I’m going to guess that the “joke” here is that people get more frantic and desperate the closer the holidays get.
There’s not a lot of visual evidence for that guess, but that’s what I’m going with. In fact, panel two seems to have some of the same folks as panel one–sky-blue coat lady and blonde, for example. I guess it could be a second shopping trip, but you’d think Tom Batiuk would want to spice it up with a little variety.
At first, I thought the bald guy near the front had brought an upright vacuum cleaner to be wrapped–which would have been a good choice a day or so ago–but on closer inspection it looks like a sauce pan. Seems like an odd thing to want wrapped, as I imagine they mostly come in their own boxes, but I don’t know–maybe you can buy them loose. Fine.
What I really like is the guy in the front of the line. What a face of absolute despair. I like to imagine he’s saying “I don’t have any family or friends, so I don’t have anything to be wrapped. My dearest wish is to have something I need wrapped.” Everyone angrily waits for him to collapse, or to shoot himself.
Callow youth even furiously checks his watch. It’s been eighteen seconds, damn it. Do what you’re gonna do and let us get our stuff wrapped.