November 10, 2008

Not Quite Christmas

I was in Wal-Mart over the weekend buying some soap.

I'm picky about the scent of soap we use in the house. Maggie alerts me when we're low on the stuff, and I go pick up a few bars, usually of Dial soap because it always economical and I like the scent. I like to get two different scents of soap, and alternate them; when one runs out in the shower I'd rather switch scents to the other one. I think the reason why is obvious, and if other people don't do this I really can't imagine why not.

I'm even more particular about the scent of hand soap. I hate a lot of the cloying floral scents, and vaguely-melon scented antibacterial soaps out there. And once they're on your hands, you have to smell them for hours. Why not a hand soap that just smells like soap?

But I digress.

I was in Wal-Mart and suddenly I had an oddly Christmasy feeling. And since I was in a retail store, it naturally translated to a feeling like I was shopping for Christmas. But I wasn't; I was buying soap.

It didn't take long for me to realize where the feeling was coming from. The piped in music I was listening to over the store's speakers sounded somewhat Celtic; I could hear a fiddle and some sort of flute. And the tune was familiar. It was "Deck the Halls!" I could have sworn it was, up until the last few notes of a phrase. The tune was sufficiently altered so that it really was not "Deck the Halls" and you couldn't have sung "Deck the Halls" to it, because it kept veering off. But it was very odd once I noticed it. I immediately wondered whether it was intentional.

Did they think that I would do Christmas shopping if I started thinking along those lines while in their store, and was this a subtle attempt to put Christmas on my mind? It's not too far-fetched.

Why not just play Christmas tunes? I imagine that if they were to play the actual "Deck the Halls" they would get complaints. People are increasingly sensitive about efforts to push the shopping season closer and closer to Halloween. Safer to just evoke "Deck the Halls." Composers for TV shows often craft mutated versions of a recognizable theme to play as a parody when they don't have the rights to the original. People get the joke because they can still hear the similarity, though they know it's not the same tune.

The next song came on, and it wasn't any recognizable Christmas tune. Not even a mutated version. I dismissed my conspiracy theory as my own active imagination, then I headed for the checkout.

After checking out, I gathered my soap and headed for the door. Before I escaped, a new tune floated to my ears on the sound of horns. It was, without a doubt, a craftily modified version of "The Little Drummer Boy." The conspiracy lives!

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Posted by James at November 10, 2008 5:07 PM
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I just want my soap to smell like clean hands. "Clean hands" is not one of the choices, unfortunately.

The music thing is definitely a conspiracy. I think Muzak pioneered the early research, but it's a sophisticated industry now.

I don't know all of their tricks, but I know "they" (the mysterious store music people) pipe in mellower music at off-peak times when it's convenient for customers to linger; as closing time approaches (or whenever they need to move customers through quickly), the music gradually becomes louder and less bland.

Suddenly you notice the music and feel as though you're coming out of a trance. It's really the music, and not you - but it gives you a sense of urgency to finish up your shopping or your meal and cash out.

Posted by: Julie at November 10, 2008 6:34 PM

Nice observation. You're probably right.

Posted by: Mike at November 10, 2008 6:42 PM

Dial? Ouch. That's the pump soap in one of my company's offices. Dries the crap out of my skin.

Julie, as for "clean hands," take a sniff of "Pure & Natural" soap the next time you're in the supermarche.

James, frequently, piped-in music makes me want to flee from the shop. "Little Drummer Boy" would definitely gotten me outta there lickety split. Not a fan. Celticized--Did I just make up a word? Maybe I'll run for president. Oh, wait--the eara of dumb is over. Celticized music would be even worse. I would have turned on my heel at the door.

Oy. When did Christmas become a time to bludgeon the public? Call Bill O'Reilly! I've shown my true colors and I'm waging a war against Christmas!

Posted by: Patti M. at November 10, 2008 9:05 PM

I use pure and natural soap too!

Posted by: Margaret at November 10, 2008 9:13 PM

You need to use some good moisturizer after you wash. The heating system alone will do a number on your skin in the winter. I have a pump container of moisturizer in a drawer of my desk. Believe you me, it gets used.

Posted by: James at November 10, 2008 9:23 PM

I agree with your conspiracy theory.

I have to confess to being a bit of a soap nut. I love cottage industry soaps. Whenever there is a farmers' market or craft fair, I'm on the lookout for handmade soaps. Sometimes I like a plain soap (like a goat's milk variety), but I often go for scents not attempted by commercial soaps (like vanilla, almond, fresh linen, or sandalwood). Sometimes, though, I just like the scent of good old Ivory.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at November 10, 2008 11:38 PM

I prefer those same scents, but also citrus and whatever goes into "tropical" --I think it's probably ginger.

Hey, this scent is going to follow you around all day. You'd better like it!

My nose is really keen; a bad smell ruins my day. And some of the worst smells are well-meaning artificially scented floral or melon liquid hand soaps. Fake melon is a curse.

Posted by: James at November 11, 2008 1:30 AM

Trust me there's plenty of moisturizer aound our house. Of many different varieties.

If the soaps are "anti-bacterial" the scent is hiding the triclosan stink. Try an non-antibacterial soap (if you are cleaning your hands you don't need a drug to kill the bacteria).

In general americans seem to like adding scent to everything. I can always tell when the neighbors are doing laundry from the Bounce stench that I can smell from a half acre away.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at November 11, 2008 8:06 AM

When I used to make soap, I joined a local (to Orlando) club of soapmakers. All of them scented their soap much more strongly than I did - one of them was a chain-smoker, she had very little olfactory sense left I guess, and she she really liked the fakey florals. She was very nice, but I didn't want to go near her.

Some of the people who sold their soaps professionally said that there was no demand for the unscented stuff.

I wasn't selling my stuff - I was mostly giving it away, to people I owed favors to. Most of them did NOT want the stinky stuff, or very little of it. But someone paid me to make some soap for her, and she wanted it smelly. My house reeked of almond/patchouli/vanilla for several weeks.

It's actually a nice combo, but only when you catch an occasional whiff.

Posted by: Julie at November 11, 2008 9:22 AM

I love it when I run by a house and I can smell that they're drying a laundry, LOL. I must be one of those "Americans." I apparently have much less of a sense of smell than the rest of you. Not a smoker, probably just a genetic disorder. (Or a blessing, until it comes to cooking. But again a blessing, when it comes to eating.)

I do like a nice lemony scent in the kitchen. That smells clean to me. And I got an orange/ginger thing for the bathroom and I have no idea if Himself objects to it.

Posted by: Maggie at November 11, 2008 9:49 AM

Kitten, I'm a soap nut, too. I use Kiss My Face bar soap in the shower, and their pump soap, as well as E&O and Nature's Gate pump soaps. Bar soap at the sink is nasty. Pump soap is the way to go, especially when one considers one's guests. No one should have to pick up your moist and sticky bar of soap to wash their hands. Nasty.

I just treated myself to a bar of Neutrogena. I miss Pears soap. Nobody around here carries it, but I saw it on the shelf in Bar Harbor's IGA. Maybe if I keep searching, I'll find it around here.

I shall refrain from commenting on my husband's snarky post regarding moisturizer in our home.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 11, 2008 4:22 PM

Ok, back on topic.

Today, I went to the periodontist to get my teeth cleaned, and the oldies station he has on in the entire office suite had gone all Christmas music all the time.

Lord, deliver me, I thought.

As I sat in the chair, I just knew my least-favotire song would come on. The hygenist was not pleased with the music either, and suggested she would rather suffer through one of the perio's favotire Neil Diamond CDs. Yes, it was that bad.

And then it happened. When "Jingle Bell Rock" came on, I made a sound. She thought she had hurt me, so I pointed to the ceiling. When she took the tools out of my mouth, I said, "I really really hate this song." "Me, too," she replied, and then she flipped a switch which killed the music.


Posted by: Patti M. at November 11, 2008 5:12 PM

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