12/18/2013 12:08 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2014

How to Get Through Holiday Shopping, Untouched

FREDERIC J. BROWN via Getty Images

I was at a coffee shop this morning, sitting in the middle of the bar that had three stools. I took the middle one (obviously), leaving the stool to my right and left unoccupied.

As I enjoyed my coffee, an older man sat down to my right. Fine. I didn't think anything of it really. I suppose it was okay considering the seat was open (though I do like my space). A few minutes passed and another man tapped me on my shoulder and asked if I could move to the left so he could sit next to his friend. I obliged. I was annoyed. But I obliged. Mind you, there was an empty table two feet from us where these two men could have sat down. But as I got up and slid over, a task that required more dexterity than usual considering I was wearing slim jeans that had just come from the drier (ya know?), I thought about when the last time someone physically touched me in public, on purpose. I was literally tapped on the shoulder. And it bothered me. He meant no harm, of course, but I generally don't like to be touched unless the hand belongs to a super hot half-Asian, half-French woman. So I ask... during the holidays especially, when our physical buffer zone goes from 10 feet to 10 inches, what level of social touching, bumping into, or -- I don't know -- grazing can you deal with -- should you deal with -- without having to say, What the fuck, man?

Below are some guidelines.


You're at the mall. To make it easy, let's say you are alone and male. Because everyone knows the layout of the store, you're at GAP. And it's not the GAP, it's GAP. It's not the Williams-Sonoma, right? It's the ridiculous place that sells $42.00 marshmallows.

So you're walking in the women's section, because you're a dude and need to find some wrinkle-free poplar shirt for your girl. The rules for men shopping and bumping into each other is somewhat lenient. We're all catatonic at this point -- essentially zombies, so a little shoulder bump is acceptable. I would even say someone backing into you is fine. Again, none of us want to be there. We may say, "Excuse me," or, "I'm sorry," but an eye roll and nod, something that exhibits humility and disgust for being there on a Sunday afternoon while the fahkin' Pats and B's a-playin', will suffice.

The best chance for unwanted physical contact is at the register. You're in line but for some reason, bitches be all up in your grill. Give me some space, please. There's 13 people in line and two registers open. Understand?

Most GAP stores are adjacent to GAP Kids, and even more are connected through the fitting room area. In this scenario, your chances of being hit or run into by a child or small human goes up exponentially. But I'll talk about how to deal with kids later.

By the way, guys, if you want your girl to give you a half & half that night, take your shit over to the GAP Kids side and use that register. You'll save 20 minutes, stress, and your girl will think you're a genius.

Chances of physical contact: 50 percent if it's just a GAP. 75 percent if it's a GAP/GAP Kids

At Macy's:

You've parked in the only spot available which happened to be in a satellite lot that isn't even part of the actual mall parking lot. And because every Macy's leads to the parking lot, you have to walk through the perfume divas to get back to your car. Walking past the cosmetic counters at Macy's is like Atreyu going through the Sphinxes Gate in The Neverending Story. And that actually makes sense because the perfume and skin care section in Macy's seems to never fucking end.

Here, you're not dealing with just guys. You're also dealing with women who are buying shit for themselves, wrapping it, and putting From Dad on the tag. These women are ruthless and realize that they can basically get a free facial by visiting every skin care counter along the way to freedom. And when I say freedom, I mean the parking lot.

You won't find many guys in this section because we have half of a brain and know to avoid it at all costs, but again, you parked seven miles away and need to take a fucking shuttle bus to get to your car. Walking through this section is a necessary evil.

Bumping into woman can be tricky. You're going to be allowed some level of leniency being that the 100 square feet is occupied by 400 women. You may even be able to shoulder rub and bump into woman and pass it off as another women because you're acting like Jason Bourne and moving through the area like you're being tracked by an ex KGB sniper. If someone touches your leg, or arm, chalk it up as experience and just Purell on the way out. You should be able to make it through without any visual scars. You may end up with some emotional ones, however.

Chances of physical contact: 90 percent

At Crate&Barrel

Holy shit. What are you thinking? Outside of Macy's, you took the shuttle bus to your car. But the shuttle bus is also making stops to different sides of the mall. So you accidentally get off right in front of Crate&Barrel. And because you smoked a huge bowl before you went shopping, your faculties aren't agreeing, so against your better judgment, you walk into Crate&Barrel because you suddenly remember your woman needs dishes. God forbade you to buy dishes from, I don't know, Amazon. "I need to SEE the dishes," she said. "Well then how about you look at the fucking picture? Look, I can zoom in. I CAN ZOOM, SEE?!" I wouldn't actually say that. But I would love to.

Immediately walking in, you run into two women with GIANT LIFE-SIZE BOXES. You run into them because only one of the doors is operable, as evidenced by the other door having a sign on it that reads, "Please Use Other Door." You also run into them because for some reason, Crate&Barrel likes to pack candles and organic truffle bar soap in boxes that could ship a Gateway computer circa 1999. Why? WHY?

Getting past the doorway, Jingle Bell Rock is playing -- of course, right? It's not absurdly loud like when you have to go into Abercrombie to buy your shit cousin skinny jeans or a hoodie with a moose on the front, but it was loud enough that you couldn't help yourself to hear it and sing along to it as you walk aimlessly through the store. You may even walk through the kitchen section with the hope that the knife cabinet isn't locked. Oh, but it is locked. Damn. I CAN'T BLEED OUT ALL OVER THESE BIRCH FLOORS!

Something else to consider in Crate&Barrel is that not only do you need to avoid bumping into people, but you have to avoid BUMPING INTO DISHES! Glass is everywhere. Although I could purposefully knock over a serving tray and use the shard to slit my wrist. Hmmm...

It's winter. And in the Northeast, you know, civilization, it's cold as shit. So you've probably got on a down jacket, made in Canada probably, from Canadian geese that were tricked into thinking they were flying south but instead captured in upstate NY and de-feathered, then sent on their way where they would eventually freeze to death because they're all naked. If you're hip, you have a scarf on. But a scarf bought earlier at GAP. You don't care that you just bought it and are now wearing it. Fuck these people. They don't know. You may also have on Thinsulate gloves, or if you're a rebel like me, some knitted bullshit gloves without fingers. So you need to be aware that all of this layering has puffed you up. So be careful walking around the bowl section. Yes, there is an entire section dedicated to bowls.

There has to be some quota Crate&Barrel has for broken shit, right? Especially during the holidays. Is it too much to think that on a given day at a certain store, 12 things may get broken? It's like musical chairs sometimes walking through that place. I don't go near any item that is either made of glass, or on a glass shelf, which basically means that I only go through the bedding section. Not like I'm going to buy anything from the bedding section, because I can't afford $70 pillow cases with 40,000 thread count.

So your best bet for avoiding unnecessary physical contact is to either go upstairs to the really expensive furniture shit where a couple named Piper and Mario will be, or hang out as far away from the register area as possible. Bear in mind, you will probably bump into someone on the way out because at this time, there's a maintenance worker trying to fix the door and his ladder is opened. Open ladders give women the willies.

Chances of physical contact: 79 percent

At Cheesecake Factory

Hopping back onto the shuttle bus (to hell) you end up getting off near The Cheesecake Factory. Oh dear Lord, give me the strength to persevere in times of strife. You get off here because it is somewhat nearer to where you parked -- you think. It doesn't matter does it? Actually, you're cherishing the 20 minute walk back to your car. And you kind of wished you were Zack Morris and were able to stop time, but you can't.

Walking into The Cheesecake Factory can be an easy operation or feel like your own funeral -- which actually would be fine right about now. Every lobby is the same, and depending on the time of day, it can be empty enough to walk freely up to the counter, or if it's after 5:30, it can feel like trying to get out of Fenway after a night game. So you look at your watch and see that it's 7:12. Oh, shit.

You finally open the doors. I say finally because they're architecturally flawed. Whoever designed every Cheesecake Factory entrance thought they were designing the doors to King Solomon's Court. Every door is 30 feet high and the goddamn door knob is two feet off the ground, so the door is extremely top heavy and you need both hands and about four minutes to get the door open. So by this time, there are people behind you and people walking out with their Oreo Cheesecakes, so you immediately bump into, like, six people.

You're in. Finally. Something you've heard copious times in the bedroom, by the way. There's probably 100 people standing around. Most are waiting for a table and because those electronic buzzers don't work in the actual mall, you need to stand around like you're cattle waiting for the abattoirs. Which is weird because if you keep eating there, you'll be the size of cattle. You also have people standing at the desserts counter. "Honey, we should get a Forbidden Double Chocolate Cheesecake for Wendy and Dave, and a Pumpkin Cheesecake with Vanilla Wafer Crust for Dave and Meg." Ugh. Whatever. Just shoot me when it's done. Weird that you have two friends named Dave, by the way. Then there's the register. People putting their names in (a hat?) for tables, people who were just called for a table, and people who are checking on their table because they don't trust technology and fear the red buzzer will go off and they won't feel the vibration or see the bright red neon lights.

You're bound to bump, touch, or push someone in this scenario, so just accept it and deal with it. All you want is a goddamn gift card so that your girl can take her girlfriends out and leave you home alone with YouPorn for a couple of hours.

You're also more than likely to be hit, punched, or kicked by a kid in this scenario than at GAP or Crate&Barrel. I don't even think they allow kids under 12 at Crate&Barrel. Quite frankly, that would be fine by me. Obviously, you can't verbally react to a child hitting or bumping into you. Although it would be self-rewarding and an ego booster, you can't tell a 7-year-old, "Fuck off, little man." I'd LOVE to, but I too recognize there are rules in society. What you can do, however, is if the brat is between 7 and 12, give them a good stare down, maybe give them a finger salute, or if you can make your eyes go all crazy, do that. Over 12 years old, they're essentially real humans, in which case, you can say whatever you want to them. I mean... within reason. (Wink)

But you will be hit, bumped, or touched at The Cheesecake Factory.

Chances of physical contact: 95 percent

You've made it back to your car, although you found someone with the exact make, model, and color, and tried opening the door for five minutes thinking the cold had frozen the locks. You only realized it wasn't your car when you noticed the, "Keep the Christ in Christmas" bumper sticker. Obviously not your car because you have a bumper sticker that says, "You Should Have Been Aborted."

As soon as you make it out of the parking lot (27 minutes later), you realize that you forgot to buy your dad that back massager from Brookstone, only to have him use it for a month and then throw it in the closet for eternity.

So on your way home, you pass the only Walmart in suburban Boston and notice the parking lot looks fairly empty. Interesting. Do I know something others do not? So you pull in and park, only to realize YOU PARKED IN ANOTHER SATELLITE LOT AND THE STORE HAS A BILLION PEOPLE IN IT.

At Walmart

Are you fucking kidding me? Why in God's name would you be here during the holidays (ahem... any day)? Turn around and leave. NOW! You don't need a 64-pack of Diet Fanta. I don't care if it's $3.99. Move along.

Chances of physical contact: A billion percent

Chances of running into someone wearing pajamas: 100 percent

In summary, getting through the holiday shopping season untouched or not bumped into is difficult. You may encounter several instances where you're brushed up against, pushed or poked. I've merely given you a guide with these few examples.

Please keep your composure and realize it's all for the kids. (What??)

Happy [enter religious holiday here] !