By staff writer E. Mike Tuckerson

Christmahanukawanzaadan is upon us. Like many persons aware of the sinister nature of this “holiday season,” I'd just as well take a page from the groundhog and steer clear of winter altogether. See my shadow? No, but if I see another crazed shopper while I'm picking up a pack of AAs, I'm afraid I may have to start packing heat. That's right, Wal-Mart mittens, of course. Elegance and comfort have never been so affordable. Whether you're in the cold or cold-clocking stray shoppers, their versatility and quality can't be beaten.

Since I cannot avoid the season, I have adopted the role of a herald, a holiday beacon steering your ship to safety and your girlfriend to jingling my bells. Over the years, I've faced a multitude of holiday perils. Here are some ideas to enhance your survivability, categorized for your pleasure.

The Gift Rush

Usually, I play this one like a pro and buy in advance (I'm talking “Flag Day”), but this year I'm “Under Pressure” like Vanilla Ice during a copyright lawsuit. If you're reading this article in earnest, you are too. Here's how we do it (together):

1. Never Underestimate the Power of “Positive Linking”

Photos: the perfect (free), thoughtful (free) accessory for your girl/boyfriend's new iPod.

Sure you can't find anymore of that scent she loves or that 19th generation iPod your brother wanted, but you can always find accessories or compliments that go with it. The trick here is trying to link your efforts and your thoughtfulness. If you can find something that hints that you were trying and put forth effort (even if you didn't), you're on the ball. You can even follow it up by actually buying the item in question (but only if the added money is worth any effort at all).

2. Lower Prices Require Higher Thinking

If you're not a thoughtful person or can't find someone who is capable of helping, you're likely to pay the sticker price. If you're the proverbial “little drummer boy,” your ass better perform like the one-armed drummer from Def Leppard (who is amazing by the way). I suggest getting in touch with family and friends and finding ideas while actually learning more about the “giftee.” Yeah, I actually used that word. Many times, this thoughtful approach will provide “cost effective” (read: Xbox 360-enabling) means to be a success. Behold, a Christmas miracle.

The Finals Rush

Whether you're an ace at exams or a waste of academic space, odds are that you're going to be putting in some cram time prior to jumping ship for the holidays. Here's some “Chicken Soup”…er… “Eggnog for the Panicked Collegiate Soul.”

1. Without Personal Space, Someone Will Hear You Scream

Face it: during finals, there is no place short of actual classroom settings that are free of cramming collegiates. Didn't see anyone in the library earlier in the semester? I guarantee you'll see more people than available seating. Not sure this many people even attend this class? They do, but only show up for the final/final review. People are everywhere at every hour of the day and night. Your only solution to beating the odds is to seek respite in advance in places that you may not commonly visit. That is, if you want to steer clear of distractions. From vacant rooms of friends who just can't study in their own rooms to bathroom stalls (psychology makes great bathroom literature), the most unlikely of study nests are often going to be your best bets.

2. The Three (Hundred) Musketeers

You may even want to find like-minded studiers to share a common space (the more you have with you, the more you can deter potential academic anarchists from disturbing the peace). As far as common spaces are concerned, selection depends on the type of work you're doing. Often a social lounge will be best for study groups intended to ask questions aloud and discuss answers. Computer labs provide a venue to do papers and have them read by peers in a setting conducive to quick feedback and a chance to find aid from others without picking up the phone or emailing.

Of course, should you ever attempt the idea of dividing test review questions prior to and having individuals provide the answers for the group, I strongly caution that you have at least one other person searching for the selected answers as well. Better to narrow the damage of Dynamic Dumbass Syndrome, when everyone accepts one person's wrong answer. In fact, I recommend finding all the answers yourself and using the group merely as a way to review and add to your knowledge, but such a method requires personal effort…and who has time for that when we're busy concerned with…

The Rush (Of Emotions)

Let's pretend that the holidays don't elicit overwhelming emotional strains. Let's also pretend that the fate of your very world does not, in fact, depend on whether you ace one particular final. Sounds great, huh? What's that you say? Good question. What AM I smoking….

1. Donna Summer Backwards

First off, you really need to “simmah down now,” SNL-style. Seriously, you're freaking the rest of us out. If you attend your finals reviews, you're setting yourself up to manage a passing grade on the final. If you've placed the weight of your entire semester on the final or your professor has done so for you, you've simply got to gather yourself and focus on a study plan, not the result of the exam itself. If you have reservations about your academic performance, welcome to the vast majority. Here's your club t-shirt and bumper sticker. We meet at the bar.

2. Barring Success, Drink A Little Drink

From Holidays Hookups to Holiday Hangovers, it's the most drunken time of the year. All I can say is, if you're going out between finals (what do I mean “IF”?), I recommend recalling the safety tips advised of first semester freshman. Basically, be cautious and surround yourself with people you know. This time of year can cause actions that will be mocked and perhaps medicated for weeks and months to come. Feel free to make an ass of yourself or, already achieving such status, reprising your role for a sequel.

3. Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

The tips above help with some anxiety (maybe) but the truth is that everything seems on the line around this time of year or shortly thereafter. Well, all I can say is queue one of your WB soundtracks and prepare for a season finale of One (Track) Hill. The greatest (read: most cumbersome) thoughts of the past months all climax with results more mixed than a P-Diddy album. All I can say is good luck and try to keep the other anxieties in control…'cause this one is often the most uncontrollable.

Such are merely a few simple tips for navigating the icy waters of the holiday season. The greatest teacher, of course, is experience. As Douglas Adams once said, “You live and learn. At any rate, you live.” Good luck staying afloat during the deluge of holiday “cheer.” If ever you need a place to hide, I recommend the handicap bathroom stall. Besides offering a place to hang a wreath, it's spacious and has accommodations for four able-bodied persons or two-“frolic-impaired” persons.* Happy Holidays from the PIC dysfunctional family to you and yours.

*Though frolic in the “skipping,” “prancing,” and “cavorting” senses are ruled out, such persons are free to frolic in the “merrymaking,” “cajoling,” and “general tomfoolery” sense of the word, as such is an important distinction.

For more holiday experiences, avoid dying this season. Or check out E. Mike's humor blog.