Last Minute Thoughts

A Fool In NH Column Heading

As Christmas Day is upon us and most of us, hopefully, have successfully checked off all of the items on our gift list. Still, there always seems to be that one person on the list who it gets harder and harder to buy for each year.
I know I have often gotten down to the wire, trolling the aisles of the local department store at the last minute on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the voice on the loudspeaker informing me that they will be closing in fifteen minutes.
This is when panic sets in.
The shelves are bare, articles of clothing tossed about willy nilly by those, like myself, who are desperately searching for something…anything… to give to that hard to buy for relative.
Of course, one can simply buy a gift card which in essence is the same as wrapping up a piece of paper that when opened reads: “Merry Christmas. As you can see I put no effort or thought into this at all.”
Giving a check as a present is basically sending the same message except you can add one sentence to the sentiment: “And I didn’t even have to leave the house.”
As you search through the barren remains of the department store, time now ticking down to minutes you can count on your hand, you are strictly on your own. Not even one of the festively clad sales clerks with the Santa Hat and red garland necklace will do you any good at this stage of the game. You are basically the enemy now, still in the store eight minutes from closing, possibly keeping them from leaving on time if they were to offer assistance at this point.
Finally you find something. Maybe a kerosene powered metal hand warmer or a CD collection of the greatest Side B hits by one hit wonder groups from the sixties. Or maybe something else.
You hear the bell rings signaling the end of good cheer. It is closing time, but the rules of the game allow you to finish, even if it at your own risk. We appreciate your business, but now get out!
You head to one of the few cashiers left, who stares up at you with a bowed head.
“Did you find everything you needed today?” she asks with the enthusiasm of someone stuck in a traffic jam.
“In fact I didn’t, I was hoping you could help me,” you are tempted to answer just to see what chaos that might cause.
“Yes,” you say instead. “I was certainly grateful to see that you still had a battery powered combination nose hair clipper and wine opener still available this late in the game.”
“Would you like to purchase the three-year extended warranty for only $39.95?” she asks as required by department store law.
“Does that cover all moving parts?” you ask?
The lights are going off around.
“I’m not sure, I’d have to ask my manager,” she says while looking straight though me.
“Never mind,” You say. “I’ll skip the insurance and I’ll take my chances.”
She sighs a breath in relief and rings my purchase through.
“That’ll be $59.95.”
“Well worth it.
She doesn’t even ask if you’d like to donate a dollar to the Fund For People Who Can’t Afford Extended Cable.
There are some advantages to shopping this late.
You slide your card and forget it is one of those new chips.
“You have to insert it with the chip end,” she informs you as though you just tried to start your car using a paper clip in the ignition switch.
“Sorry, I have to get used to that.”
A “I could care less smile” crosses her lips.
She bags the item.
“Merry Christmas,” you say.
“Merry Christmas,” she responds with actual enthusiasm.
You hurry towards the door, setting off the security alarm as she must have forgotten to disarm this valuable and sought after item.
Still, no one comes after you, no one cares. Let this one go. After all, it’s Christmas Eve.
You get in you car as a wave or relief sweeps over you. Then you start to think about Christmas. A great time to be with family and friends and to come together in peace, friendship and goodwill towards all men.
It shouldn’t matter if it is a three week all expenses paid trip to Acapulco or a battery powered combination nose hair clipper and wine opener that you are giving as a present. It’s what’s in your heart when you give it.
Then you remember. In the chaos you forgot the wrapping paper. Too late now. The flimsy plastic bag from the store will have to do.
It really shouldn’t matter at all.
Merry Christmas!

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