The 11 People You See at the Mall On Christmas Eve, Ranked By Threat Level

To give you a bit of background information on the carnage I have seen: I live several miles from the 12th largest mall in the country, Tysons Corner. This place doesn't just attract people within the immediate area; Shoppers will travel up to six hours to purchase everything on their list in a feat that is a tribute to the endurance of humanity, and then travel the six hours back on the same day. And while most shoppers would throw in the towel by Christmas Eve, that does nothing to give them pause. What I have found about malls on Christmas Eve, though, is that this is rarely the day of the holiday season that they are the most crowded. It is, however, the day when shoppers are one wrong look away from snapping like a candy cane.

If you ever find yourself in their boat, just know that surviving a Christmas Eve shopping trip is totally achievable—but it helps to prepare by knowing exactly what you're in for and who you might encounter there. Rudolph may have had a very shiny nose, but you will story top him with your shiny eye if you get in the way of the wrong pair of shopping elbows. These are all the people you should look out for, ranked by level of danger from least to most threatening, because they will be at your mall on Christmas Eve:

Movie-goers who are just there to see the holiday blockbusters

Threat level: Minimal

How to spot them: It's pretty much all your Jewish friends and those families with matching Christmas sweaters who smile too much and go see movies as a TRADITION!!1! to hide how dysfunctional they are. (That, or Les Miserables just came out in theaters, and everyone is a hot mess).

Retail employees who are dead inside at this point

Threat level: Minimal

How to spot them: They may be wearing a name tag, but the truth is they just plain don't know who they are anymore. They have stopped counting down the hours until the end of their shift. They are only staring into the void of receipts and customers and the folding and re-folding that never seems to end. (Please be nice to these humans. They need your compassion.)

Befuddled new stepparents who are buying Christmas gifts for the first time

Threat level: Minimal

How to spot them: They are bug-eyed and ill-prepared for this new world. It didn't occur to them that the mall might be madness because they never had to shop for kids before, and if this is the first Christmas, it's the Christmas that will set the precedent for all Christmases to come. The pressure is on and their nails are all but chewed off.

That one really drunk person

Threat level: Minimal

How to spot them: They are drunk. What are you doing here, drunk person? Do you know what day it is?

The babysitter trying desperately to hide the presents from her employers' kids

Threat level: Moderate

How to spot them: The panic is rampant in their eyes. The responsibility of the freaking magic of Christmas and a child's imagination RESTS SOLELY ON THEIR SHOULDERS, BUT NO PRESSURE, RIGHT?! If their employer had been thinking then said babysitter would have just stayed at home with the kids, but nooooo, we needed a picture with Santa, and then a quick trip to the LEGO store that has suddenly required "CIA Operative" to be under the babysitter's special skills. BUT IT'S FINE. DON'T WORRY. THEY'RE FINE.

The guy who clearly wants that parking spot more than you

Threat level: Moderate

How to spot them: You're probably cussing them out. This is still relatively benign but could definitely get a little too real.

Spectators

Threat level: Moderate

How to spot them: Starbucks latte in hand, smug look on their faces. Some people just want to watch the world burn.

Strung out, overly aggressive parents

Threat level: Maximum

How to spot them: Their elbows are out, their children's crayoned Santa lists are crushed between their determined fingers, and even though you're pretty sure you just watched one of them fall down the escalator, she just kept on walking without the pant legs that got ripped off and sucked into the abyss. This is zombie apocalypse parenting at its finest. These are the parents who left the kids at home with the babysitter, and they only have two hours before said babysitter needs to go home to their family, and damn it all if they're not going to get every freaking thing on their list before then. Stay. Out. Of. Their. Way.

People who shouldn't be allowed to walk and text simultaneously

Threat level: Maximum

How to spot them: You can't. You will only see them in your periphery as they stumble into you out of nowhere, mutter something that didn't even sound like a word let alone an apology, and then stumble away. You cannot anticipate when they will strike. You can only remain vigilant and hope for the best.

Sale addicts

Threat level: Maximum

How to spot them: They're running. Running. Or intensely power-walking and not making eye contact with anyone. The thing is, they finished their Christmas shopping in July, and spent these last few months being really smug about it. But it wasn't enough. They need the rush. The high. The feeling that THEY ARE THE SUPREME GODS OF THIS MALL, AND ALL SHOULD BEND TO THEIR WILL. They will be there the moment the mall opens and won't leave until the last employee drags them and their bursting coupon folder out.

Santa

Threat level: Midnight

How to spot him: There is so much Christmas cheer that has built up inside of him that he is about to BLOW. Too many gap-toothed adorable children. Too many first-time moms in happy tears. TOO MANY WIDE EYES WHO ARE HIGH ON THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS. If one more person smiles at him, he will burst into Christmas confetti and nobody will get presents this year. Please, for the sake of the children, give this man a wide berth.

Images: James Hall/Flickr; Giphy (12)