Monday, December 22, 2008

Humor Me: Attention frantic shoppers

By MATT WIXON

Just three days until Christmas, everyone. You know what that means?

You guessed it! We only have 12,000 more chances to hear “Last Christmas” by Wham! on the radio.

But wait a second. This is no time for Wham! bashing. It’s already Dec. 22, the annual day when, even without the aid of my psychic friends network, I can read the thoughts of my father from 1,000 miles away.

“Hmm … December 22,” he’s thinking. “Still a little early for Christmas shopping.”

He’s still got a couple days, after all. Plenty of time to operate his shopping version of football’s hurry-up offense: lots of running around, lots of trying to stop the clock and very, very few touchdowns.

I saw it up close for years. Every Dec. 23 -- sometimes Dec. 24 -- my dad and I would head to the mall in his truck to find gifts for my mom. Dad would puff on a cigar as he formulated a shopping plan.

It was the same plan every year. First, my dad would try to find a book without knowing the title or the author’s full name. Second, he would try to find some perfume with no idea what my mom wanted. Third, he would search through a rack of sweaters, pick one out, and ask me, “Do you know your mom’s size?”

No, I didn’t know my mom’s size. I didn’t know anything. I was a 10-year-old who thought the true meaning of Christmas was spelled A-T-A-R-I.

So how did my dad’s shopping turn out?

Well, one Christmas my mom unwrapped a huge box of food storage containers. It was a 24-piece set, if I remember correctly, that included –- get ready for the exciting part –- MATCHING COLOR-CODED LIDS.

I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but I’m sure it didn’t share the spirit of It’s a Wonderful Life.

That’s what can happen when you wait until the last minute. Sure, you might have plans for exciting gifts, romantic gifts, maybe even gifts that will be remembered forever. But what happens to good intentions in the heat of the moment?

They melt into gifts like a Chia Pet, The Clapper or “Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies 3.” Or a product that features an infomercial where people hyperventilate when they discover a breakthrough in carpet-cleaning technology.

Of course, these days we can fall back on the gift card. Ah yes, the gift card! Perhaps the greatest invention since Ron Popeil first scrambled an egg in its shell. The gift card is quick, easy, and lovingly says, “I have no idea what you want.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s better to be ignorantly truthful than to send an inappropriate gift to someone you’ve lost touch with. I wouldn’t want to send my former college roommate and potential alcoholic a subscription to the Beer of the Month Club. I wouldn’t want to send my ol’ buddy Tom Cruise "The Complete Guide to Prescription Painkillers" when he would prefer a gift card redeemable on Mars.

But can you really give a gift card to everyone? For example, my wife and I share a bank account. So if I buy a gift card for her, I’m pretty much sending the message, "Honey, you have my permission to spend 100 bucks at Bed, Bath & Beyond."

That’s right, little woman, I am allowing you to spend money. My wife would love that.

But she might get a gift card anyway. Because with only three days until Christmas, I’ve still got a little shopping to do. That’s right ... I’m one day from becoming my dad, frantically shopping and considering the gift of locked-in freshness.

So I’ll be out there with the other last-minute shoppers, searching for gifts and trying to remember that it’s about the "spirit of giving." You know, that "it’s the thought that counts."

That really is true. But unfortunately, the thought that counts is the one inside the head of the person receiving the gift.

Especially if that gift features color-coded matching lids.

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