Wrapper brightens holiday spirit

By Justin Boron

LaVita Johnson works with tape and the brilliance of glossy Christmas wrapping paper.

Johnson, 30, of Riverdale is one of the gift wrappers at the Southlake Mall who tops off the fruits of a laborious day of holiday shopping with a bow.

Folding and taping all day, she adds the panache to gifts that allows them to sparkle under a Christmas tree's lights.

At Johnson's booth near the food court, the echo of mall chatter is interrupted by the sound of tape pulled tightly against the metal teeth of the dispenser. The last piece of tape conceals any remaining evidence of the package's contents, locking up the surprise until Christmas morning.

But before the double-sided tape goes on, Johnson is sure to make a crisp fold of the papers edge.

"You fold it in so you can't see the edge," she said.

Sooner or later a line forms with people waiting to escape the clamor of the shopping mall.

When the line gets long, Johnson said she is cool and collected.

"I take my time," she said. "Stressing over a job is not my forte."

Most of the people in line are usually males who either don't know how or don't have time to wrap their gifts, said Wanda Varnell, 42, of Barnesville, who supervises customer service at the Southlake Mall.

"Ninety-nine percent of the people are people that don't know how to wrap," she said. "Majority of them are all men."

Melvin Crockett, 55, proved her point as he watched his box wrapped in flashy silver and red paper.

"I don't wrap," he said. "I don't have the patience."

Occasionally, an odd wrapping request comes across the customer service desk.

Once, Johnson said a man wanted his bag full of Victoria Secrets garments wrapped.

Having never wrapped a bag before, she said she struggled to fit the paper snugly around the bag.

"I managed it though," Johnson said. "It looked nice when I was finished."

After a day of wrapping, she heads to her other job where magnificent results are expected as well -- as a hairdresser.

"I aim to please," Johnson said.

Whether it is hair or boxes though, she said her clients care equally about the appearance of her product.

"(Gifts and hair) are probably about equal," Johnson said. "Hair is just a little bit more money than the gift."