Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I guess there is something out there for the person who has everything

I used to actively enjoy shopping for gifts. I thought I had a knack for finding gifts that were uncommon (say, ice skates for my future wife), yet fit the recipient well (such as a CD of The Four Bitchin' Babes that my mom really connected with). With a few exceptions (and here I'm thinking of the calendar featuring photos of outhouses that I once gave my dad. It was an artistic calendar - the pictures were nice, but still, they were outhouses...).

But somewhere in the past few years, gift-buying has become less enjoyable. Part of the reason probably has to do with a little math that goes on in my head while I'm shopping (Well, let's see - that CD boxed set equals exactly one-and-a-half mega-packs of Pampers, minus a bottle of zinc tablets...), but I think a larger part of it is that there's too much stuff out there. The ice skates, for example, were purchased over the internet back in the days when e-commerce was a little like wading through the tiny display ads in the last few pages of the New Yorker - there wasn't necessarily that much out there, but occasionally, you ran across a real find.

In Milwaukee, though (as in all large cities), there's so much out there that it's hard to isolate the gifts that will make a real connection to the recipient. Ten years ago, finding a pasta machine (especially in Potsdam, New York) might have represented a remarkable achievement. But my office in downtown Milwaukee is directly below a Linens-n-Things which not only carries pasta makers, but probably 12 different brands and varieties (the left-handed pasta maker, the pasta maker that makes elbow macaroni, the forged steel left-handed elbow-macaroni pasta maker, etc.).

Granted, there are disadvantages to being in a place with not enough stuff. When I lived in northern New York, the options in my little town were somewhat limited, so holiday shopping involved a three-hour roundtrip to Ottawa. And for the seven previous holiday seasons, my wife and I lived in Flagstaff, Arizona, where there was exactly one of every store, and each of those stores had exactly one of every item.

I do have a few friends who, each year, make something both creative and thoughtful for the people on their holiday gift lists. And that's a strategy I could employ as well, provided my friends and relatives are hoping for a) toast, or b) copies of blog posts, printed and framed.

Anyway, this year's holiday shopping wasn't too bad, really. I thought my wife and I came up with some clever ideas that I hope will fit their recipients (figuratively, and in some cases, literally). But that unique gift idea eluded me, until I read the New York Times. And darn if the perfect gift idea hasn't already been taken:

Please Let It Be Whale Vomit, Not Just Sea Junk

Fortunately, there are still 370 shopping days until next Christmas.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Haha, what a fantastic post.

I found your blog by way of scoping out my competition in the MKE Online blog of the week contest... I must say, I'm duly impressed. It's rare to find a blog that's written with such intelligent wit.