Tag Archives: Holidays

Holiday Shopping Sucks: Difficult People to Shop For

Note: I’m posting this fully from the mobile app. While I did most of the heavy lifting on PC, I’ve never actuall posted from the WordPress app, so please excuse any screwed up formatting.

Today, at least the day I’m trying to write a draft for this post, is the 17th. This leaves me eight days to get my Christmas shopping done, and unless I want to pay a fortune for shipping it all but eliminates any online options. Hell, the stuff I ordered on Amazon three days ago might not show up until after the holidays thanks to me being as cheap as possible and selecting the “free shipping” option at checkout. That isn’t relevant here; what is relevant is that time is running out. Time is always running out but the Christmas season really puts it starkly into view. You’re left with a month or so (depending on how bad your procrastination is) to buy a small mountain of gifts for your friends/family. What should be a joyous time to show your love and appreciation for people turns into a fucking chore. You have to buy them gifts. It also seems to be a busy time of year, especially for idiots like myself in the package shipping/delivery business, where you find yourself with days slipping and flying by without making any progress whatsoever on your shopping list.

Luckily I only have a handful of people to still buy gifts for, but one thing seems clear: these people are all similar in what makes them hard to shop for. I’ve noticed there’s the “I don’t want any presents” type of person, and the person that simply doesn’t like anything. And there’s also the type of person who you have no fucking clue what they would want, who might be an off-shoot of one of the previously mentioned types from above. This gave me a fun idea, at least where blogging is concerned: maybe I can bitch about the types of people you need to shop for? Categorize these fuckers who are so hard to find gifts for? While it won’t save my ass in the remaining eight days I have, it will make me feel somewhat productive on the blogging front. Gotta rake in those views while you can, right?

The People You Don’t Even Know

This is an easy category: people you don’t know. Who comes to mind here? I’m thinking my cousin’s kids actually. (Are they second cousins or cousins once removed? I don’t know.) I have no goddamn clue what they like to do for fun or what their hobbies are — and I can barely spell their names properly — so obviously how am I supposed to shop for them? There is also the question as to how close people need to be to you to buy them gifts? The social cues and all. Our family is so poor that I don’t have to buy them gifts really, but my point isn’t that, it’s that some people you don’t even know vaguely enough to buy them presents. This usually requires you to ask their parents what they want, and damn if they don’t even know. “Just get them gift cards to McDonald’s,” I’ve really been told before. Yikes. How about a few $20 bills instead?

The “I Don’t Want Anything” People

This is my dad. You can’t get anything out of him. Making this even worse is that he’s also from the next category: people who don’t have hobbies. I’ll touch on that in a bit because that’s what really makes these people shitty to shop for. I’m one of them myself, but at least I have interests and hobbies that could still point people in the right direction for a gift even if I really don’t want one. Someone could still find something for me if they really wanted to do so.

And as for myself: I really, seriously, actually don’t want anything. It isn’t a matter of being gracious or anything; I just don’t want a damn thing for Christmas. Usually if I need something I’ll go buy it myself, or the things I do need are so specific that I don’t want to trust people gifting them to me. They always buy sort of the right thing but not quite the right thing. I just don’t need any presents. Sometimes you’re the one who is shitty to shop for, at least for other people. And I’m well-aware it’s frustrating for others. I’m basically complaining about myself here and yes I suck and am hard to shop for.

People With No Hobbies

As stated before, the real shitty thing with my dad is not that he doesn’t want any gifts, it’s the fact that he really doesn’t do anything either. My dad’s day, while I’m not 100% certain about it, goes something like this: he wakes up. He eats food that is shitty for his health. He turns the TV on to it doesn’t really matter. (He also has antenna TV so no fancy cable, WiFi, or anything really, just local stations.) He smokes cigarettes. He falls asleep on the couch. He drives to my grandma’s/my uncle’s to help do random shit for them. He goes to work. He sleeps. Repeat.

Not to gripe too much about my parents again (go here I guess) but I really think my dad struggles with depression. He’s a man without interests or hobbies and I think depression is to blame. Whatever the cause is doesn’t matter: try to figure out a gift for a person who literally does nothing for fun or enjoyment. What do I do, get him a pack of cigarettes or something? A gift card for a gas station? Pay one of his electric bills? Give him a free month on the phone bill?

People with Complex Hobbies/Hobbies You Know Nothing About

Some people are really passionate about things, but to such a degree that you simply can’t buy them any actual gifts. Think about the hardcore musician/guitarist. They’re probably so in the thick of their musical passion that they have a favorite brand/size of guitar strings, about twenty effects pedals they use, a certain type of pick they use, and so on. You couldn’t even get them a handful of guitar picks without buying the hopelessly wrong item, even if it is only slightly wrong. They’re so far along in their hobby that you have to know the details of it even to attempt to buy them a gift. Let’s also not forget the high cost of having an upper-level hobby. Buying someone a $100 beginner’s guitar is one thing — buying someone a $5,000 upper end guitar is a whole other level of insanity.

A good example here is, well, my dad again. You see before he was super depressed he was very much into photography but was so far along that you couldn’t buy him anything for it. His few cameras and lenses literally cost thousands of dollars. What would you get a person like this? An SD card? When he already had about five of them? A tripod? Because the two he already had somehow weren’t good enough? A fucking monopod? No. Even if he did have a hobby he was so deep into the hobby that there was nothing you could really buy him.

People Who Want Uninspired Gifts

I also despise people who give you tons of gift ideas but where they’re all uninspired gifts — gifts you can’t sink any meaning or thought into. Like a sweater. Or pants. Perhaps clothes in general. A certain video game. They seem so bland and boring because you simply buy the exact same item they want and there is zero creativity on the gift-giver. Part of the fun of buying gifts is honing in on what they love and surprising them with it. Showing them that yes you do pay attention and care about them and resorting to buying bland gifts just feels so, well, bland. I’ve given up buying my aunts and uncles candles because they’re so damn boring. I’ve just given up.

I want to get something that promotes self-expression or hobbies or your passions in life. Buying a goddamn pair of socks for someone — even if they really fucking want socks — just seems so shitty.

Note: This is a grey area really as you can have “uninspired sounding” gifts that are really inspired. Consider someone who really likes knee-high, multicolored and mismatched, fuzzy toe socks. Getting them “just socks” would be boring as fuck while getting them some crazy, ridiculous socks would be “thoughtful.” Context matters I guess?

People Who Want Gifts They Won’t Even Like

What happens when someone asks for The Sims (or any PC game really) when they only have a shitty five year old laptop that barely loads or operates at all. When you know their gift idea is total shit but can’t tell them this because they want it really badly. You buy it for them, begrudgingly, and they hate it and never use it.

I think kids are very terrible in this aspect because they live in the fantasy of the gift and not the reality. Another example: battery-powered cars. Their own car! That they can drive! Wow! What about in the winter when you can’t use it? What about when you lose the charger and can’t charge the battery? What about when the battery is dead but the kids really want to drive it? These really aren’t winter/Christmasy gifts, but think about trampolines and swimming pools: all the work required for something that will be ignored in a few weeks.

It seemed I had more to say about this topic especially because it applies to capitalism-in-general’s power to convince people to buy shit that they don’t really want or need. I also thought I had more examples but hopefully you get the idea. It’s grandma asking for the hottest and latest “As Seen on TV” product. No grandma, you don’t need Flex-Seal to fix a leaky boat. You don’t own a leaky boat.

The Deep Gifts that are Impossible to Find

I hold the belief that people really don’t know what they want in life, and Christmas gifts are no different. I say this because of a few childhood experiences I’ve had. I was like everyone else and had no real idea what the hell I wanted, and I mean deep down inside what I wanted. I was the typical kid who would ask for video games, toys, legos, etc. and while I liked these things, they never really resonated with me in a crazy life-changing way.

You might wonder what the hell I’m getting at here, but around 1998 or so I received this game I didn’t know existed called Flight Simulator ‘98. It was, as you can guess, a flight simulator game but it wasn’t like all the other shitty aviation games I had played up until that point. It wasn’t some shitty combat game; it was a simulator. Twelve year old me took quite a while for this fact to set it because I literally had to figure out how to fly an airplane in a fairly realistic way, but I eventually figured it out.

I use this as an example of a deep gift because of how much this stupid game changed my life. I was an avid flight simmer and owned every game until the line was discontinued with Flight Simulator X. And I didn’t just play the game like a casual; I was serious about it. I made flight plans and used actual approach charts and tried to keep things as realistic as possible. While already being a huge aviation nerd, the Flight Simulator series cemented my love of piloting and basically taught me to fly airplanes. When I actually began taking flight lessons I already had a ton of the basics down. And when it came time to get the dreaded instrument rating? I was a goddamn pro at flying with instruments because I had been doing so on shitty PCs since 1998!

These are the kind of gifts I would love to get people: the presents that they don’t even know they want. Some random gift that they’re not sure about but they will remember decades later that might even change their lives. I’ve tried to get a few gifts like these over the years, but nothing seems to have stuck. Maybe you can’t gift these things deliberately and they have to be “happy accidents.” I’m sure my parents buying this for me was an accident with their thought process being something like, “He likes planes. This is a ‘plane game.’ Let’s buy him this.”

In closing

I suppose dealing with people like this wouldn’t be very bad in isolation, like for a singular birthday or something, but when there is one holiday where you buy everyone stuff it becomes a chore. I only have about four or five people left to shop for, but everyone of them fits into at least one of the categories I just bitched about. Buying gifts for people who don’t want anything, hunting for presents for people who want stuff they won’t even like, and so on. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a handful of other frustrating people types, so let me know what type of people make your holidays total hell.

Double-Shifting (and Boredom) Sucks

It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.

-David Foster Wallace
…one of these hideous bastards. Note the stubby and goofy looking wings.

I’m currently sitting in a van on the cargo ramp at UPS. The current time is 11:17 a.m. and my crew (consisting of about 9 people) is scheduled to unload an Airbus A300 cargo airplane due to arrive at 12:09 p.m. It’s a little less than an hour away. And what will we do in the meantime? Nothing: we sit. This is what we do at UPS. The motto tossed around to new-hires is usually this: Hurry Up and Wait. I’ve been there so long that it’s basically lost its meaning to me.

The coworker in the front seat has his phone’s volume on full-blast playing some shitty mobile game. I don’t even know what game it is or if it’s even shitty, but it’s a mobile game so it probably is shitty. Also considering the certain coworker that’s playing it leads me to think it’s certainly a shitty game. I hear the cheap sound-effects of change clinking and crowds cheering feebly spewing out of the phone’s minuscule speaker which gives the sound a tinny quality. It’s like someone rubbing crumpled aluminum foil directly on your eardrums. The coworker next to me sometimes glances over in my direction and his breath is terrible. The people in the rear of the van — a Chevy passenger van that seats about 15 people fully loaded — are small-talking that everyone does when there is nothing to actually talk about. Because silence in and of itself is terrifying and scary. Two coworkers are in the back silent ripping away on their vapes. At least they’re not bothering anyone so I give them credit for that.

I’m working the UPS day-shift this year because there is no reason not to work it. UPS is a union job so it’s all-around a pretty comfy affair. Our contract with the company dictates that anything worked over five hours in a day is time-and-a-half pay: my typical $19.95 wage skyrockets to nearly $30 after the fifth hour. In a nine-hour day we’re taking some serious money here, and because I’m bored trying to kill time and math is something fun to do, this is a gross daily pay of exactly $219.45. Holy shit. Maybe double shifting isn’t too bad after all? While the money is good it’s not my primary reason for working the extra shift in a twisted sort of way if you can believe it. I’m a bum. I don’t do anything productive. I usually sleep and write during the scheduled day-shift hours. Sometimes I play video games. There is no reason not to work because making $30 an hour is hard to pass up when you literally have nothing better to do.

My typical shift at UPS is the twilight shift, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. By doubling on days I work an 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. shift with an hour-ish lunch break in between. And why can I pick up these extra shifts around this time of year? Because I work at UPS. We deliver boxes. And it’s December. Fucking think about it. We’re being swamped by packages and UPS as a company throws around money with complete disregard simply to get people like me to stick around longer than usual, take extra shifts, and get those damn packages shipped. Mostly so the stereotypical American in the fury of Christmas Holiday shopping doesn’t become pissed that their boxes showed up a day or two late. Weeks before Christmas the Holiday itself obviously, but still they will be very upset nonetheless.

Knowing the shift was going to be terribly long and boring I brought in something to read: David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. I almost feel bad complaining about taking extra shifts where I have enough downtime to read a book, write blog posts, and get paid nearly $30 an hour to do so, but the way anyone gauges anything is from their own relative personal experiences and it’s difficult for me to see anything that pisses me off in a positive light even if it is, logically, a positive thing. I hate being bored even if $30 is being thrown at me every single hour.

I started reading the book about a month ago and became bored, yes bored, about halfway through and only recently began reading it again (curious timing, looking back on it). The major complaints about the book are that it’s boring as hell, and even throughout the book the author explains (or maybe it was in the forward?) that the book is almost meant to be boring. Wallace’s most well-known novel Infinite Jest had it’s moments where it lagged a bit, but was a much more riveting story overall. Hell, The Pale King is about IRS employees and the whole IRS being central to the story almost forces it to be a boring story. So it’s not that Wallace is just a boring writer, it seems that he made the book boring on purpose. It’s the theme of the book: boredom. While I don’t know exactly what he is trying to say about boredom, I know he is trying to say something about it. And the book forces you to face the boredom directly; it doesn’t talk about boredom as much as it forces you to live through it by boring you to death. Some chapters are so full of random boring details about forms, procedures, codes, and acronyms that it had to be a conscious choice on the author’s part. And in my current bored state of double shifting, the novel seems like the universe’s way of talking directly to me (again). I find myself immensely engaged with the story that is so bland and devoid of anything obviously purposeful at all.

I realize that what I’m scared of with my extra work hours is not being burned out, or not having enough free time, but of being bored. Something about being bored is a personal affront to my very being it seems. My normal UPS shift forces me to find things to do for sometimes literal hours, and by taking on a second shift I get to double my boredom! And in some ways it’s worse than that; by working a nine or ten-hour day my phone inevitably dies. No writing. No blogging. No social media. No music. No internet. Nothing. Sometimes the work is so chaotic that the boredom comes in bursts here and there and doesn’t allow you enough time to sit down, relax, think, read, or grasp onto your fading sanity. It’s work just to stop minutes later. And then work again. And then stop. It’s Hurry Up and Wait. Let’s also not forget the one or two-hour lunch wedged in between the shifts either. Not enough time to go home and relax but long enough where you can’t sit around at work. Hence me grabbing McDonald’s, sitting in a parking lot at the end of runway 25 at KRFD and watching planes take-off and land. Like this:

And reading the book I run into this, the end of which I quoted at the top of this post:

The underlying bureaucratic key is the ability to deal with boredom. To function effectively in an environment that precludes everything vital and human. To breath, so to speak, without air.

The key is the ability, whether innate or conditioned, to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive, the pointlessly complex. To be, in a word, unborable. I met, in the years 1984 and ’85, two such men.

It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.

-D.F.W., The Pale King

The universe compels me to listen to what it’s trying to tell me. Apparently this time the universe works through the dead author David Foster Wallace and his unfinished novel The Pale King. And if Wallace in his boring-ass book is right, and if double shifting is as torturingly boring as it is so far, well, it looks like I’m well on my way to success, maybe even enlightenment. The key to modern life! I’m going to learn to be bored. To be okay with it. To sit for hours and hours in an airplane cross-legged and perfectly at peace being the embodiment of boredom. Totally fine staring out at the twinkling runway and taxiway lights that appear as bright, vivid, twinkling stars strewn over the ground admiring them endlessly.

(Closing Note: I was trying to make this more of an “update post” but was carried away with my mindset for the day. I wrote the post while bored and just went with it and it ended quite differently than how I originally intended it to end. So I guess this is the “update part” just tacked onto the end. I’m working a bunch of hours. I probably won’t be very active on here unless I knock some stuff out on the weekends and schedule them to post on the weekdays. I can write on my phone just fine, but I can’t edit or post. This also explains the “thanks guys!” post on Sunday. December probably won’t have any record blog views because of this yearly hell I live through; posting will surely suffer. I also might not be very active commenting on other people’s blogs. So if I disappear it isn’t because I forgot about you, it’s because I’m bored and I can’t help being bored and I have no escape from the boredom.)

Halloween Sucks

No one probably noticed much, but I’ve been in a pretty bad patch for the past week. I feel fantastic now, truly, and I’m left looking backwards wondering what my problem was in the first place. This was kinda evident if you care to read my last post about getting help (a sort of post-breakdown pick-myself-back-up post) and a post before that one about lacking self-esteem. Anyways, since I’ve slacked for a week and with Halloween quickly approaching I found myself not feeling motivated to do another “X Holiday Sucks” posts because no one seems to care about them anyways. But in a mild bout of procrastination panic I’ve decided to totally lay into the bullshit that is Halloween. Obviously, the best time to write/post this was yesterday (the 30th) but better late than never, right?

Another Damn Holiday

I always try to find reasons for why certain holidays suck, but let’s face it, I just don’t like holidays. At all. Period. This is how I am with any sort of “traditional” thing be it birthdays, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries, holidays, New Years, etc. I’ve always had an issue with doing things just because “that’s how they’ve always been done” and if holidays aren’t the epitome of that then I don’t know what is. Halloween is no different and while I don’t give a damn to read up on the history and reasons behind Halloween (and you shouldn’t need a holiday back story to understand or complain about it anyways), it being the day where, for some reason, kids dress up in costumes, go to strangers’ houses and get free candy just because it’s October 31st seems very hilarious and strange.

You do have to give Halloween credit for being a batshit insane holiday though. Christmas and Thanksgiving have this bullshit somberness to them which isn’t helped by them being in the shittiest time of the year for us Northern Hemisphere bros. You just can’t joke about Christmas. It’s too serious. Remember, Christmas is the holiday where people get upset upon hearing “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” because of some vague idea that a war on Christianity is occurring. Or that our society has become to politically correct. Whatever your stance on this stupid fucking issue you hold, you have to admit that Halloween is a pretty fun, random, insane holiday that doesn’t make much sense. No one is anti-Halloween. Everyone seems to be on board the Halloween Train. Even I am mostly indifferent to it (contrasting with my hatred of Thanksgiving and Christmas). At least it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Halloween Stores

In the past decade there has been this fascinating phenomena which is The Halloween Store. You might know what I’m talking about. Every September/October random Halloween shops appear inhabiting the corpses of decrepit and abandoned retail stores. Since Amazon and internet shopping in general have murdered retail stores in strip malls all around America there is a multitude of hollow shells for these Halloween stores to inhabit. It’s kinda fitting in a way with Halloween stores possessing the corpses of these long-deceased storefronts.

Do these companies really hibernate for 10 months of the year? What do they do in that time? Do they do anything? Why don’t they branch off into general holiday stores? Why doesn’t any other holiday have random shops that appear for a few months of the year? There are businesses that sell fireworks primarily for Independence Day, but those are year-round stores, aren’t they? Why aren’t there Christmas Holiday Stores? Easter Stores? Thanksgiving Stores? No, there are only Halloween Stores. And like some possessive demon they only appear to inhabit the corpses of the fallen retail shells for a few months of the year returning to the nether for the rest of the time.

Pumpkin Carving?

Once again not researching a damn thing, let’s give a big shout out to whatever pumpkin carving is. You have to admit that taking a giant, orange, seasonal gourd and gouging out its interior so you can carve a face on it is badass. It is the quintessential Halloween thing to do. The only thing that really compares to pumpkin carving is the Christmas Holiday tree, because hauling a fucking evergreen tree inside your house to put lights on it is pretty strange, especially when you realize that it’s kinda dangerous with a real tree and incandescent bulbs, but the viseralness of carving a pumpkin takes the cake pumpkin pie. I mean I have nothing against carving pumpkins and admire it in a way; pumpkin carving is an art form all on its own and gives you tons more possibilities for self-expression than decorating a Christmas Holiday tree does, but damn is it a strange thing to do.

Fucking Trunk-or-Treats are Bullshit

I love the communal aspect of trick-or-treating. Love it. At no other time do people actually visit random strangers’ homes or ring their neighbor’s doorbell. It’s like a holiday of community in a way while most other holidays emphasize family. Independence day is kinda similar as we can all gather and watch shit explode in the sky, but this celebrates the community of America and not your immediate neighborhood. Trick-or-treating is so strange in our society. We stress wariness of strangers: Halloween says take their candy and eat it. Ring their doorbells. Fuck it. We stress being wary of people who hide their identity: open the door for those masked people and toss Snicker bars at them! Political divides fall to the wayside because even the dipshit Trump supporters give out candy just like everyone else. If there’s one thing everyone agrees on it’s that candy is fun and tasty. It unites us all.

But then there’s this thing called trunk-or-treating that seems to be gaining popularity. And I despise it. It seems to take anything that is special about Halloween and dumbs it down to its most basic and meaningless level. Instead of walking around a neighborhood you walk around a parking lot. Instead of going on an adventure to find candy you walk from car to car. Instead of seeing the unique decorations that people display in their yards, well, you can see everyone’s unique interpretation on The Stick Figure Family slapped to the rear window of their gas-guzzling SUV. Halloween becomes not about the adventure of trick-or-treating but about maximizing the candy/time ratio which is best achieved in a densely packed parking lot of vehicles. If you’re going to do that, just buy your own candy and eat it because you’re taking all the fun out of Halloween. Making it a shell of its former self. A fucking mockery of it. Trunk-or-treating seems like such an American idea that it disgusts me: Parking lots. Minimal walking. Candy. SUVs. Convenience. Safety. Practicality. America already seems to have a problem with kinship and community and trunk-or-treats seem to be another way to make the problem even worse by removing everything about Halloween that makes it special.

Snow? Huh?

To close out this post, check out this picture:

I took this picture about twenty minutes ago. I’m not sure if you guys know the typical weather of Northern Illinois around Halloween, but this isn’t it. It isn’t typical by a long shot. Usually Halloween is your typical fall weather with temperatures in the 50s or 40s and maybe some clouds and rain. It’s strange because I used to bitch that it always seemed to be cold and rainy on Halloween, but I suppose I can’t whine about that too much now, can I? This picture is self-explanatory: snow before and on Halloween, the prospect of trick-or-treating with temperature in the 20s, stomping through inches of snow, wind chills possibly in the teens, and it isn’t going to be a fun day at all. While snow on Halloween isn’t a thing to bitch about Halloween for, it sure isn’t going to make the day any more enjoyable.