Suppose you had a Presidents' Day sale and nobody came?

This happened Monday, when the eastern part of the country was hit with one of the worst snowstorms in history.

Presidents' Day is the nearest thing to Christmas that stores have. As a matter of fact, there wouldn't be a Christmas holiday season if there wasn't a Presidents' Day to mark down all the goods they didn't sell in December.

The merchants decided that George Washington's birthday was the perfect holiday. It was in February, and it was patriotic because it honored the father of our country -- so you could take off an extra 15 percent.

A store's entire advertising budget went into honoring George. Schools were closed and malls were open until midnight.

This year, the stores put their hearts and souls into their ads. They flooded the newspapers with unbelievable bargains, and went on television telling people what a great president Washington was. As I watched TV, stores such as Hecht's, Macy's, JC Penney, Nordstrom, Wal-Mart and Lord & Taylor urged people to come on down to the "biggest Presidents' Day sale in history."

But this year, after the ads appeared, men and women in parkas from the local TV stations said, "Don't go outside today unless you absolutely have to. Stay at home for the next three days."

Obviously, all the work and time that went into Presidents' Day was for naught.

A meeting of all the store managers was held at Wal-Mart. One of the men from Macy's said, "I think I'm going to suck gas from the exhaust pipe of my Hummer."

The man from Nordstrom said, "Why us? Why would snow fall on Presidents' Day?"

The lady manager from Lord & Taylor said, "Why not us? Whether the stores like it or not, God is still in charge."

The Wal-Mart man said, "Tell that to the stockholders."

Then the man from Nordstrom said, "Wait a minute. Who says we have to celebrate George Washington's birthday?"

The manager from Macy's replied, "That is what we're expected to do."

"But it's not George Washington's birthday," countered the Nordstrom man. "He was born on the 22nd of February, and we were celebrating it on the 17th."

"Because that's the day Bush wants us to do it," the Hecht's manager said.

The man from Macy's added, "Bush was never too good in history when he went to Yale."

The Wal-Mart man said, "We may be onto something here. Why don't we say we're celebrating Lincoln's birthday and not Washington's?"

The Hecht's man said, "Because that would scare away the South. They're not going to celebrate the birthday of a president who made them lose the war."

The Nordstrom man said, "Suppose we have a sale for all the presidents of the United States?"

"Even Nixon?" someone asked.

"He was a president, and he could sell snow shovels."

And so all the stores agreed to make next week Presidents' Day and rerun all their ads for bargains and discounts "worth 50 percent less."

The lady from Lord & Taylor said, "I'm sure Washington wouldn't care if he knew it would help the economy."

(c)2003, Tribune Media Services