HE may have slain the Hydra and put a leash on Cerberus the three headed monster dog, but if Hercules wanted to prove himself in 2016 I’d give him just one task: Christmas shopping in Rundle Mall.

If you’ve been to our city’s premiere shopping strip lately you’ll know what I’m talking about. Crushing crowds, expensive parking and annoying buskers playing Christmas songs no one enjoys too loudly.

Thankfully the angry Clive Palmer lookalikes, blue balls and green muppet arms that pretended to be decorations in previous years have been replaced with pretty pine trees and festive bunting, so at least the place looks good this year. But it’s still basically a bloody battlefield of retail pain.

It’s not just the Mall, it’s the same at Marion, Burnside, West Lakes. And to be fair, it’s not their fault. The crippling Christmas crush happens everywhere. You just feel it more keenly in Adelaide because we are totally rubbish at operating in a crowd.

It comes of being a small city; as soon as there are more than a few thousand people in an area, we just don’t know what to do.

Adelaideans don’t walk, they meander, often side by side in groups of three or more, oblivious to anyone trying to get around them.

When we need to check our phone or stop to talk to a friend, Adelaideans don’t step to the side to let others go by; we stand dead centre of the footpath — typically with a pram or two — and make everyone shuffle around us.

Escalators are not a quick way of getting up or down floors, they are a pleasant ride to be enjoyed while quietly surveying the view, preferably from the centre of the step so no one else can pass. The same goes for the travelators at the airport.

And we’re so famous for our terrible road skills, not letting any cars merge in front of you in busy traffic should probably be part of the SA drivers’ license test.

In general, Adelaideans are totally ignorant to the needs of others in crowd situations. It’s not a vindictive thing, it’s a mindless thing.

We are so unused to being surrounded by more than 100 people at any given time we fail to adjust our behaviour when we are.

In bigger cities like Sydney, London and New York, they don’t tolerate this sort of empty-headedness. They have rules, On the escalator, you walk on the left and stand to the right, and never side by side.

Busy footpaths naturally divide into lanes and walking three-abreast or standing in the middle will earn you death stares. Failure to walk on an airport travelator could result in you prematurely wearing your Duty Free purchases.

After a burglar broke into my house last week and stole a heap of stuff, including all the presents under the tree, I couldn’t work out what I was most upset about: losing all my jewellery, or having to go back to Rundle Mall to do the Christmas shopping again.

Honestly, if you think present shopping is painful, try doing it twice in two weeks. It’s like an even more depressing version of Groundhog Day, but without Bill Murray to make it funny.

Still, my second visit to the Mall gave me pause to consider a group of people who hate this season even more than we shoppers do: retail staff.

Not only do these troopers work extended hours, often late into the night, dealing with thousands more customers than usual, they have to do it while wearing stupid Santa hats and reindeer horns and listening to Justin Bieber murder Silent Night three times every hour.

“You get the worst customers at Christmas,” one store’s change room attendant told me.

“They’re so much ruder than at any other time of year. They complain about everything, and all the men want to come into the change rooms with their girlfriends. We all hate it.”

I’m with her. Next year I’m doing all my Christmas shopping online. Of course that means relying on delivery from Australia Post, so I’m planning to start ordering in February.


First published in The Advertiser on December 20, 2016. CLICK HERE to read the original article.