What Surprise?

My husband’s birthday is in a few weeks. It is customary in our family to ask the person what they would like. Of course, there is no guarantee the person will get it. Particularly if I have no clue what they are asking for. Thus, this year my husband has given me item name, item description, company name and stock number. If he’d just go on line and enter the credit card information, I’d be all done.

I really enjoy shopping for other people. I think it’s fun to try to find things that fit their personality but are somewhat unique. My dad was always a problem. Not because he had no interests, but because if he saw something he wanted, he’d go ahead and buy it. (We were sure Amazon had a moment of silence when he died.) So we’d get to Christmas and his birthday (two weeks apart) and there’d be nothing that he wanted.

Then he started “saving” gift ideas for me. Sometimes he went as far as to buy the stuff and give it to me to wrap. Totally unacceptable. Fortunately, he loved to read. So I’d spend a lot of time in bookstores looking for the “perfect” gift. That was more fun before the mega-stores closed down the local shops and Amazon shut down the mega-stores.

Now I buy books for my husband and son. They are both highly literate with a wide variety of interests. So it’s safest for me to buy things that I want to read in case they don’t like it. Just kidding. But it was a lot easier to go to the bookstore on Main Street (yes, we really had one before Border’s and Barnes and Noble moved in) and look through things than to go on Amazon.

Amazon reminds me of Google. If I put in the name of a book, I will get the book I want and anything else with that title. (Shouldn’t there be some rule against having two books with the same name? Maybe that doesn’t count if the author’s been dead for a couple of centuries. More ageism.) If I put in the title with the author, I will get all possible versions of that book including the ones that are out of print and they have no access to. (I guess that’s so I’ll know there’s something I might want that’s not available.)

But the results don’t end with what I’ve requested. One time I was looking for a stuffed hedgehog. After looking at some of the ugliest stuffed animals I’d ever seen, the results went to books and toys. Then to pigs. Then to other animals. I stopped looking after that and went to a store.

I used to browse at the mall. One day I realized that the odds of finding something unique at a mega-mall were not all that great. Particularly after I realized that I was seeing the same thing in a variety of materials and prices at most of the stores. Back to Main Street.

I have an aversion to giving cash (or gift cards) as you may have guessed. In the first place, I’d rather not have the recipient know what value I put on their event (wedding, graduation, etc.). Second, in a close group (e.g., family), everyone finds out and expects the same thing. What if I don’t like someone? I could get them something nice at a second mark-down. They’d never know I spent $15 on them while I spent $75 on their sister (who is not marrying the boyfriend who coincidentally just had his divorce finalized a month before the ceremony).

Gift cards are wonderful things if you know the person well enough to know where they like to shop. I have gotten several gift certificates and gift cards over the years to places I never set foot into. Coffee shops (I don’t drink coffee), Wal-Mart (I work at the competition), restaurants (nice place – do you have any idea how much it costs to actually eat there?), fast food (have barely eaten it since I got married – my husband hates it and now it makes me sick). And once again, I usually spend more than I want to because otherwise I feel cheap. I really prefer being cheap, but being stealthy about it.

Back to my husband. He’s been wanting that same stupid thing for over a year now. Wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Hope he likes the alpacas I picked out. They will keep the lawn short and he can sell the wool.


For Hire: Two (Semi) Trained Cats

The holidays are coming and I need some extra money. After much thought, I have decided that the best way to do that is to return to my former occupation as a manager. I can hire out my family and make sure they do the work correctly. Please understand it would be a temporary situation and that payment is expected before services are rendered. Rates are based on work expected. If you commit, you will sign an agreement stating the steps to be taken if you are not happy with the results. Please do not plan on using this same money for your own gift purchases. Tips to the worker are always appropriate.

In light of current economic conditions, I have also listed a number of things I would be willing to barter for these services. That way I can use the money I would have spent on them for gifts. So here are the workers:

Husband – electrical work, mechanical work, industrial cleaning, varmint removal. Note: you will want to schedule your jobs around certain college football games (list provided at time of inquiry)

Daughter – manicures, pedicures, typing, mainstream social media. Note: you will want to schedule your jobs around school, choir, and sleeping requirements. Also some football games. Available times will be provided if you are interested.

Son – academic writing,  satire, cutting edge social media. Note: he is nocturnal as well as attending school. Available times will be provided if you are interested.

Cat A (Super Snoops) – varmint control, light typing, prime cuddling. Note: cuddling generally occurs when you are typing. Note: semi-trained indicates she will use a litter box, not that she will obey any human command.

Cat B (Kommando Kitty) – varmint stalking (she plays, you kill), warming, cuddling. Note: cuddling generally occurs when you are sleeping or trying to do crossword puzzles. Note: semi-trained indicates she will use a litter box, not that she will obey any human command.

In addition we have a variety of wilder animals. Moles and groundhogs for underground tunneling needs. Rabbits and deer for garden control. Bats and snakes for child control. We also have possums, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes for various types of jobs. Note: these animals become your responsibility.

Items Taken for Barter – ruminant to replace our broken lawn mower, hoarder to help clean out my mother’s house, chocolate.

If you think it’s only fair that I offer services as well – baking, cooking (except red meat – my husband says I ruin it), cliched uplifting sayings. Note: Times will be negotiated. Reserve now for holiday baking. How you keep the cookies fresh will be your responsibility. (Some family members feel I should add sarcasm to my list of talents.)

If you would like to talk about any of these rare services, you may respond to this place. Please remember that the situations are temporary; I want my family back. Unless you offer a really, really good deal.