The Mall

November 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE MALL — Colorful eggs, cute baskets and nice spring bonnets are being set up as stores gear up for Easter. Long gone are hearts and candy for Valentine’s Day. Christmas gifts left unsold have been repossessed by China and the yuletide wreathes are back in storage. Good thing, too. My neighborhood mall began setting up Christmas trees, Nutcracker soldiers and Little Drummer Boys just after Labor Day, and they were getting a bit shopworn. You have no doubt completed your shopping for Christmas — or “holidays” as the season is now called so as not to anger worshipers of every faith including disciples of the saxophone section of the Coast Guard Band. But if you are one of those procrastinators who gets extensions on your income tax filings and birth of your children, then you’ve come to the right place because, as usual, I have some advice. First, make a list of everyone who didn’t give you a present last year. Draw a line through each name. Then make a list of people who deserve a present. Start with spouse, significant other or life partner. Be careful of which title you use. (See: Christmas, above) Add siblings who invite you and your family over for Thanksgiving Day and say, “Don’t bring a thing.” If, however, they want you to bring a cooked turkey, wine or plasma TV for the big game, put them on the first list. Don’t forget your parole officer, accomplice, eyewitnesses and the lab technician handling your DNA. Some people believe they should give a present to those who have simply made their lives easier and better in the past year, such as the mail carrier, garbagemen, paper thrower and, especially, newspaper columnists. A good bottle of malt Scotch is recommended. Holiday office parties are common, except at GM and Madoff Investments. For corporate survivors, they have Secret Santas whereby everyone in the office anonymously gives a small gift and each employee gets one. A good present is anything you can lift from the company supply room. Don’t forget to suck up to the boss with something he or she deserves. I recommend fawning admiration. Otherwise, your own present may be a pink slip. Next, figure out how much you want to spend on presents. Then divide by 2. Now you are ready. Go to the nearest Dollar Store and shop till your drop, or are picked up by the surveillance cameras. But do not fall into the trap of giving what we seasoned shoppers call “stuff.” You know, knickknacks to put around the house. This includes collectibles — whatever they are — ashtrays from the 1962 New York World’s Fair and autographed photos of you shaking hands with guards at Abu Grabe. The late comedian George Carlin had a whole routine about stuff. Most people have too much stuff and don’t want any more. I already have so much stuff that anything which comes in the front door requires that something go out the back door, although I am in desperate need of a back door. Other underappreciated gifts include Polyester leisure suits, a vacation in Juarez, bundled derivatives and pet sloths. Figure that if the recipients can’t eat, drink or inhale it, they don’t want it. So what are good gifts? A free pass at the next death panel hearing is handy. I have an uncle who asked for longer visiting hours. Ties are a common holiday gift, but be considerate: knot them first. Botox treatments might seem original, but you never know how the recipient will react. The same for tattoo removals. Books are big for your literate relatives. Some might like “The Wit and Wisdom of Timothy Geitner.” UT-Austin has a Guttenberg Bible which you could give to a dear friend or sell to a fence. Picture books are also a fine gift. A nice touch is to include the Crayolas. You can’t beat cold cash. Yes, a gift of a dollar bill is impersonal, shows you don’t care enough to give a thoughtful present. But have you ever heard of anyone who said, “I don’t want your dirty money.”? Do not give gift certificates. I’ve been burned a total of $250 in gift certificates to restaurants that went out of business by New Year’s Day. In this economy, a gift card to the U.S. Mint is iffy. Magazine subscriptions are also dangerous. Last year I gave two life-time subscriptions to Gourmet. When it went under, I was offered, as replacements, Liver Lovers Monthly or Flu-Free Pork Recipes. But let’s assume you work for Goldman Sachs as an assistant clerk in the Bailout Division and want to go through your $45 million bonus, so money is no object. Check this year’s Neiman’s Christmas Catalogue. How about his and her states? Maybe a suit made of lobster. For the man of the house, season tickets to Miss January. On Page 34 is Rent-a-Congressman. For the market value price, a hacker will totally destroy your competitor’s financial records, except for the off-the-books files which will be forwarded on to the IRS. It may, indeed, be better to give than to receive, but there in etiquette to properly accepting a gift. If, for example, your snide cousin gives you a trip to Detroit, you just smile and say, “How thoughtful.” Or, perhaps, “Just what I’ve always wanted.” Feel free to react differently if it’s a one-way ticket. If the present is ticking, slowly back away. Children like to give their parents something they painted at school during Zero Tolerance lockdown. Parents should not ask, “What the heck is this?” If it looks like a drooling camel or a Rorschach test, no matter. Proudly stick it on the refrigerator next to the house repossession notice. Just above Miss January. Finally, remember that it is not the gift itself that matters, it’s the thought that counts. If you’ve got a thought that can count, you are a very strange person. Ashby is gift-wrapped at ashby2@comcast.net

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