Gift Exchange 2006

When you have to plan around five people's work schedules spanning every major type of shift (day, evening, night, and split) ranging from entry-level to professional, in both sectors, you never know when you're going to end up doing things. I went to work on Saturday morning not knowing when we were going to have our family gift exchange, since Hannah wouldn't know her work schedule until Saturday afternoon. (Her job, being entry-level and blue collar, has the least predictable schedule. Hers is also the night-shift job.) When she did find out, things worked out so that the best available time was Saturday evening. By the time I got home, Dad was getting ready to go pick up a couple of pizzas so we could eat first.

The upshot of this is that I am now free to discuss what I got people. (I don't think anyone in my family reads blogs in general, let alone mine, but my preferred location for keeping a secret is in my own head.)

It was a good year. There are a couple of people in my family that I often find hard to buy for, so some years I end up in the last week or so scrounging around for a suboptimal idea. Not this year.

The one I'm most pleased about is the one that virtually fell into my lap circa June. My dad is one of the hard-to-buy-for people. Everyone has trouble buying for him except Mom, who generally gets him practical things like clothing, which he needs but doesn't find very exciting. I like to go for something a bit more interesting. This year I think I did okay. I'll tell it the way he experienced it.

First, among his "stocking stuffers" (small, inexpensive items), he opened a VHS tape (a pretty large item for a stocking stuffer): a TNG episode, Encounter at Farpoint, the double-long series premier. Clearly secondhand, and (showing up in the stocking like it did) clearly obtained cheaply, but nonetheless clearly something he was pleased to have.

A while later on he opened a small box and found another videotape, another double-long TNG episode, Redeption, originally a cliffhanger spanning from the end of one season to the beginning of the next.

Then a little further along, he unwraps another small box and finds another, this time All Good Things, the double-long series finale.

Finally, when everything is just about finished, we come to his last present, which is fairly large and heavy enough that Hannah (who has done warehouse work and is easily the strongest member of the family) chose to slide it across the carpet rather than lift it. As the paper comes off, it's obviously a Wayne Dalton commercial garage door opener box. (This is the kind of box that's made from double-thick corrugated cardboard with two layers of corrugation. We had a couple of those box around the house from when Dad used to install doors and openers for a living.)

Inside, under a thin layer of tissue paper, are more videotapes, all of them TNG episodes. Both pleased and puzzled, he asks, "But what did you weight the box with?" Several of us burst into spontaneous laughter. "There can't be that many videotapes," he says. But there are. Seven seasons.

What happened was, somebody was determined to clear off some shelves and donated a whole passel of stuff to the Friends of the Library book sale, and the complete set of TNG episodes was included. (There were also some TOS episodes, a number of Star Trek books, plus some non-Trek stuff.) Employees are privileged to be able to buy such items without waiting for the sale. We pay the same price anyone else would pay at the sale, but it was nonetheless quite a good deal. When I bought them, I didn't know if the set was complete, so I looked up the episode lists on the internet, and they were all there. Some of my coworkers who knew about it couldn't believe I kept a lid on it for so many months.