Sunday, November 27, 2011

One too many pet rocks makes some of us bah humbuggy

The other night after taking my nine-year-old daughter to see “A Christmas Carol” at UACT, I was explaining the concept of Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present and Ghost of Christmas Future. They are reminders (or foretellers) of what has occurred and what is to come, warning to make a different choice and change the path of our future.

I think there should be a Ghost of Past Christmas Presents who haunts us annually, reminding us that we should never purchase another Ronco/Home Shopping Network/NASCAR item again.

Sometimes we get it right, and more often we get it wrong. Like the time I bought new underwear for my husband for Christmas. In my defense it seemed so right at the time.

But alas, it was oh so wrong, as are many gifts I’ve given and received. Here are my top 10.

10. Potty Putter: For the person who runs out of books and magazines while “doing his business” I give you the Potty Putter. Here’s the sales pitch from Amazon: “The Potty Putter comes complete with a putting green made from the same professional carpet found at miniature golf courses, a cup with a flag, two golf balls, a putter and a "Do Not Disturb" door hanger.” You know it seemed really tacky until I got to the “Do Not Disturb” part – nicely done Potty Putter.

9. Big Mouth Billy Bass. This faux mounted fish sings a song and wriggles its lifeless body with the push of a button. Nothing says Merry Christmas like Billy’s rendition of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” or his ironic version of “Take Me to the River.”

8. Chia pets (all versions): The message is clear. This gift says, “When I think of you I think of hard clay with moldy grass growing out of it … from seeds … which you need to plant and water by the way.” So basically someone gave me a job for Christmas – at the age of eight. Good times.

7. Pet rock: As a kid in the ‘70s pet rocks were inexplicably a big craze. The thought was you’d water it, take it for a walk, and pet it, providing you with hours of enjoyment. I lost mine within days, a predictor of the kind of pet owner I’d become in the future.

6. Green socks: One year our budget was $10 or under (year two of marriage when we were starving college students). I got green socks. It was sad, but well deserved (see my gift of underwear above).

5. Rock polisher – My in-laws got this beauty for our son about seven years ago and the instructions said to put the rocks in and leave it running for 10 hours. Of course Nathaniel decided to start the process after dinner, so we went to bed with the clunk clunk clunking of rocks. We put the polisher two stories below us to muffle the sound, but my husband stomped downstairs around midnight to make it stop. I’ve never seen the rock polisher again, and, not surprisingly, no one has ever questioned its whereabouts.

4. Ice cream maker – Show of hands, and be honest. How many people who own an ice cream maker have actually used it in the last year? Uh huh … that’s what I thought. Work for an hour for one scoop of ice cream? That’s what Umpqua Ice Cream is for.

3. Snuggie – Each time I cocoon myself in my Snuggie I can’t help but obsess: “I’m willingly entering a major firetrap right now. If I even walk by a candle I’m likely to go up like a Roman candle on New Year’s Eve.” Sure, I want to be warm; just not THAT warm.

2. The Clapper - General rule of thumb: Never buy someone you love a gift from a late-night television commercial. You’re just going to have to trust me on this.

1. Scale – If your goal is to live through the New Year, ALWAYS walk away from this purchase.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and shops in Roseburg, Oregon. She can be reached at

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