My wife and I ended up with a few spare hours today. Nothing unusual there. Except that it was a rare occasion where it was actually the same few hours on the same day. And we recognised the opportunity before it was frittered away.
Has everyone noticed that Christmas is just around the corner? I mentioned it in some comments recently but it never really sunk in. 5 weeks to Christmas… Hah, 5 weeks indeed. When I was young and foolish (all years preceding 2005) a warning like that would mean nothing. Having been bitten more than once by the last-minute-crappy-gift-monster (both the shame of giving and the disappointment of receiving), I now respect the speed with which time rushes past.
So we went shopping. It’s amazing how in August you can think “hey, that’d be a great Christmas gift” but come December you can’t remember what it was. And that poor person ended up getting an instant lottery ticket. This year we have made those purchases on the spot. Therefore, we (this year for the first time) are nearly finished with the Christmas shopping. And today took us much closer to the finish line. I truly believe that we are now only about 5 gifts from done.
Today I had a shopping epiphany.
I don’t know why, but this year for the first time I was not just thinking about the person and the gift and whether the two were vaguely compatible. I was also seeing (almost feeling) an underlying message attached to each gift.
Category 1. I hate you too
Revenge has been a great motivator down through history and Christmas purchasing is no exception. The initial cause and the ensuing reaction are often matched but may fall across a broad spectrum of issues. Crap gift begets crap gift – you buy me something for a buck fifty this year, I’ll buy you something for a buck forty next year.
Category 2. I’m a pervert
Inappropriate gifts beget… unemployment – remember the office tradition of secret Santa? (but that’s another story for another day)
Category 3. Payback time
Noisy gift begets noisy gift – as the proud owner of three children (you had better own anything you sink that much cash into – but maybe parent is a more correct term) I have endured a decade of family members buying noisy toys for my children. Either that, or toys that use batteries at a horrifying rate. This year offers double revenge.
My youngest sister had her first child last July, so today we shopped for the loudest age appropriate toy we could find for my niece. We went to three different stores to make sure we got it right and then doubled back to get the LOUDEST.
My middle sister thinks she is beyond these repercussions as her son, my nephew, is 15. But he has recently purchased the remnants of a motor vehicle which at his current rate of restoration should be roadworthy around the time he gets his learners permit (April ‘06). So I bought him a book on how to make the loudest possible car stereo with the least amount of money, plus enough materials to make sub-woofer boxes for a Def Leppard concert.
Category 4. Personal Hygiene
Hands up if you have ever bought someone toiletries as a gift. Wait. Not perfume. Toiletries. This category is OK if you are in grade school and buying for a female classmate. It is also OK if you are in grade school and you are buying for an old female relative (remember, 25 year old mothers seem old to a 6 year old).
Nothing says you stink like toiletries. Remember, the stuff that smells nice and gets given as gifts costs twice as much and works half as well as the everyday stuff.
“Granny, I love you and all, but you need to take a bath. Here’s some perfumed soap and bath salts” or “I see you picking your nose a lot. I also notice you don’t wash your hands too often. Here’s some liquid hand soap in an ornamental bottle”.
Category 5. I have no idea
Be careful when shopping in this category because these gifts can also fall into category 1.
The mental blank has 2 causes.
1. The stores close in two hours and you still have ten people to shop for.
2. You don’t care (or know) enough about the recipient to give the gift any thought.
People know how much thought went into your shopping and right at the shallow end of the thought pool is the jigsaw puzzles, key rings, scented candles, gift vouchers, instant lottery tickets.
People consider the amount of thought that is put into gift selection as a barometer of your opinion of their place in your life. A measure of your love, if you will.
Consider yourself pre-warned and properly armed
Remember, 5 weeks to Christmas. So you can’t say I didn’t warn you. And if all else fails get them a nice Banjo Brothers bag or Guarddog watch and remember to tell them Fatty and BIG Mike sent you. (Fatty – how do I claim my ten percent of your ten percent commission?)