It's that time of year when …

It’s that time of year when boilerplate journalists stare out the window, sigh heavily and begin writing stuff that begins with “It’s that time of year when ….”
Calling them journalists gives them more credit than they’re due, I suppose. They’re content producers. And it can’t even really be called writing. ‘It’s that time of year’ stories are almost always lists or advice. Quite often advice in the form of a list. Any idiot can draw one up. I am nothing if not an idiot, so here’s my contribution.
It’s that time of year when the ravening dogs of capitalism are out of the cages and straining at their leashes. Their eyes are red and wet and their foam-flecked jaws snap and slaver. Soon they will slip their choke chains and, howling and biting at our heels, they will herd us into the malls and shopping centres until panic drives us crazy and we plunge desperately into debt.
The objective of this appalling game of loans is to accumulate as much new stuff as you can while not losing any of the stuff you already have. Cars, handbags, cellphones and occasionally entire families are lost at this time of year.
One of the byproducts of poverty, unemployment, sloppy genes, faulty upbringing and bad drugs is that the closer we get to Jesus’s birthday, the more our personal belongings become irresistible to others.
For some the festivities have already begun. Last week a group of 20 armed shoppers visited a shopping centre in Limpopo, blew up a safe, shot a policeman and left with some cars that weren’t theirs. In some towns people gather around and cheer when the Christmas lights are turned on in the main street. The other day in Vereeniging, onlookers cheered when a Fidelity cash-in-transit van exploded during a heist. I’m not making this up.
Parking lots are filling up fast and you don’t want to find yourself having to park so far away that you need a GPS to find your way back to the mall. I was lucky enough to buy a second-hand car that already had a disabled sticker on the windscreen. I don’t really take advantage of it because shopping takes so much longer when you have to pretend to be crippled. You can’t just get out of your car and limp off, either. To properly pull it off you have to gimp it up spectacularly, which can be exhausting. Also, everyone around you then makes a very obvious point of not looking at you, which is a bit cruel if you enjoy being the centre of attention, as I do.
A lot of malls have parking bays right at the entrance that are reserved for women with babies or toddlers. I don’t know why toddlers. I’ve toddled around plenty of parking lots as an adult and if I can do it I don’t see why a two-year-old can’t. They don’t even drink beer.
As for babies, they’re either pushed in carts or carried in plastic bags. Any mother who can’t portage her own baby shouldn’t have one in the first place. And if she has more than one, she shouldn’t be allowed out in public. The parking is great, though. If you don’t have a baby, try to borrow one for the afternoon. A lot of mothers would be grateful for the break. I think R30 an hour would be a fair rate for a decent baby. If it has teething or colic issues, or is one of those babies that can move objects with its mind, insist on a discount.
I can’t remember if the sign actually says ‘Mothers With Babies’. That would be incredibly sexist if it did. If security says you can’t park there because you’re a man, tell him that you are in fact a woman and threaten to hit him with your borrowed baby. There’s a lot of sensitivity and confusion around gender at the moment. Exploit it.
Don’t think you’re safe once you are in the belly of the beast. Keep your guard up. Trust no-one, especially not members of your family. Children who could barely string a sentence together a week ago suddenly understand the psychology of guilt and coercion.
And remember that even though pickpocketing and purse-snatching is considered quaint and old school in this glamorous age of state capture, the pilferers and purloiners are still out there practising their ancient craft. Fleet of foot and nimble of finger, not for them the tedious complexities of tender rigging and money laundering. Handbags are their thing. This is why women should keep a small explosive device in their bag at all times. If the bag is stolen, they can detonate it with a remote control. This will not only teach the thief a valuable lesson but will also help thin out the crowds in the mall.
Apparently the big thing this year is not to go to the mall at all but instead to second-hand shops. Peter Forshaw, the chief financial officer of Cash Converters, said more people were starting to buy “pre-loved” gifts. This makes sense. There are a lot more pre-loved people out there than ever before.
The only thing I want for Christmas is for people to shut the fuck up about bitcoin. Stop telling me to get in now. Stop trying to explain the mining process. You got nine percent for maths and your mother was still helping you with your jersey at sixteen. Maybe that was me. The point is that you sell bathroom supplies, believe that women who have abortions are going to hell and that the earth is six thousand years old. When it comes to advice of any kind, I’d sooner trust a Nigerian prince.

Jingle Hells

School holidays should be abolished.
Our creaking infrastructure and shattered nerves can no longer withstand the blitzkrieg of semi-educated savages at the end of every year. There should be new rules starting from next year. Any pupil who scores an aggregate of, say, less than 90% in their final exams will be deployed to help the M23 rebels take the Congo. There is nothing wrong with children being soldiers. They are already halfway there, what with being accustomed to wearing uniforms and fighting among themselves. Then again, the rebels might not be able to put up with the constant cries of, “Are we there yet?” Never mind the convoys having to pull over every five minutes because someone needs to wee. It would take forever to reach Kinshasa.
But not everyone can afford to send their brat away to help topple a government. Here are some cheaper ways of keeping the ingrates entertained, while at the same time scoring a bit of payback for the twelve months of hell they have just put you through.
Shopping malls. Generally not a place for any sane, self-respecting adult, but exceptions can be made at this time of year. Decorations are up, tills are jingling and shops are getting more and more crowded. Consider, for a moment, that your child will probably only get a job if he is good with his hands. I wouldn’t normally suggest you encourage him to consider pickpocketing as a career choice, but with a pair of nimble fingers he could certainly help bring in some extra beer money.
Boys make the best pickpockets. If you have a girl, there’s no need to despair. Well, that’s not strictly true. If you have a daughter who is older than 13, you will know despair. In truckloads.
But if she  is very young – six or seven is good – take her to a mall that has a fat, white man wearing a red suit and fake beard sitting in a tawdry tableau fallaciously billed as Santa’s grotto. He will encourage your daughter to sit on his knee and tell him what she wants for Christmas. Before she does this, whisper that Santa will only bring her presents if she jumps off his lap and screams, “He touched me inappropriately!” Tell her those are the magic words that will make all her wishes come true. Santa settles out of court and you get a new car.
If there is something wrong with you and you don’t want to make money but still want a bit of a laugh, take the kids into a department store and remove a bunch of electronic tags from some of the clothing. Each person gets a tag and you all leave the shop at the same time. The alarm is the signal to start running. Security guards will chase you through the mall. The first person to the car wins. Even if you get caught, you can’t be prosecuted because you haven’t actually stolen anything. It’s good exercise and fun for the whole family.
Theme parks. In Cape Town, you have Ratanga Junction. Some of the rides, like the Cobra, get the adrenalin pumping. However, I have always found that at this time of year, the real thrill lies in gambling on whether you will make it to the front of the line before the seizures and hallucinations kick in. Heatstroke gives you all the symptoms of a heroin overdose and, best of all, it’s free.
Gold Reef City is Joburg’s idea of a theme park. I have never been there, but I imagine it’s full of undercover cops, coke dealers, human traffickers and obese families sucking on ice-creams and racially abusing the dude in charge of the Jozi Express. If you’re lucky, you might get to see a member of the tactical reaction unit shooting the Wimpy staff for getting his order wrong. For a bit of light relief, pop in to the Apartheid Museum.
Durban has uShaka Marine World where dolphins leap high into the air in the hope that their buddies in the ocean will see them and mount a rescue operation. There is also a paddling pool area where you can take your child to have its hearing impaired by hip-hop music. And, if you are white, you will feel right at home among all the other whiteys on uShaka beach. Too much of irony, my bru.
Children also like to be taken to casinos. They might say they don’t but they are lying through their filthy teeth. I have seen many happy little faces pressed up against the barrier as they watch their mommies and daddies getting drunk and gambling away the last of the food money.
Zoos are also popular among the kids. When my loinfruit was small I took him to a petting zoo which turned out to be a brothel. Still, he learnt a lot that day. And that’s what is important. It doesn’t matter whether it’s watching a chimpanzee playing on a tyre swing or daddy haggling with a black-hearted harridan whose name clearly isn’t Jasmine. It’s all educational.
Children also like to make things. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or complicated. Petrol bombs, for instance, can be made by kids who can’t even spell mathematics. And they don’t have to be used on Christmas Day, either. Keep them for a rainy day.
Of course, the best thing you could do these holidays is go to Thailand. Put the telly on, shout to the kids that you’re popping out to the shop and drive straight to the airport. When you get to Bangkok, call home and tell the family that they can do whatever the hell they like.
It will be the best Christmas ever.

Jingle Hells

Jesus!

The reason for the season. Happy birthday, dude. You’re looking pretty damn good for a 2000-year-old white hippy with a Mexican name. There aren’t too many kids born in a stable environment in that part of the world these days, let me tell you.

You are probably unaware of this, what with being on Sabbatical and all, but your name is taken in vain more at this time of year than at any other. The streets and shops are jammed with people muttering, “Jesus Christ!” beneath their breath. Some shout openly. Few, if any, show signs of being in a state of religious rapture at the time.

Now and then I am forced to deploy an Old Testament headlock and take one of the more strident blasphemers into a deserted shop, like CUM Books, and explain to him that at this time of year, nobody fucks with the Jesus.

Right. That’s enough about Jesus. This is my story. His story has been out for a while and still outsells my memoir by, like, three to one. I should have gone with his publisher.

A powerful combination of poor genes and even worse judgement saw me pass through the apocalyptic portals of one of Hell’s more commercial outlets this week. First, though, I had to progress from level one of Dante’s Christmas Inferno – the parking lot. Car guards are hopelessly under-equipped to deal with motorists in December. What they need is paramilitary training. They need pepper spray and cattle prods to keep people from leaping out of their cars and strangling one another. And that’s just the children.

This particular incubus-infested horror show had a hairdresser’s right at the entrance. The sight of women of every grimace and girth in various stages of lassitude and bedragglement hardly encourages one to move deeper into the belly of the beast.

Next to the hairdresser, possibly deliberately, was a shop called Outdoor and Velocity. It had an impressive range of paintball and pellet guns, including one shaped like an AK-47. The perfect gift for the man whose criminal record prevents him from owning a real gun. There was also a selection of knives that would’ve made the executioners of Islamic State envious.

Health shops were occupied only by their lentil-faced staff while bottle stores made the fall of Saigon seem calm and orderly.

Shopping malls are acoustically designed to enhance the high frequency sound produced by children hysterical on sugar and lies. It’s like psychological warfare; a way of rattling your synapses so you spend more money than you might otherwise have done.

I doubted I could single-handedly contend with this bloated river of humanity and its ungodly stink of anger and fear and money, so I ducked into a pet shop and asked for a medium-sized attack dog. They asked if I was blind. Absolutely, I said. Blind drunk. That’s a lot better than being barking mad, which they clearly were for charging R1 295 for a silly plastic ramp that allows one’s golden retriever to take a leisurely stroll from or into the back of one’s Range Rover.

“Protect the joints of the pet,” said the box. Nonsense. It’s our joints that need protecting from the ravening narcophobics in the police force. Point is, if you can’t lift your dog into your car then he’s either criminally big or you shouldn’t be driving.

I no longer even glance into the windows of jewellery shops because every time I have put a ring on someone’s finger it has ended in tears. “Here, darling, have this fabulously exorbitant bauble. It’s guaranteed to ruin your life or mine. Maybe both.”

Verimark’s Maxxus V-Trainer caught my eye. It’s a vibrating pad you stand on. “Get the body you have always wanted in just 10 minutes a day!” Watching a fat kid wobbling on the pad, I’d estimate it would take me 25 550 days to reach my ideal weight. And that’s only because I would have been dead for the final two years.

Buying gifts for people you loathe is never easy. What, for instance, do you get for the man who

has everything? Here’s an idea. You get him audited by the Revenue Service.

I heard the hideous sound of children screaming as if they were being murdered and rushed over to see if I could help but they were alive and, since I couldn’t kill them all on my own, I had a look around the toy department. The men who work in this section have nervous facial tics and their names are down for emergency vasectomies. The women don’t respond. To anything.

What is this fresh outbreak of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I thought they had been wiped out years ago. Shouldn’t they be called Middle-Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles by now?

I found a radio-controlled king cobra snake with glowing eyes and a flickering tongue and it seemed more like something Satan rather than Santa would drop down your chimney. It “looks so real that may scare your friends”. What’s more frightening is that there’s a word missing from that sentence. That’s the Chinese for you. Always looking to cut corners. Save a word here and there and soon enough there’s a secret stockpile of surplus words they can use to build an entirely new piece of junk around.

“Look, babe, here’s something that says ‘Big it that was new fish water real flash remote jump.’”

“What does it do?”

“No idea. I think it lights up.”

“Ooh, let’s get three.”

There are shelves of model cars for boys although they could just as easily be for girls because men rarely drive any more thanks to the heavily armed extremists found at roadblocks. Four beers and you risk spending the evening having your bottom interfered with by a fighting general in the 28s. Not worth it. Sell the car and buy beer. Lock yourself in your room.

There’s a kitchen set with a boy pretending to cook. He looks about 19. Then again, I’ve never been a very good judge of age. It’s astounding that I’m not in jail. “Let the children play happily and feel assured,” lisps the box. So you see, laddie, you can rest assured that it’s quite normal for you to be pottering about in a frilly apron packing the tiny dishwasher and making imaginary vol-au-vents in your tiny oven.

There are little plastic prams and pushchairs, all of which are being controlled by little plastic girls. This isn’t so much gender stereotyping as it is a reflection of reality. All the boys are clearly in court fighting for custody or getting nailed for child support.

“Anything is possible with Barbie” just doesn’t sound right. I’ve known girls who have embodied this ethos but, while initially fun to be with, stick around for too long and you’ll end up in a mental hospital.

With one exception, the doll section looks like a picnic organised by The Young Mothers of the Ku Klux Klan. Talking Tip has an anxious yet determined look on her swarthy synthetic face. Her box says, “Try me!” but there are no buttons to push. It’s probably a challenge. A warning. She probably says things like, “Don’t be tryin’ none of that white shit or I’ll bust yo cracker ass.” She comes with a spare outfit and removable shoes, which I imagine would be useful when she’s hiding out from her parole officer.

There are also boxes of twins, all of whom look like an experiment by Dr Josef Mengele gone horribly right.

Toy department staff aren’t trained to deal with hulking unshaven brutes clearly unsuited for fatherhood loitering around the dolls, and I could see them becoming visibly anxious. I stepped out into the fetid, roiling swamp of humankind and was almost immediately possessed by the festive spirit.

All I need now is an exorcist.

BenSanta-1