AFTER THE CROWD dispersed outside the Manhattan department store on that last Friday in November, the police began calculating the damages. The Great Bloomies Riot, as it came to be known, had resulted in 83 torn cashmere scarves, 119 smashed bottles of perfume and after-shave, 132 crushed fruitcakes and the wreckage of countless coffeemakers, each with a digital timer. One bystander saw more than 200 rolls of wrapping paper fly across Third Avenue. Similar disturbances were reported outside Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, Marshall Field in Chicago and on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
It was shortly afterward that St. NickPAC was formed. "Christmas has got to start earlier," said its founder and namesake. He hired a direct-mail firm, and soon money -- most of it representing the interest accrued on Christmas accounts in community S&Ls -- came pouring in from across the country.
When the hearings began for the Omnibus Yuletide Act, the line of witnesses stretched from the House office buildings down Independence Avenue to the National Christmas Tree, then wound around the Hannukah candle in Lafayette Park and proceeded back up Pennsylvania Avenue. One witness after another told harrowing tales of intolerable shopping lines, overcrowded stores and surly salespeople. "Christmas has got to start earlier," they told a Select Committee. The only dissent came from representatives of the Postal Union and the newly formed ScroogePAC, numbering seven members.
The legislation passed both houses of Congress by voice vote and was signed by the president with a candy-striped pen.
The rules of the Yuletide Act were soon published in the Federal Register. It became the law of the land that:
1.Christmas shopping begin by July 4;
2.Halls be decked within 10 days after Labor Day -- trees mounted, wreaths hung, tinsel strewn, twinkle lights strung;
3."Miracle on 34th Street" and Andr,e champagne commercials ("ding-ding-aling, ring-ring- aling") air by the first Monday in October; and
4.Mall Santas report for ho-ho-ho duty no later than Columbus Day.
The director of ScroogePAC, holed up in his small office in Rockville, his PC on the fritz, was desolate. The lobbying campaign -- to force the Christmas season to begin no earlier than Dec. 10 -- had been a miserable failure. He looked out the window, saw the bumper-to-bumper traffic along Rockville Pike, and was moved. He got up, put his dog, Tiny Tim, on a leash, and walked straight into White Flint and was never seen or heard from again. Lord help us every one.