ANDY THOMAS: Suggested Changes For Christmastime
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I awoke last Friday morning at about 2 o'clock to make an all-too-familiar pit stop.
While still groggy, I couldn't help thinking that there were some crazies out there doing their ultra-early Christmas shopping at that hour.
The adrenaline started flowing as I pondered whether or not to get dressed and enter the melee of shoppers who already had a leg up on me.
As I leaned over to put my socks on, I fell back into bed and didn't awake again until about 6 a.m., at which point I'd forgotten all about the Christmas shopping chase race.
All in all, Black Friday has come to be an institution that I don't like. "Black" signifies something somber or unpleasant. In this case, it is supposed to mean that the retail stores turn from red ink into black profitability on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Let's get rid of Black Friday.
Another nuisance is the flurry of Christmas catalogs that begin showing up in September.
These marketing tools are expensive to produce and deliver. Our mail lady said she always loses at least 5 pounds carrying Christmas catalogs to her customers.
The next person to wrestle with these is the village trash collector (oops, sanitary engineer). Just picture the final resting place of all these colorful publications -- a veritable Technicolor mountain somewhere out there in the land of recycling.
Let's abolish Christmas catalogs.
Much to my family's consternation, Father Christmas (me) usually sets out to Christmas-shop and gets sidetracked, finding things that he would like Santa to bring him. It's a selfish habit, for sure, but it's been going on for at least four decades.
The usual question is, "What do you want for Christmas?" Instead of putting in my order and risking the wrong size, style or brand, I shortcut the process by getting exactly what I want, wrapping it and handing it over to a family member to put under the tree. Simple, and saves time.
I should hasten to add that, while I'm selfish, I do enjoy buying stuff for others and have been reasonably successful doing so.
Self-service shopping also keeps the element of surprise. I never tell my wife what I bought for myself for her to give to me. She's always surprised when I open it.
One of the presents I plan to get for myself is a new camera. But I get stuck on the number of pixels, zoom and whether it should be an SLR digital. So I think it would be a good idea for Canon, Kodak, Sony et al. to offer a semester's course at a local school to demystify some of this new technology.
A recent ad promotes a 5 megapixel, 4X optical zoom with a 1.8-inch LCD for $149.99. Another one has 7.2 megapixels with a 12X zoom and a 3-inch LCD for $300 more. Say what?
The same is true for high-definition TVs. You can get a 46-inch, 1,080-pixel LCD with a 10,000-to-one contrast for a mere $2,999.99, while a 20-inch, 720-pixel LCD sells for $2,620 less. Why, I ask?
Does everyone understand the options, capabilities and features of cellular or "wireless" phones? I sincerely doubt it.
Certain adolescent benefactors of the Christmas tradition get so many presents that they literally get tired of opening them and leave the unopened gifts for their mother, who stores them in the basement closet for either the next Christmas or for last-minute birthday presents.
Here's a recommended formula: Give each child a number of presents equal to twice his or her age, stopping at 10, maximum. For example, a 3-year-old gets six presents and a 25-year-old gets 10.
Some people like to overextend their debt to the utility company by excess Christmas lighting. Their places are so lit up that they actually draw spectators, which creates a traffic jam.
Let's limit the number of exterior light strings to 20 per house.
Now, for cards and letters. With higher postage prices, we need to alter our card/letter distribution. Many already handle this by simply sending their greeting via e-mail and clever sponsors who attach a special message, sometimes musically. I advocate biting the bullet and dropping from your Christmas card list those whom you have not seen or spoken to all year.
Christmas letters really bug me. Having said that, I enjoy sending them myself. But getting a two-page letter from folks who tell you how many soccer games their granddaughter played in and "Charley's feeling great after his octuple bypass" are unnecessary pieces of information, in my opinion.
Oh, boy. Now for my real Christmas peeve: retail store Christmas music. I say there should be no repetitive Christmas carols played over the Muzak system until Christmas Eve. Get rid of endless carol-playing. Regulate the music by having a carol played every other song.
Lastly, I would really like to see Scrooge given a chance to play Santa. Just once.
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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