Wednesday, June 02, 2004

A cautionary tale about opening presents.

There's a certain logic to opening the pile of swag one gets on one's birthday. You think of it in terms of overall size: you get your unattached cards first, so that the bills and checks end up squarely in the warm embrace of your wallet; then some of the smaller parcels, the stuff you don't necessarily want, but it's nice to get anyway- nice pens, hair care products, perhaps the very tantalizing and mysterious package of double A batteries (What could they be for?)- and sometimes candy!

Okay, that piddle and crap done with, we get down to presents proper. There'll be three categories left: the flat things, the puffy things, and THE BIG ONE.  Now, THE BIG ONE,  you'll recognize instantly. It's not necessarily the biggest, although it often is. It will, however, without exception, have the biggest bow and curliest ribbon. It might have shiny, shiny wrapping paper, it might not, your mileage may vary. But we set that one aside for now, that's for later. Now: puffy stuff! By which I mean, that which cannot be stacked with ease. Odd shapes, poor wrappings, and stickers in favor of ribbons are all de regeur. These go two ways; if you're under thirteen, they're action figures. Hooray! If you're over thirteen, and thus must purchase action figures for yourself, social stigma be damned, then you got socks or underwear. No, it's not fair. That's just how it is. Deal. You need new socks and underwear. Have you seen the condition of your underwear? How can you still wear those things? Honestly!

Flat things. Are they books? Movies? Oh, hope of hopes... video games? Now is the time to find out! You won't be able to play with/watch/read it now, you've got more presents to unwrap, so just satisfy your curiosity. Important note: if a distant relative gives you a game you've already got: smile, laugh, YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE! I don't care if its double is two feet to the left on the coffee table, put a scrap of wrapping paper over it, it doesn't exist! Then return it the next day. That's how we do it.

Where were we? Ah, yes. THE BIG ONE.  This is the little piece of wonder you'll be spending all afternoon playing with. And maybe it lights up! And whistles! OOH!

WARNING: Do not tamper with the order of things!

It's an accident waiting to happen! Or, if not an accident, a disappointment. Think of it: if you open things out of order, it'll just be uncomfortable. You can't backtrack on emotional states like that. One can't go from "Oh man! You got me the 'Bubba Ho-Tep' DVD! With audio commentary by Bruce Campbell as Elvis! Awesome!" to "Oh man! You got me... socks! With... reinforced heels... uh, thanks..." without your head exploding or something.

ANOTHER WARNING: This time about giving gifts.

Okay, I know I said that batteries could be a tantalizing gift, that hints at the mystery and majesty of THE BIG ONE,  but that really only applies to batteries. Other things may give away the secret. I know one would hate to get, say, a Dell Dimension 8300 Series Pentium® 4 processor with Microsoft® Windows® XP Media Center Edition 2004, 512MB memory, Dell® wireless keyboard, 160GB serial ATA hard drive, Dell® 5.1 surround sound speaker system with subwoofer and 17" flat panel display, without also getting, say, a mouse. BUT! Put that thing away, to hand off after the main gift is opened. Or open the box and shove it in. Or just put it on top of the box before you wrap it. Anything! Otherwise you force the poor little receiver to go through a moment of utter panic: "Oh man! Digital video cassettes! With... wait, I don't have a camcorder... or any other conceivable way of using these... thanks? I... oh! Ah ha hah! I get it!" The only exception: if you've bought someone a car, you are allowed to present them with a beautifully wrapped pair of fuzzy dice. Or if you're the more pragmatic sort, a spare tire with a bow on it. Whatever, you got them a car. You can slap 'em if you want, really. What are they gonna do, get mad at the guy giving them a car?

Oh, the moral of the story: I got a JVS digital video camera for my birthday! And some other nice gifts, including a book about zombies, 'Bubba Ho-Tep', David Sedaris's latest book, a hat, and a some more neat stuff. And I opened it all in the right order, although it should be perfectly clear that I just made all that order stuff up for no reason. And wasted your time. Ha! Now I'm gonna go take videos of my cat! With the sepia tone! And letterboxing! Whee! Happy birthday!


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