Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” opinion column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month. Unlike Xanukah, it did not come early this time around.
Xanukah came early this year, and so did the Holiday headaches.
For example, due to issues both mathematical and autobiographical , I had a hard time getting Xanukah candles. Although I’m generally inclined to attribute these sorts of minor inconveniences to broad anti-Semitic conspiracies , I’ll admit that, in all fairness, this particular annoyance was mostly on me.
Owing to a family party, a Jewish Community Center party, a congregation party, a collision with a nominally secular national holiday, and some associated family travel, we got all the way to the eighth night of Xanukah without buying candles. And lo, on the morning of the seventh day , there were no Xanukah candles to be found in Ann Arbor.
I started driving up and down Washtenaw Avenue, then calling drug stores and groceries all over town, and it was always the same drill: I’d repeat “Xanukah candles” three or four times, and the clerk or manager or whoever would finally get his or her head around what the hell I was asking, and then very nicely, very apologetically, explain that they’d received a small shipment a day or two before, but sold out almost immediately.
Everyone was very nice and very concerned that I couldn’t acquire my ritual candles, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that, despite the annual hoopla in the Gentile-controlled media, Xanukah is a really, really minor military holiday, and so it wasn’t a big deal.
But when I went into Hiller’s, I had a funny exchange with the clerk. I asked her if there were Xanukah candles (repeat × 3), and once she figured out what I was saying she said no, and apologized. She noted I wasn’t the first person to come in that morning (it was 9 a.m.), and that “you’d think we’d have them, because we’re a Jewish store, but no, we’re all sold out.”