Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Not Quite The iPod I Was Looking For...

Episode #4567 of "They Meant Well".

I don't really know where to go with this post. It could be so many things. The ungrateful wretch's "Just Get Me What I Asked For On My Xmas List" post, the screed on "People Born Prior to 1950 Should Stick With Analog Gadgets", the cautionary tale to 30-somethings with aging parents...

OK, let me start at the beginning.

Every year Mom asks me "What do you want for Xmas?", and every year, I cringe down to the core of my being. It's not that I don't enjoy getting Xmas presents, but with Mom & Dad, you can never be entirely sure of what'll come out of the wrapper.

I accomplish my Xmas gifting this way... I ask Mom, Dad & my sister what they would like, and then I go out and buy them exactly what they ask for. I also throw in one or two suprise gifts that I know they will like.

F'rinstance... Dad asked for a new leather belt, since he's been walking a lot and losing some weight. OK, I go out to a fancy department store and get him a couple of nice ones, one dressy & one casual. Since I know he likes to eat fresh-popped popcorn while watching TV at night, I got him several pounds of gourmet popping corn and also some "gift certificates" for me to provide gripe-free tech support sessions on his PC. (My normal tech-support sessions are episodes in profanity and death threats aimed at Redmond, WA)

Mom wants silver stud earrings. I go get her three different sizes, and also a nice pair of sterling butterfly earrings with gold inlay, 'cause she's crazy about butterflies. Also, I toss in a collection of fancy Euro-chocolates for her sweet tooth and a tripod for her digital camera.

Sister wants a water filtration system for her new house 'cause the local H2O supply tastes like distilled death. She'd prefer a gift certificate from the local home improvement barn. No prob. Go online, order a gift cert. for the full purchase price, and add on enough extra $$ so she & her husband can also get the doggie door they're needing.

See? Simple! Ask and ye shall receive. My sister gets it. I know when I unwrap her gift, she'll have gotten me exactly what I wanted.

Not so from the 'rents. Xmas morning is always an exercise in restraint and patience. See, here's where I start feeling like an ungrateful turd. I know "in the Xmas spirit" you should just be grateful to be with family and whatever they wanna give you. But, is it so hard to just GET ME WHAT I FRIGGIN ASKED FOR?!?!?!?!?!

Case in point... Last year I wanted a gift certificate to a high-end steakhouse & a nice bottle of Scotch. Both would be nice, but either one by itself would be great. I get instead a "Gold-C" coupon book and a ceramic rooster decanter. Their reasoning? Now I can eat at a lot of restaurants with a 5% discount instead of just one for free! Also, they saw me laughing at a ceramic rooster water pitcher years ago, and thought I needed one of my own. Sigh. This is what irks me... they mean well, they are thinking of me, but they're just 2 feet off the beaten path.

One year I wanted an FM radio walkman, one of the really tiny credit-card sized ones I could go out walking with. I instead got a desk radio that brings in shortwave bands from Peru and Mozambique. Again, very thoughtful, but not quite what I had in mind.

I also get a lot of Mom's nostalgia dumped on me. She got me a statue of a WWII sailor one year, and a stuffed bear in a sailor suit another. Mom's dad was in the Navy in WWII, and for some reason she thinks I need these memories of him. Since he died when I was in diapers, though, there's no core of memory to build on. There's just nothing there. So now I have these gifts I don't want, can't use, but have to keep around so as to not hurt her feelings. And believe me, if there's ever a woman who keeps her emotions barely hanging on her sleeve, it's Mom.

So, this year like every year I make out a list of really extravagant stuff that I want but know I'll never get. I also tuck in one or two things that I know I'll have a chance of getting. Amidst the photo iPods, hunting rifles, and $200 bottles of Scotch, I sneak in a terrycloth bathrobe and a shoulder holster for my new .45, 'cause those I really want and they can actually get if they wanted to.

Well, guess again. Mom saw the iPod on the list. Remembered the iPod from the trip we took to the Apple store to get her lessons on using her new eMac. Then she turned off the beaten path again and headed into the dementia wilderness...

Somehow she found this outfit offering memberships in a 'buying club' for furniture and electronics. $79.99 a year membership fee for the pleasure of buying plywood shelving units and the best stereos Taiwan has to offer.
The hook? They'll give her a free MP3 player. Anyone see what's about to happen?

Yup, Mom forks over $80 for this MP3 player for her sweet little boy. Much better bargain than the $299 Apple is asking for the base-model iPod! So I get an MP3 player for Xmas.

I can't use it, though. It only works on Win98SE or above. I'm a Mac-o-phile. Let's also mention this $79.99 MP3 player is actually worth about $4. It's just shoddy plastic junk, and barely works. I checked the tech specs. There's 8 MB of internal storage. Even if I could hook the thing up, that's maybe 3 songs that can fit on there.

Dad & I spent the morning doing damage control. She's now been removed from their membership list, and her money refunded. It took threats involving Attorney Generals and the BBB to do it, though. They also got a tongue-lashing from me for telling Mom their player was "just as good as an iPod". Mom feels bad about the episode, but I'm now wondering how long it's gonna be before I have to take over their finances before shysters start looting their accounts.

I think I'm just gonna quit asking for anything for Xmas, and just stick with the giving. It's the only part I like. That way, there'll be no expectations to be crushed yet again.

OK, Extend-O-Whine session over. Let the sling and arrow tossing at the ungrateful son commence.