I Spent The Night At Kohl’s

Christmas shopping at 2 a.m.

Image: Salon NYC

Party City was dark. So was Dr. Zaidi, the orthodontist’s. And Payless. Famous Footwear was closed, but not dark, its aisles of shoes lit up like Gillette Stadium, but with fewer concussions.The only store open at 2 a.m. in this admittedly weird little shopping plaza in Wallingford, Connecticut was Kohl’s. In fact, Kohl’s will be open 24/7 until 6 P.M. December 24th.

When I asked my cashier — let’s call her Lucy — why they were open at such a Godforsaken hour, she said, “I honestly don’t know. I wish I knew.”

Maybe there are towns in this country where the Kohl’s is packed from dusk till dawn, but another employee — let’s call her Sally — said only one to two customers an hour usually shopped at this location after midnight. I didn’t see a single customer until I was about to leave. There was an old woman, who didn’t seem inclined to chat, and a middle-aged woman who was actually super talkative…with herself. Sally said she was making $2.50 more per hour to work overnight, and there were only about eight or ten employees in the store.

Kohl’s was hardly the only business open at two in the morning. Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and my sister’s gym are all open round the clock. But the tradition of 24/7 in-store shopping during the week leading up to Christmas is unusual among department stores. Macy’s and Toys “R” Us have tried the gimmick in the past, and even now both have extended hours, but right now Kohl’s is really the only place you could, theoretically, live for a few days.

When you believe in your selfie, anything is possible.

This idea of actually being able to live in a Kohl’s didn’t occur to me until about 2:15 a.m., when I found myself sitting in a chair, getting a painful, kind of molest-y rubdown from a HoMedics Quad Shiatsu Massage Cushion, staring at a display of something called a Shark Rocket, wondering when someone would tell me to move it along. But no one did.

If this didn’t hurt so much, I could just chill here till Christmas Eve, I thought to myself. But, actually, though, could I? Could I pull a Claudia Kincaid and make this Kohl’s my Metropolitan Museum of Art? And then I saw this shirt (left) and I had my answer.

The gift department — I’m sorry, I mean, Presentville, Land of the Gnomes Without Eyelids — offered a great deal of temptation…

There were Santa costumes to protect the modesty of $5 bottles of wine…

And this combo Yeti glove-ice scraper that would actually be perfect for both the true believers and the Furries in my life…

There was even this desktop punching bag, presumably a peace offering to the Gnome with No Eyelids that you have captured and brought to work…

I was actually done with my Christmas shopping, and I didn’t really have any responsibilities until Christmas, so really what was stopping me from living at Kohl’s? Didn’t it have everything I needed?

First, I would need to be able to wash up. I checked out the bathrooms — they were open and clean, so I could absolutely take a “lady of the night” bath there. And there was no one monitoring the towel section, so it would be pretty easy to swipe one of these very 2017 washcloths to dry off.

Next I needed a bed, and, oh, boy, did I find one. I was all ready to kick its occupants to the floor when a man walked by. This was strange, because I was pretty sure I read in the Times once that Kohl’s burns a circle of potpourri around every store to keep men out, but I must have been mistaken because there he was, a real, live man. Even more exciting, he was custodial staff. Not only would I be able to sleep with animated Justin Timberlake all week, I would have a young man to clean up after me. Kohl’s was starting to feel like a hotel, minus the resort fee for Wi-fi.

The next issue at stake was tunes. If you hate Christmas music and are in a relationship with someone who loves Christmas music, you can gaslight your partner by bringing them to Kohl’s. While I was there, it felt as if Spice Girls’ “Christmas Wrapping” was on an endless loop. Surely another song must have played at some point, I thought, but my Shazam stroked out after I used the app to find out the name of that song, so we’ll never know for sure.

At first the tech section, where several speakers were available for demo, looked like the answer to my woes. Unfortunately, the ones I could hook up to my phone seemed to be out of service. If I had to hear “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, but I think I’ll miss this one this year” one more time, I was fairly sure my ears would have started crying blood.

Whatever you say.

Just as I was about to throw in the Valentine’s Day towel on this whole experiment, I discovered the iHome Zenergy Bedside Sleep Therapy Speaker, which was blessedly operational.

The Zenergy calmed me right down, helped me find my center, and then asked me to help it take down Amazon Echo and Google Home. “How?,” I asked, but Sally walked past, and the Zenergy quietly turned blue, which I assumed meant, “All will be revealed on the first night of Hanukkah” or something.

Since it is illegal to consume fruit or vegetables besides cranberry and pumpkin in December, I was not too worried about the nutritional options at Kohl’s. Three, count ’em three water fountains by the restrooms, would keep me from getting parched, and up front by the checkout I saw enough treats to keep me in Buddy the Elf shape for the next 80 or so hours: Godiva and Lindt chocolates, Ferris mixed nuts, and something called Beanboozled, which I took a photo of that sadly came out blurry. Don’t fret. You don’t have to live at Kohl’s to play the jelly bean game we’ve all been waiting our whole lives for.

Beanboozled Challenge | Jelly Belly Candy Company

Finally, the only concern I had left was clothing, which is really no concern at all. Kohl’s is by far mostly clothes. I was wandering around the men’s clothing department, when I discovered a clothing item enigmatically called the “union suit.” Indeed you might well ask, “What is a union suit? Is it like a uniform that you have to wear if you work at a company whose employees are protected by the AFL-CIO? Or is it perhaps the discontinued outfit of the UK’s Representative to the EU? Or is it — ?” To which I would respond, “Shut up. This is my article, and I’m going to do what my writing teachers always told me to do and show you the answer, not tell.”

Not sure how showing this union suit instead of telling you about it is better “writing,” per se, but teachers know better, or otherwise they wouldn’t be teachers, now would they?

All my life, men have asked me what it would take to win my affections once and for all. I never knew how to respond, but now I have the answer. “Buy a Chewbacca onesie — now only $29.99! — and wear it constantly. And make sure to wear pink socks with little lambs on them as well.” I have literally never been more turned on.

I was all ready to go looking for the custodian from earlier so we could get freaky, Kohl’s-style, when I spotted something that chilled me to the bone. I hesitate to even post a picture of it here, but I don’t think you would believe such an awful thing exists if I didn’t.

It is one thing to figuratively force gnomes down customers’ throats; it’s quite another to literally force gnomes down the throat of a poor, defenseless, little dinosaur who never did anything to hurt anyone and is now extinct, probably from gnome poisoning. The second I saw this atrocity, I knew I couldn’t stay at Kohl’s for one more minute. I’m not saying that nobody should live at Kohl’s, but, personally, when I see something that goes against every moral fiber of my being, I have to take a stand.

I did end up buying this cute little gift bag for $1.58 on my way out, but Zenergy told me the dinosaurs would totally understand.

Never sacrifice sleep to go to a department store in the middle of the night. You’ll end up writing crazy things that will end up on the Internet, and, as we all know, the Internet is forever. Not even the gnomes can destroy it.