If the school bell has finally sounded for the final time and the kids are gleefully preparing for several long, hot months of family road trips and spilled frozen dairy dessert substances, it can only mean one thing: time to start your back-to-school shopping now. Now. There is no respite in this world of gloom.

American retailers demand it! Wal-Mart and its evil brethren are very anxious to get Halloween shopping season underway, but first they need to get back-to-school shopping season out of the way. So why wait? The height of the summer seems as good a time as any to start haranguing parents about the financial burdens of our laughable public education system, and to start reminding kids that any pleasure they may be experiencing now will be coming to a bitter end all too soon. Ad Age reports that the back-to-school shopping season has now been pushed back thisclose to the end of the previous school year:

"In seven and a half years, I've never once seen so much emphasis put on back-to-school before July 4," said National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis. Historically, most consumers begin shopping for back-to-school supplies three to four weeks before school starts. And retailers have typically followed their lead, beginning promotions in mid-to-late July. This year, however, they're trying to get a jump on people's spending.

Stop wasting your time enjoying a brief happy interlude that will inevitably end at some point. "Get a jump," right off a bridge.

[Ad Age. Photo: AP]