So the brightly and oh, yes, neatly wrapped gifts are starting to accumulate under your tree, are they?
Your family’s just chugging right along, sneaking into the back bedroom to surround their presents for each other with festive yuletide bunting and bows before placing them carefully in the living room. Big ones go in the back and small ones in the front so as to not to block the view of the little manger scene.
Yes, they’re all ready for Christmas. All except you, that is.
You’re the one those commercials are talking about today with terms like “last minute” and pictures of watches spinning. This means that, if you don’t act now, the last minute is the precise time you’ll be sticking your foot in the store front door as the security guard tries to lock up Monday night.
He’ll see the sadness in your eyes and let you in only long enough to see that there’s nothing left but blue wreaths and a couple of picture frames with no glass. At about this moment “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” will be playing on the ceiling speaker.
Now, although it will occur to you, perish any thought of buying a one-way ticket to Brazil. It may be summer there now, but they expect Christmas gifts, too, and my guess is that anybody who can’t bring themselves to drive to the mall isn’t likely to make the effort to learn Portuguese.
Yet as is often said this time of year, fear not. As a public service to holiday procrastinators (not me), here is the Gift Guide for the Hardly Motivated:
• This time of year, stocks are getting depleted fast and desired items are few. If another shopper is looking over something you want, forget engaging in some sort of “Jingle All the Way”-like confrontation. (Look what that did for Arnold Schwarzenegger.) Instead, offer a sympathetic expression, utter a low whistle, and then say, “You really want to buy that?” To be really convincing, add that the item was made right here in ‘Merica. If you’re lucky, and they make more than six figures, they’ll run out to their Mercedes-Benz and drive off.
• Don’t be afraid to buy in volume from among the remaining items. Chances are your family members will be too overwhelmed with all the other, well-chosen things they actually wanted to notice that each of them is getting a lima-bean green electric can opener. (Hint: Wrap each one with a different pattern of wrapping paper.)
• You might luck into one of the closeout stores that stock brand names of heavily discounted items you thought went out of production in the 1960s. Your recipients will harken back to their youths (or their parents’ youths) at the sight of that vintage box of cereal or laundry detergent. If you opt for the detergent, pre-Christmas gift shakers will pick it up and be overjoyed at how heavy it is!
• Even procrastinators still have to eat, so go to the grocery store and find that array of gift cards on the end cap of an aisle. Pay no attention to the fact that many of them are good at chains whose closest location is in Kansas. It’s the thought that counts, right? Isn’t that what we were taught? Of course it was.
• All right, since I can sense your growing tension, let’s talk regifting. If you’re a poor planner when it comes to buying gifts, chances are you really stink at opening and using them. Look in that closet, the garage, that odd-shaped pile underneath that tarp in your backyard. Why, this is just like — check that — it IS shopping at home!
Books are the best of this type of regift for two reasons: One, they hold up very well over time. Don’t believe me? Look at how many years they last in libraries! And two, because few people actually read them, fewer still check the copyright year on the title page, so because of Reason 1, they’ll look like you just bought it at, um, well, those bookstores that used to be open.
• For the truly brave, there are ways to avoid buying any gifts altogether. The Internet has given us so many advantages over brick-and-mortar stores, but one most people overlook is that you can always claim that your order got lost somewhere on its way from Bangladesh. Give it a week or so, and family and friends will be not quite sure whether they received something from you or not.
All right, now, don’t you feel much better? And there is no need to thank me. I now know the kind of gift you’d get for me and I really don’t want any of them.
Read Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here on Sundays. Watch his video commentaries at eastvalleytribune.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.