Thursday, December 22, 2005

$10 > 88¢ / $5 > 88¢, or Gifting as an Equation

Tonight—well, the night of the 21st, so in one respect last night—I attended a Christmas party. Fairly interesting stuff, actually.

One central objective of this party was the random transfer of Christmas gifts, and to achieve this end each attendee was expected to bring a $5-$10 gift appropriate for another member of that participant’s gender. My contribution was a new, widescreen DVD of Gettysburg [1993].
The trading was achieved through the drawing of numbers and a convoluted system of “thefts” (maximum two per gift, at which point it becomes “locked”) alternate to unwrapping the unknown.

I was number 9. My drawn gift was a set of adidas stick deodorant and cölogne (simply ‘Cöln’ to us German-speakers). It was soon “stolen,” no loss to me (though I didn’t advertise that fact as the set came from a good friend who happened to be in the seat nearest me). I drew again and came up with a small knife and matching LED for the key chain. The light was cool, but again, I didn’t really need the gift. After everyone’s gift was “locked in,” unofficial (black market?) trading began.

The knife/light set I held was officially the contribution of a certain friend, who hadn’t picked it personally and actually hadn’t seen it. He saw it now and wanted it. His locked in gift was a green dart gun (well outside the official price range at $0.88 Wal-Mart). He wanted desperately to trade and when he, well, grabbed the knife set out of my hand and ran I didn’t bother chasing him. He dropped the dart gun, though. Cool.

The gun had also been added to the proverbial pot on behalf of a friend who hadn’t seen it. In this case by that friend’s teenage daughter (explain the 88 cent value, perhaps?). I proceeded to have some fun with it. It has, of course, utterly dismal range. But that only added to the challenge. Just how high must it be aimed to arc into someone’s head across this room?
Now that I am home and no longer wandering packed rooms and hallways firing red globs of plastic at friends and acquaintances, it looks as though the “Age 5+” toy will be suffering from disuse.

But the plastic gat is not all I bring home as spoils. No, indeed.

The party’s ice-breaker was a self-proclaimed “I.Q. Test” out of which the highest scoring male and the highest scoring female were to receive prizes tucked inside ribboned gift-bags. I received a perfect score. That didn’t matter, as every other guy taking the test rated 60% or less.

My prize (Gift, perhaps? Ah, both.) was a suede-leather necklace-thing with a facsimile buffalo nickel bent (molded, actually) around it in front. I don’t think I’d ever actually worn a necklace before, but whatever. It was nice and I put it on around my collar. The thing, by the way, was from some Ritzy mall-shop known only as “claire’s.”

Lowercase ‘c’ “claire’s,” it turns out, is very popular with just about every female on the premises. That was obvious the moment they began devouring their gifts, scratching over them, and stealing from one another. Half the stuff there must have come from “claire’s” and that half was in high demand. The 10 dollar “claire’s” gift card, or rather the theft of it, nearly moved some to tears. If I ever decide to buy lip gloss for someone, I now know where to get the popular stuff. And previously, I had never heard of “claire’s.”

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