Maybe it's from the radio, maybe there's an ad on television or in the newspaper. Doesn't matter. Somewhere in the collective semiconsciousness that is the media at large are the portentous words: "shopping days until."
"Nooooo!" I shout, trying to bury my head under the enormous stack of glossy mail-order catalogs that have all arrived in the past week. "I'm not ready yet! Not the holidays, please!"
The Lizard of Fun barely looks up from the list it's making. "Color GameBoy, Pokémon boxer shorts, Lear jet, red yo-yo (not yellow), Uma Thurman, SuperSoaker ... OK, there are my stocking stuffers. Wanna hear my big presents wish list?"
I groan. "I told you back in July when you were begging for an ice rink as an early present: I'm not going to go overboard this year. You want anything extravagant for presents this holiday season, you can just go buy it for yourself."
The Lizard grabs my credit card, grinning with that shopping-my-butt-off look it occasionally gets. Not exactly what I'd intended.
"Watch it," I say. "That thing's loaded. It could blow at any minute."
"Awwwww," says the Lizard. "You know I love the awkward but smug look on store clerks' faces when they have to tell you your card's maxed out. It's especially good when you're only using said card to buy a coffee. Can't we just go get an eggnog latte somewhere?"
"You know you're in tough financial shape when you're putting a latte on your credit card," I say. "Even worse when that's what blows your limit."
"Well," says the Lizard, contemplatively, "some of those lattes can get pretty pricey. Add in extra shots of espresso, a dash of flavored syrup or two, a squoodge of whipped cream, and "
"Stop it. You're getting excessive again."
The Lizard shrugs. "It's what I do best."
"Well, this year, I'm going to celebrate the spirit of Buy Nothing Day," I declare. "In the name of cutting down on insane and unnecessary spending, I'm going to boycott the whole consumerist holiday."
The Lizard looks at me, dumbfounded. "You been smoking those catalogs, Freak Girl? What, in the name of all that's good, expensive and custom-made, are you babbling about? You're scaring me."
I explain that Buy Nothing Day is an annual international event, during which people concerned about overconsumption, the environment and global sustainability don't shop for 24 hours.
"Not shop for 24 hours?" the Lizard repeats, aghast. "Like, why not just not breathe, not eat and not check for e-mail for that long, too? Aw, jeez, I'm getting all quivery. Do they survive?"
"Definitely," I say, tossing the mail-order catalogs into the recycling bin. "I don't think it's even been proven to cause lasting damage."
"So, what's the deal?" asks the Lizard. "Can you still shop online? Or buy now, pay later? Does it count if you put something on a credit card and don't pay for it until after Buy Nothing Day?"
"It's 24 hours. No big deal, you just don't shop. It's meant to be a statement about how people in the United States and Canada, as well as other developed countries, totally overconsume."
"We shop too much?" The Lizard can't quite believe what it hears. "But that's the American identity! We're a nation of consumers. I read that somewhere."
"Maybe in Adbusters?" I suggest. According to the magazine, 80 percent of the earth's natural resources are gobbled up by only 20 percent of the world's people. Buy Nothing Day was created as a protest against that overconsumption, and to encourage people to think twice before they go out and shop till they drop on the day after Thanksgiving, which is, in the United States at least, the busiest shopping day of the year.
"So, you mean, Buy Nothing Day was last week? We missed it?" The Lizard looks visibly relieved.
I nod. "But that doesn't mean we can't still celebrate it. The Adbusters Web site has a cool 'gift exemption' certificate you can download. It says that whoever you give it to doesn't have to exchange gifts with you this year."
"Does it come with a lump of coal, too?" asks the Lizard.
"Come on," I say. "It's like having a day without art it makes you think about and value what you have."
"If you think you're gonna get out of buying me stuff with one of those certificates, you can just forget it," says the Lizard. "Being broke is no excuse. Check this out. I'm gonna make enough to pay off all your debt at once."
"Oh yeah?" I say, eyebrows raised skeptically. "Is that possible? Is that legal?"
"Yeah, whatever, whatever. While you were busy ranting, I made these T-shirts to sell at the mall."
The Lizard holds up a bright orange shirt with pink writing. "See? It says, 'I didn't go shopping on Buy Nothing Day and all I got was this ...' Oh, never mind."