Didn't They Have it in Blue?
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Erik is out of the office this week for the holidays, so we're firing up the Wayback Machine, and reprinting this column from 2001.
As I write this, it's the last week of November, and there are only 26 days to finish your Christmas shopping. And if you haven't even started your shopping, then you've wasted the other 100 days the retailers inflicted on us when they started playing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" back in August.
Before you ask, no I'm not starting late. The fact that I'm starting before the end of November is a major accomplishment for me. So here they are, the Laughing Stalk Christmas Shopping Tips.
1) Do your shopping in the middle of the week, during the day. Everyone but you is at work. Even your boss is at work, so you don't run the risk of bumping into him or her while you make your purchases. Tell your coworkers you have meetings all day, and hit the mall.
2) Wear comfortable walking shoes. You'll be walking a lot, especially if you have several people to shop for. But more importantly, if you're like most people, you foolishly ignored Tip #1, and are spending your Saturday afternoon slowly circling the mall parking lot, trying desperately to find a parking space. You'll need your walking shoes to make the eight-mile trek from your car to the mall, because the only parking space you could find was in a pasture outside of town. And you waited 20 minutes for that.
3) Buy off "The List." Everyone has The List. It started out as that three page list of toys you wrote, in a peppermint stick-induced haze, to Santa every Christmas Eve, but became more mature as you grew older. Now it includes things like DVDs, books, and -- shudder -- ties and socks.
After years and years of deviating from my wife's List, I finally learned to buy from it, rather than surprise her with something I thought she would enjoy, like yet another Aboriginal fertility statue ("Collect all 27!") or a Create Your Own Where's Waldo Book kit. While people usually appreciate your imagination and creativity, they absolutely hate it when you use it for Christmas shopping. Just skip the new home wine making kit you thought sounded cool, and get the stupid "Billy Bass Sings 'Take Me To The River'" they've been asking for all year long.
4) Don't wait until the last minute. Everyone around the world wants the same thing, and if you wait too long, you won't find it. You'll be forced to buy the things on the bottom of the list, which are usually a result of late-night hair pulling and shrieking sessions of "what else what else what else what else?" Trust me, the last few things on the list are not what they really want, they're just filler. So even if you see "natural teak display shelf for Aboriginal fertility statues," don't bother.
When you race into the store at 8:30 on Christmas Eve, they've got you. You're desperate, you'll take anything, and you're willing to pay top dollar. Well, almost willing. That's why you didn't get the $400 Waterford crystal vase for your wife, and instead gave her a socket wrench, a 14 pound bowling ball with "Big Earl" engraved on it, and a 3-volume set of "Wrestling's Greatest Hits, Smashes, and Bloopers." But unless your wife's nickname is Big Earl, that bowling ball may end up somewhere other than a bowling alley, if you get my drift.
5) Keep your receipts. In Canada and England, December 26th is Boxing Day, but it's not the good kind of boxing where two guys beat the crap out of each other for an hour. In this case, Boxing Day means you put the stuff you don't want back into their boxes, and take it all back to the stores and exchange it. We don't celebrate Boxing Day here in the US, so instead we have "After Christmas Sales." During these sales, people take the stuff you got them, even if it was on The List, and they exchange it for other stuff they really wanted. And since you paid Super Top Dollar on December 24th for their gifts, your loved ones will be able to find a really great deal for the stuff they really wanted, like a new tape for the Billy Bass singing fish, since I smashed the old one 20 minutes after they got it.
Ah, Christmas. It's the most wonderful time of year. It's a time to celebrate the joy of giving and sharing, of guys named St. Nick and dreams of sugar plums, of Christmas decorations and showering loved ones with gifts.
And I think Jesus is somewhere in there too.