Thursday, December 24, 2009


It was two days before Christmas, so what did I do? Why, I went Christmas shopping of course.

Christmas shopping doesn't stress me out at all, for some reason. I usually get the most important stuff out of the way fairly early on, but I always, always, always leave the smaller stuff—brother, secret santa,etc.—until it's almost too late. If I can't find what I'm looking for? That's what Gift Cards are for.

Gift cards have three meanings, and I'm sure everyone on the planet knows what they are. But for the sake of filling space, I'll fill you in.

Meaning Number 1: I tried too hard to find something special, personable and just for you but I got frustrated when I couldn't, so I just got you a gift card. I really needed to get the hell out of the mall and be done with shopping. I promise you that I really did try.

Meaning number one accounts for roughly one-third of the gift cards purchased and you can tell when someone feels that way. The "I'm so disappointed in myself for actually handing you this envelope with plastic money" look on their face usually says it all.

Meaning Number 2: You have really specific taste and no matter what I get for you, there's an 85% chance you'll return it anyway. So here's a gift card. Buy yourself what you actually want.

This is another third of gift cards out there. It's usually accompanied with a shrug of the shoulders and a shake of the head. It's then met with a polite smile and an internal thought (like on Blind Date) that says, "Thank Christ I don't have to wait in that return line tomorrow."

Meaning Number 3: We're not really friends, but I'm obligated to get you something. This is me exerting the absolute least amount of thought or energy on your gift, because you really don't mean all that much to me.

Meaning number 3 is generally reserved for co-workers, rarely seen cousins, nephews, other relatives and old 'friends' on your "people I've been exchanging gifts with for years and I'm not quite sure how to get out of it" list. Everyone has at least one of them a year, and that's where that $10 Home Depot Gift Card that you can buy in line at the supermarket comes in handy.

I'm just as guilty as the next guy, because I buy a few a year. Most of mine fall under Meaning Number 1, but I think that's because I always wait until the last possible minute to go shopping.

I do this because I love people watching.

There are things that are far more entertaining, but people watching has to be one of my all time favorite things to do. And Christmas time at the mall is the absolute best place to do that. I have seen women get in shouting matches over the last something or other (which I thought only happened on bad sitcoms, but it's very, very real—and kind of awkward to watch). I've also seen men and women following other customers around the store, hoping they put down an item, because it's the last one and they were 10 seconds too late. Watching other people stressed out and upset is funny to me. Now that might make me a bad person, but as long as I'm entertained nothing else really matters.

And that's the true spirit of Christmas.

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