Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas: All Wrapped Up

Another Christmas is all wrapped up. Wrapped up pretty and tied with a bow. Which is more than I can say for any of the presents I wrapped this year. (Not so pretty, and I didn't use a single bow.)

I am not good at wrapping presents. It is not in my skill sets. First of all, I have a hard time guessing how much wrap I should cut off of the roll. I either end up with wrap about one inch too short to cover the present, or enough wrap to wrap around the present twice (or three times).

My biggest problem comes when the present is covered and it's time to fold up the corners of the wrap. Can't do it. Well, that's not true. I can do it, I just can't do it and make it look good. It ends up in a big wad, or the underside of the wrap is showing, or the foldy point of the wrap is so big it wraps more than halfway around the present again. I've been shown how to fold these corners, but I just can't seem to grasp it. (Just like I've been shown how to raise and lower Venetian blinds, but do you think I could raise or lower them in such a way that the bottom of the blinds are level?)(The answer, obviously, is no.)

And then, there are the bows. The Wife has tried to show me how to wrap bows around presents. And, she's also shown me how to make the end of the ribbon all curly and pretty by running a pair of scissors along it so that it curls on the end. I'm just not very good at it. She wraps the ribbon around the corners of the boxes, but I always get confused as to how to do this. Plus, the only knot I know how to tie very well is either the square or the granny knot. (It's really hit or miss as to which one I end up with.) And as far as curling the ribbon with scissors is concerned, it just seems to me to be another way to hurt myself with scissors. (I guess if I really wanted to live on the edge I would learn how to curl ribbon while running with the scissors.)

I blame my mother. My Mom was visiting this fall near The Wife's birthday, so I thought, "Great, she can help me wrap presents so they will actually look good!" Wrong. My Mom was as bad or worse than I was. Once again heredity rears its ugly head.

It didn't always used to be this way. Once upon a time, I used to get positive-ish comments about how I wrapped things. (Looking back, they were probably condescending positive-ish comments, but positive-ish nonetheless.) Remember, I was single until I was 40. As a single man, the only real objective of wrapping presents is to cover the presents so that the receiver of the gift can't see what the present is. (I'm not sure why this has changed since I got married, but it has.)

So, when I was single I was widely known for wrapping presents in newspaper. It made perfect sense to me. I already had the newspaper. It was cheap. I didn't see the need to spend money on wrapping paper. (Americans spend more than $117 billion* dollars on wrapping paper every year.) [*86.2% of all statistics on this blog are numbers I made up.] I didn't see the need to hand over my money to the wrapping paper consortium.

Plus, I used to be creative with my newspaper wrapping, often incorporating the pictures from the paper into the wrapping. I remember the sports page having a large close-up front-page picture of football coach Bill Parcells in mid-yell. I wrapped the present in such a way that the present was a festive, angry Parcells. And nothing quite says "this present is pretty lame" than a present wrapped in a full-page picture of former Utah Jazz center Greg Ostertag.

My brother, holding up the gift I wrapped in newspaper with a festive photo of football coach Bill Parcells.

And, I didn't stop at newspapers. One year, I wrapped a bunch of my presents in plastic yellow Nestle Quik containers. (At least the presents that would fit into a Nestle Quik container.)(And you'd be sruprised at what you can stuff into one of those things.) In fact, I often would (and still do) use things like old cereal and Pop Tart boxes to put presents in. (Obviously, knowing what I think about wrapping paper, you can guess my feelings about the 13.2 billion* dollar "gift box" industry.) The Wife's comment this year was, "I can't believe how many presents you wrapped in cereal boxes." I like to use cereal boxes because they are already on hand, and they can add a little mystery to easily-guessed common-shaped presents like books, DVDs or CDs.

But, my attitude toward wrapping with newspaper changed a few years ago. My brother and his wife asked my nephew what they should get me for Christmas that year. He said, "Let's get Uncle Joe some wrapping paper, so he doesn't have to wrap all his presents in newspaper." And thus I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the thrall of the wrapping paper people.

Well, this year's Christmas is over and done with. Next year, my little girl will be three-and-a-half years old at Christmas. Maybe I can get her to help me wrap my presents. (I just hope she gets her present-wrapping skills from her Mom instead of my Mom.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Park Place

Sorry that I haven't posted anything for a while. I'll blame the rush of the holidays. Things get busy, and before you know it, three weeks have gone by.

Actually, I've spent most of the last three weeks circling the lot looking for a parking spot.

At Christmas approaches, shopping gets harder and harder to do. And one of the worst things about shopping is trying to find a parking spot. And one of the reasons parking spots are so hard to find is because most shopping mall parking lots seem as if they were designed by either six-year-olds or idiots. (Or, quite possibly, six-year-old idiots.)

You've been to these places. Parking spots at weird angles. Alternating between angled and straight-on parking for no apparent reason. Lines repainted in such a way that you can't tell which lines are the new ones and which ones are the old ones. Stop signs at intersections that don't need them. Intersections that need stop signs that don't have them. Intersections where three directions have stop signs, but the fourth doesn't, and no one knows why. Strange islands and cement barriers seemingly dropped at random from a low flying helicopter. These crazy lots make it difficult to park under optimal conditions. But, parking at Christmastime is far from optimal.

Add some snow. The snow gets plowed into piles that each occupy seven or eight parking spots. Some of the spots are only partially covered by the plowed piles, so you aren't sure if you can park there or not, often ending up with one of your tires on a snowbank two feet higher than the rest of the car.

One of my favorites is when people park before the snow is plowed and they can't see where the lines are. Then, later, when the snow melts and you can see that everyone else has parked totally askew of the lines, you are faced with a choice: park alongside the other cars, pretending you don't see the lines, or blaze the trail of being the first to park in the lines correctly, hoping that all subsequent parkers will follow your lead. (And, no matter which way you choose, when you come back to your car everyone else will have made the other choice, and you will look like an idiot.)

Parking lots are at their fullest during the Christmas shopping season, when the number of parking spots is often limited because of piles of snow. Why can't the busiest shopping days be during the summer when all the spots are available. It's kind of like fireworks season being in the middle of the summer, when a stray spark might ignite the dry grass and start a conflagration that could burn down the entire town. Why not switch and light fireworks in the winter when there's no fear of anything catching fire, and do the Christmas shopping in the summer when all the parking spots are available?

And all this is not even factoring in the human factor. People is stupid. Let me just say, if you see me walking towards my car and you think you want to wait for me to get in my car and pull out so you can take my parking spot, you better be prepared for a long wait. Especially if I have the kids with me. It takes approximately 43 minutes to get the kids out of the stroller, get the kids into their car seats, get the damn stroller folded up correctly (never as easy as it sounds), and then get myself into the car buckled and ready to go. Your best bet is to just keep on going and find another spot. But, if you do decide to wait for me to pull out, you dang-well better leave me enough room so I can actually get out of the spot without backing into you!

Parking this time of year is absolutely crazy! But I think I've found a solution. Next year, I'm going to do all my shopping online.