Lot's of panic in the air tonight. I've just returned from the store — Albertsons, not the department store. People are grabbing things for dinner. They're also walking rather quickly on the wrong side of the isle and pushing their carts around corners without looking. A lady at the checkout stand who knows me as a regular customer shot me a look and said, "What's wrong with people?"

We have Black Friday, the Twelve Days of Christmas and Christmas Eve, not to mention Christmas itself. Perhaps we should also have the Three Days of Panic. The weekend before Christmas, Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, are a joyless time. People return from Black Friday victorious, having vast stretches of time to sort, wrap and feel smug about their trophies. The Three Days of Panic produce only panic and more panic as retailers offer rain checks for pink MP3 players. As if a rain check would do one damned bit of good. What the hell good is a rain check ? Have you checked the storeroom?

She turned her head from the other customers as she handed me my receipt. "I went shopping last night," she added, with a rather long pause. "This year I'm giving my husband groceries."