T.I.L.T. Things I've Learned Thursday XXII
* The best time to do your Christmas shopping seems to be late on a Wednesday night. I took my time leaving work, hit the gym for an hour, and got to the mall around 7 PM. The place wasn't empty, but it was no more crowded than it is during a normal time of year.
* Online shopping of course trumps physically driving to and walking through a store, but I often don't know what I want to get a person until I see it on a shelf and think he or she could use whatever I've spotted. When I have something specific in mind that can't be easily located in a store, the internet is great. My dad wanted to buy my mom Heidi, while she was hoping to get him Sands of Iwo Jima. Oddly enough, neither was to be found on the shelves of a Target, but when I got home it took me less than 10 minutes to locate and order both from Best Buy, with a guarantee that I'll have both movies delivered by or before Christmas. I'm just glad I bought them a DVD player last year; they both told me they were looking for “tapes”. I don't even know how to begin to explain that there's something called Blu-Ray that will soon make DVD as obsolete as VHS. At least the players are backwards compatible for now.
* Boys are easier to shop for than girls, especially as they get older. I asked my mom what my cousin's kids would like. The 7-year-old boy is into Transformers, while the 9-year-old girl is into basketball and violin. Those who know me will understand why it was especially easy to shop for the boy, since I liked Transformers when I was a kid and, let's be honest, for the last 25 years. I almost got him the best gift ever, when I spotted a 25th anniversary reissue of the original Optimus Prime toy from 1984, complete with a DVD of the original animated series and a reprint of issue #1 of the Marvel comic. Even though I own the entire series on DVD, and the original #1 issue, I never had the original figure, only the later plastic Powermaster version of the character. It went into my wagon without question, as I decided to live vicariously through this kid. As I passed one of the store's convenient price scanners, I decided to check how much this great item was. $69.99 was slightly more than I wanted to spend, and I ended up getting him two smaller robots that were $10 apiece. At his age, he wouldn't appreciate the historical significance of the reissued mold anyway. He'd probably want to take it out of the box and actually play with the thing.
As for the girl, I figured I'd just find some doll in a basketball uniform or with a violin. I was sadly mistaken and spent nearly an hour uncomfortably walking through aisles of girls' toys while parents nervously called for their children to stay close. I couldn't believe there were entire aisles dedicated to Hannah Montana and High School Musical 3. If she's into the violin, I wasn't sure the blatant marketing of microphones or guitars that only played songs promoting those franchises would have appealed to her. Some of the HSM3 dolls were labeled as “School Spirit” versions of the characters, wearing cutoff t-shirts and sweatpants with their school logo. They had plenty of sluts, but no basketball players or violinists. Another aisle promoted a third franchise I'd never heard of, but something about the unnaturally bright-eyed teens on the boxes of these Camp Rock items told me I'd hate it as much as the other two. Was it too much to expect that I'd find a sporty Barbie? Ultimately, I ended up getting her an actual small pink basketball, a reversible headband offering a black or pink side, and so there'd be some fun toy, little figurines of a cat and a bird. I spent two hours shopping for just my parents and these kids, but at least one hour was spent shopping for the girl because I didn't know what I was doing. It's possible she would have liked some of the things that repulsed me, but I couldn't put myself in that mindset. It's so much easier to buy toys that I would have (or still) liked.
* I have no idea why I didn't know this, but John Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted, does what he does because his little boy was murdered back in 1981! This comes up now because, after all these years, they have finally named his killer. It doesn't bring Walsh's son back, and the killer died of liver failure in a prison cell over a decade ago, but hopefully it brings the family some closure. Most importantly, Walsh has channeled his grief and anger into something positive, and has probably saved a lot of lives with the criminals his show helps catch.
* There's a time to wait for other people to handle their responsibilities, and a time to take care of things oneself in order to make deadlines. The trick is recognizing when action and initiative are required and justified. If you act to soon, you may train others to relax and let you pick up the slack. If you wait too long, you may find yourself scrambling to catch up and thinking about all the time you wasted when you had downtime while you were waiting. Hypothetically speaking, of course....
* The pizza man isn't a waiter, lady. If you sit down and wait to be served, he's just going to put it on a tray next to the register and give me my slices, because I stayed on line and waited there with my money.
* I think drink tickets for office holiday parties are actually a good idea. Some people grumble that we only get two drinks, but it ensures that people will be safe driving home. More importantly, it minimizes people getting drunk and doing embarrassing dances, or worse. My old company had the best holiday parties of any place I ever worked, and they had completely open bars. Some people went too far, and years later we still share the stories and reminisce. It's one thing to get drunk and act stupid with your friends, but quite another to do so in front of your bosses and other people you have a professional relationship with. It makes for some awkward Friday mornings the day after the party.
* As for me, even when I'm out with my friends I try to pace myself and not have more than two or three beers, since at some point I'll need to drive my car home from a train station. More importantly, there have been occasions in my wilder years in which stronger stuff like vodka has led me to literally play in traffic, and divulge my most closely-guarded secrets. Even pacing myself, my judgment might be softened, if not impaired. The last time I had two beers, I thought it was a fine idea at 11 PM to help a friend who'd had a bit more than two beers call Rey, on vacation with his family at the time, and ask him a random and obscure question about Star Trek: The Next Generation. I think the ultimate lesson in all of this is that, of all the people who should drink in moderation or not at all, geeks really need to be careful. We all think we're going to have this moment of “cool” like the kid in Can't Hardly Wait who sings Paradise City at the party, but in real life alcohol just enhances our geekiness, even or especially if we normally conceal it.