Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas parties and gift exchanges

So just about every year no matter where I'm working there tends to be a holiday party with a gift exchange, usually with a $20 or $25 price tag. Lately they've been White Elephant, although you also might still find the "drawing names and getting a gift for someone specifically" style. Either way, I have been on a mission the last few Christmases to get the worst possible gift- without making it seem like I'm trying to bring a bad gift. Through years of trial and error I've refined it to the point where it's an art form, and I think I'm finally ready to spread my irreverent manner of holiday cheer.

Some of the ideas I'm about to present I like better than others. Some work more as a personal gift in the name-drawing method, some are more suited to the White Elephant, and some have crossover appeal. In any event I hope you find even a fraction of the amusement in reading the list as I did in compiling it.

And like I said, there was a good deal of trial and error involved, which is of course ongoing. For example, one of my first ideas was a hit of ecstasy- usually available for $20 to $25 (or so I've been told)- but then I thought "Hey, that's actually an awesome gift." Back then when I first set out on this worst-possible-gift journey, I was operating under a looser guideline of least-appropriate-gift. Amusing as that was, it didn't feel right to have the gift be something that someone would actually want. Thus the quest evolved.

Another early inspiration (after transitioning form inappropriate to unwanted) was found driving down the freeway. As I passed a U-Haul truck on the road, I couldn't help but notice the "$19.95 rental!" offer emblazoned on the side. What a perfect fit for my price range, I thought to myself.

And so begins the game, again keeping in mind that the gift has to seem thoughtful. If it was as easy as getting something useless you could just pick up a DVD of Glitter and be done. But there's no art in that. No finesse.

That being said, if you don't care for one of the ideas or if you see room for improvement, leave a comment. And if your comment is really good, you may find yourself the recipient of a special gift next year.

A U-Haul truck. Make certain it's accompanied by a note that says "return by noon tomorrow with a full tank of gas."
A coupon for 12 minutes of therapy. The guise of helpfulness or concern, and the unspoken suggestion that someone needs that kind of help.
A 5-gallon jug of gasoline. The high-octane stuff, don't chintz on quality.
2 large pizzas. Better if you get somewhat unusual toppings. Not too fucked up though, don't kill the gag. Best thing about this is that by the time your gift is opened it'll be cold.
A syringe and a vial of flu vaccine.
A $20 gift certificate to Bo-Rics. This works on so many levels- the thought that anyone would willingly go to Bo-Rics, the fact that it likely won't cover an appointment, and the backhanded complement that you think their hair needs improvement.
A puppy. Because who doesn't like puppies? Better yet- a pound dog. A pretty mangy one, too. I love this idea because it's sooo presumptive, that the recipient even wants a dog.
A $20 Christmas tree. Again, it'll seem thoughtful but it's hugely presumptive.
A box of condoms or a carton of cigarettes. Especially good for a "name-drawing" type of party.
A bootleg DVD of whatever hot blockbuster movie just opened, complete with shoddily (but not too much so) handmade cover and case.
Something- and here's where you can exercise your own creativity- that you can withhold part of. Like a cake with a slice gone, a chess set minus the bishops, a CD boxed set missing one of the discs. And earnestly explain that the missing piece is due to the fact that it was priced slightly above the pre-determined budget.
When all else fails, go to a pawn shop and ask "What can I get for $20?" Perhaps better- a gift certificate to the pawn shop, with the suggestion that their money can go farther there.

So that's my own personal game I play every year. I cannot stress enough that the gift has to appear thoughtful or the ruse becomes transparent.

Happy holidays!

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