Christmas shopping used to seem so simple. You did two things: You descended with other parents on Toys R Us like flies on a rib roast, elbowing your way down aisle after aisle until either your patience or budget was exhausted.
When my kids got old enough to make lists of the toys they wanted, they would sit in front of the TV set on Saturday morning and jot down the names of every single advertised product they saw.
I did some of my best editing work on those lists.
After the toys were bought, you went to the Broadway or Robinsons or the May Co. and bought your spouse a sweater, a tie or shirt, a piece of jewelry and the deal was done. Neat and clean. After all, Christmas was for the kids.
In an act of absolute simplicity, my friend, the late columnist Jack Smith, once bought his wife an ironing board cover for Christmas because, he said, "it claimed to make ironing almost fun." And what could be a better gift than that?
You can't just buy toys any more. You need to check the country of origin, perform metalurgical tests and check the endless lists of recalled products your friends in the federal government provide for you. Whatever is left over, you buy, whether your kids want it or not.
You can buy stuff on the Internet, a convenience we didn't used to have, but you run the risk of identity theft, privacy invasion and the besmerching of your good name, not to mention your credit rating, if you do.
If your kids are older, or for the adults on your list, a sweater won't make their book of memories any more. It's got to be high tech.
And if you, like me, enjoy feeling lost, out of touch and beyond usefulness, go shopping for the latest in technological gizmos.
The following were actually listed as gift suggestions on the Internet:
"A MegaRAID SAS/SATA offering from LSI addresses any data availability concerns associated with deploying large number of drives in mission-critical environments. It allows system builders to direct-connect up to 16 SATA II and/or SAS drives. Also, by leveraging SAS expander technology, this adapter can support up to 122 physical devices for the most data-intensive environments."
And gift wrap it please.
Nothing says Christmas like a "DTX CableAnalyzer which will significantly reduce your total time to certify. It all starts with a Cat 6 Autotest time that is faster than many other testers - and fiber testing that is faster as well. But that is just the beginning. DTX Series testers also give you Level IV Accuracy, exceptional troubleshooting diagnostics, 900 MHz of testing bandwidth, 12-hour battery life, and nearly instant set-up and reporting."
Any questions? I didn't think so.
Looking for something more simple? Try a PDA. I used to think PDA stood for Personal Digital Assistant. Now I know it means Permament Digit Apparatus. Walk through an airport waiting area some time and try find the person who's not using one.
So have Santa bring an "HP iPAQ hw6945 Mobile Messenger which provides phone, e-mail, and more secure access to business-critical information. At the same time, let your HP iPAQ keep life fun using GPS Navigation, the HP Photosmart Camera, and Microsoft Windows Media Player 10 Mobile to play your digital music and videos. Quad-band GSM technology delivers high quality mobile voice and data services with roaming capabilities across the world.
"A variety of integrated wireless technologies are provided including GPRS/EDGE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth."
Don't know Bluetooth from the Blues Brothers? No problem. Try a video game instead.
Let's see what's available.
"Extreme Sports With the Bernstein Bears," "Custer's Revenge," (in which an almost naked General Custer is guided though a hail of arrows and fields of cacti toward a mostly naked Indian American woman tied to a post)" "Smurf Rescue" (in which one small mistake sends your cute little Smurf to a horrible death) "Super Columbine Massacre" (which is exactly what you think it is), "Communist Mutants From Space." All actual examples.
So maybe not.
Then there is a $24,000 gold and diamond computer mouse available from a Swiss firm, a Diamond MP3 Player for Dogs ($2000) or a 24K Gold and diamond encrusted hearing aid for $42,590.
Maybe a sweater isn't such a bad idea after all.