They wiggled mitten puppets and juggled floating eyeballs, squeezed rubber duckies and licked Santa Claus suckers. They grabbed tiny camera tripods and neoprene glasses cases, Christmas nougats and goofy golf balls.
Last-minute shoppers bundled up in droves Tuesday, braving a snowstorm to find gifts and stocking stuffers. They pinched and prodded potentials and squinched their faces at last-minute choices.
“I’m looking for chocolate-covered espresso beans,” said Becky Thompson, scouring candy racks at the downtown PayLess Drug Store for stocking stuffers. “It’s last-minute; I thought it’d be cute.”
Rachel Nelson grabbed four packets of bath crystals for her four sisters’ stockings. “I just look for things they might like, that’s all,” she said.
Her brother fiddled with flickering Christmas lights next to her. He said he’d like another cool tie in his stocking. “Like a Tigger tie or Loony Tunes,” said Todd Nelson, 16.
Some people couldn’t find anything. They stood paralyzed by pre-buyer’s remorse in store aisles, stricken looks on their faces.
“I don’t know what to get,” was the chorus of those searching in vain on Christmas Eve day.
Richard Sprout of Seattle thought he had already finished his shopping, buying generic, functional gifts for friends. Then his buddies started dropping hints about the gifts they bought him.
Suddenly, Sprout was shopping again. He stood in front of piles of cool-looking T-shirts at Boo Radley’s on Post Street, hoping one would jump out at him. They weren’t jumping. He had certain standards of cool to meet.
“It’s like a coolness factor with my group of friends,” said Sprout, 22, shaking his head. “Like, who can get the coolest gift. I can’t compete.”
The punching-nun puppet, an old Boo Radley’s staple, is the store’s big seller this year. A new-fangled dispenser of Pez candy is the top-selling stocking stuffer. It twirls. It dances.
“It’s the state-of-the-art in Pez technology,” explained Aimee Slater, an extra elf at the store during the holidays. The song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” played in the store.
June Carney picked up a mood stone and put it down. She picked up a floating ball with a circuit board design and put it down. She slipped her hand into a glove with puppets on each finger and put it down.
Carney, who drove with her husband from Boise to Spokane to spend Christmas with family, shopped half-heartedly for tiny gifts.
“I had all of these little stocking stuffers in my drawer in Boise and I left them there,” Carney said. “Maybe it’s the spirits telling me to keep those soaps.”
Down icy, slush-laden Government Way at Ironwood Plaza in Coeur d’Alene, lines were six-people deep at PayLess Drug Store, where shoppers chose Hershey’s Kisses, Etch-A-Sketch key chains and Pez candy dispensers as stocking-stuffers.
“Small stuff is really easy to find,” said Tammy Sette, of Post Falls, who shopped for her two sons. Sette usually shops on Christmas Eve because “a lot of times they have 50 percent off.”
Some people purchased with a purpose.
Erik Strandhagen, 12, bought his little sister and brother a $10 jumping dolphin set. He used Christmas money that his uncle sent him. “It has these dolphins that go up and jump around in a loop and come back down,” he said. “I just decided it’d be good for ‘em.”
His friend, Sebastian Davis, 12, shelled out money at the Card Farm in downtown Spokane for trick magic matches and goofy golf balls.
“One of my parents’ friends is a smoker,” he said. “The burnt match lights. The other ones don’t.”
The golf balls, which never shoot straight, were for his golfing grandfather.
Outside the Card Farm, Teresa Ayres waited for her fortune to come out of “The Wizard Tells All” vending machine.
She had finished shopping before Christmas Eve, but still wandered around the skywalks. Ayres had only one wish for a Christmas gift.
“A husband,” she joked.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Kim Barker Staff writer Staff writer Alison Boggs contributed to this report.