Go to the mall, squint your eyes, and look at all the pretty colors. The glaring store signs, the sparkling decorations. Breathe in the cloying scent of vanilla candles and fruity soaps. Am I in holiday heaven? Or am I just having an acid flashback?
Air. I need air.
OK, so I don't like to shop at the mall. But that doesn't make me any less of an American, does it? Actually, it might. Post-Thanksgiving news stories featured crowded malls and superstores, giddily equating overspending with confidence in the economy, confidence in the future, confidence in this great land of ours.
Personally, I think it more accurately reflects confidence in credit cards. But don't mind me. I'm feeling a little strapped.
There are a lot of reasons not to shop at the mall. When I'm there buying a sweater for my hubby or bro, it feels like one million women all across the country are buying the exact same sweater for their hubbies or brothers at the exact same time.
It takes some of the fun out of shopping to wonder if national chains might be buying from factories that run sweatshops or employ children. Do I want to buy an item with a questionable provenance just to save a few bucks?
Don't get me wrong --- I'm raising a little crop of child laborers myself. And I just can't wait to put them to work. As I always say: The economic exploitation of children begins at home.
And where does the money go? Does it stay here in Rochester? Some of it does, in the form of salaries and store rents. Most gets whisked away to Gap or Sears or Payless investors somewhere else. If I have to go holiday shopping, I'd like my modest contribution to the global economy to stay a little closer to home.
One of my friends has a great idea. She's sending baskets of locally made products to her out-of-town friends and relatives. Java Joe's coffee, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce (it's a Syracuse company, but that's local enough for me), Little Bakery goodies, and small items from Anderson Alley and the Folk Art Guild.
I'd like to do her one better. In light of the ongoing layoffs and shaky local economy, buying foodstuffs and tchotchkes might not be enough. It won't keep the Big Three from announcing more layoffs. And what about all the smaller companies who are trimming their ranks? The Cornings and Wyeths, the Valeos and Delphis?
This year my husband and I want to make a significant impact. We are going to dig a little deeper and spread holiday cheer by shopping at factories. No, not factory outlets. Real factories.
Rochester is the nation's number one exporter, I'm told. What exactly are we exporting and how can I get some?
I did a little research and found there's a company here --- Erdle Perforating --- that holds the patent in poking tiny holes in plastic and steel. It makes those all-over advertisements that wrap around buses. I'll bet my brother would love this gift. He can wrap his rusty old car with a picture of a shiny, new car.
Tyco Electronics/MID makes Tic Tac-sized antennae for Nokia cell phones and Microsoft joysticks. I could treat them like decorative studs and hot glue a few dozen onto a jeans jacket for my nephew.
Gleason Works doesn't just make gears. Gleason Works makes machines that make gears. And the machines that make the machines that make gears have gears in them. It's like an animated Escher print. Who wouldn't love that?
"Made in Rochester" is our gift-giving theme and we're doing our part to boost the local economy. Luckily, our shopping list conveniently fits the format of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song, so feel free to sing along.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, Rochester gave to me:
12 Heidelberg NexPress 2100 Digital Production Presses printing,
11 Sidewinder Feedback Force Pro joysticks playing,
10 Erdle Perforating Bus Wraps advertising,
9 Valeo Electronically Controlled Rear Wiper Motors slapping,
8 Coopervision Ascend Contact Lenses peeping,
7 Gleason High-Speed Threaded Wheel Grinders whirring,
6 Palettes of Agrilink Frozen Vegetables chilling,
5 rolls of Royal Gold film,
4 Francesco Rinaldi Sauces,
3 Fox Run Rieslings,
2 Delphi Solid Oxide Fuel Cells,
And a Xerox DocuColor iGen3 printer.
We're hoping all our friends will join us this shopping season on Rochester's manufacturing floors, trading in the mall's blinking lights and ringing bells for the factory's fluorescent daylight and humming machines.
Don we now our steel-toed workboots, fa-la-la...