits. Sometimes, we just can’t get past the residual disappointment, but the new calendar offers both new and continued opportunity. No time is a good time to cave in, and wishful optimism is better than living without dreams.
Today, feeling flustered, I decided to try to invigorate my belief in my new year by tackling a tough task: the dreaded Holiday Returns. Returns have a short shelf life so, under that time-pressure, nothing will make us feel more powerful than successfully running that gauntlet.
If we had a long list or if we do multiple small gifts there are, inevitably, returns. Even when working from detailed wish lists and in cooperation with other involved Santas, even the most careful shoppers among us get stuck sending things back. It’s that January thing; a fait accompli.

Though the return process lacks the fun of shopping and isn’t something we seek, it sure is amazing to watch. The malls are busier after Christmas than before, but the pressure is off and shopping can be done in the open.
Being at a buzzing mall when time is no longer of the essence, maybe catching lunch too, is far more fun than returns online and, though slow moving lines can be frustrating, some online returns aren’t quick and easy either. Today, for example, I invested over five hours in returning a mere five items purchased online; that didn’t include dropping off the packages either. That would be a tough day even at the mall but, when online shopping is so fast and easy, we expect returns to be easy too.
It involves websites, keeping all the purchases and shopping sites straight, and keeping track of, and printing up, those little square thingies. I call them “corn mazes,” but they’re technically referred to as QR – or Quick Return – Codes (not quick enough when technology is left in my hands). It’s a process involving time frames, too. For some returns the corn maze expires faster than the return is due, so we may find ourselves redoing it. Really?
Still, the buzz can only last so long and it’s all good. The holiday gift giving is worth all the craziness of shopping and, kept in perspective and the right light, it’s all wonderful. The gifts we didn’t have to return are wonderfully in use by our loved ones, and the challenge presented by the ones we had to return can renew our positive outlook for the new year.
We can find ourselves invigorated, even proud, when it’s all over, and moving forward with delight instead of dread. It can be fulfilling when it works well. If not, we’d better keep that holiday music pumping; it may help dull the pain.