Thoughts for December: the weather and shopping

The carolers at Cloud Gate Friday sang “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” but I doubt that any of us were unhappy that it was warm enough to leave the gloves and hats at home. Christmas was still 3½ weeks away. The snow could wait.

The weather the past few days has been such a spirit booster. I woke up Saturday to an unscheduled day, and as soon as the sun emerged, I knew what I wanted to do. I’d go to the zoo so that I could be outside. It might be the last chance to enjoy spring-like temperatures until spring. In fact, the Tribune weather forecast said that.

Exiting the Red Line at Clark and Division, I decided to walk up Wells Street to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s always fun to stroll a street you haven’t been on for quite a while and look for changes. When did the historical markers go up in Old Town? They’re numbered, so a route must be published somewhere. I made a mental note to come back and walk the route.

People had left their down coats at home. Fleece jackets, sweaters, and sweatshirts were the norm. The few hats were baseball caps. Joggers wore shorts and T-shirts, but they weren’t the only ones in shorts. One woman had an orthopedic boot on one foot and flip-flops on the other.

At the zoo the chimpanzees were basking in the sun, one lying down as if sunbathing. I decided to be like a child who couldn’t read the educational notes; I just watched the animals, the macaques grooming one another, the penguins lining up for food, a puma chomping on a bone. It was a December afternoon when you could sit on a bench and wait without shivering to see whether the polar bear would swim by.

The zoo was uncrowded, a benefit of going in off-season. Maybe other people didn’t think of going to take advantage of the weather, or maybe they were out holiday shopping. You could get up close and stay put as long as you wanted without having to move aside for someone else.

The only thing marring an otherwise perfect day was seeing the tiger pacing in front of the glass separating it from gaping humans. Back and forth, back and forth for who knows how long — I left after 10 minutes. That can’t be healthy behavior. But it was too exhilarating a day to dwell on whether zoos are cruel environments for animals. It was too exhilarating a day to dwell on whether global warming was the cause of 60 degrees in December.

Those are thoughts for another day. Inevitably they’ll return. But sometimes you need to block everything out, let up on yourself, and just enjoy.

*****

NOW FOR THE COMPLAINTS

Holiday shopping in stores vs. shopping online: neither won for me this year. Both were tedious.

The lines to check out at Bloomington Coat Factory and TJ Maxx in the Loop were dozens deep. I forgot to ask for a gift receipt at TJ Maxx, so returned with my receipt the following day. Another long line — and after waiting, I was denied a gift receipt because I hadn’t brought in the item so its tag could be scanned. I’m not going to haul the item back. If my nephew wants to return it, I’ll give him my receipt. He’ll find out the price regardless.

Then for online shopping. I wasted a lot of time trying to redeem Citi points for a gift. A security phone call or text message was required to get a code to complete the order, and I wasn’t getting either. I couldn’t know for sure that my phone number was correct — only the last four digits showed — but those were correct, and I’ve had the same number for more than 20 years. The online chat person advised calling customer care, where I waited and waited while a canned message recommended the easy process of redeeming points online. Finally reaching a customer care person, I found out that somehow my area code had been changed from 773 to 312. Could Citi’s software have changed it when I moved into the 312 area? She said possibly.

When I finally was able to place the order, I noticed that the email confirmation had my old address, where I haven’t lived in 4½ years. It seems that changing the address on one’s Citi account doesn’t automatically change it in the Citi Rewards program. I had to call customer care back and wait again for a representative. Even though I’d called immediately upon getting the email, the person said it was too late to change the address, even too late to cancel the order. Figuring the item would either be lost or returned to the sender, I thought that there was no way I could get it before my family’s Christmas Eve gift exchange. I badgered the customer service person until she agreed to refund the points so that I could order again.

Maybe next year I should do my Christmas shopping anytime but the holiday season.

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