Archive for January, 2012

Who cares if it fits??

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Let this column ring with the joys of Christmas shopping.

I’m one of those Christmas shoppers who can be best described as a non-shopper. I hate it!

 I’m not even a last minute shopper, I’m more of a last three or four days kind of guy. Plenty of time. I postpone the dreaded ‘shop’ not because of a lack of good gift ideas, but most often it’s the lack of good Christmas cash.

To ease the burden of Christmas shopping I follow a strict routine, first getting some Christmasy gift idea in mind. Then check it out on the net, then contact the store. I always get the clerk’s name and I always try to get the item set aside. I always thank the clerk profusely for his efforts and as I hang up I always think if I get out there and my gift is nowhere to be found I’ll have the name of a certain sales clerk to rake over the coals. I think they call it ‘customer satisfaction.’

 I do kind of have this niggly admiration-teetering-on-hatred for those folks who spot that perfect Christmas gift in July and buy it then and there. They show tremendous practicality and common sense, but I’m far more familiar  and amused, by the guy spotting the perfect gift in July who says something clever like, “Leave it, I’ll pick it up later.” Later being now and the perfect gift isn’t there. Let’s pretend he finds a sales clerk.

“Oh, that item was part of our summer stock, sir. We won’t get any more of those things in until June. What about a rubberized car floor mat?”

 And I hate that wad of receipts I’m forced to tote about for the next six weeks while the treasured gift recipients decide whether it’s too tight or too small or the wrong colour for their eyes. These scraps of paper are so ripped, smudged, creased, torn, that finding  the Holy Grail would be easier than locating  the right receipt.

 I think it’s nice when the Christmas shopping junket with family and friends begins with: “Is this the closest parking spot you could get?”

 And it’s great to stand beside someone asking: “Will you get anymore of those things in before Christmas?” I catch the fatigue, frustration and disappointment in his voice as I glide off with the last one that I so wisely had set aside.

 And often the festive outing culminates with these words: “I don’t care if it’s what he wants! Let’s just get the damn thing and get out of here.”

Why am I not an on-line shopper? The descriptive abilities of my talking computer are limited, so I like to feel the gift. And now I’m ready, gifts in mind and plastic in pocket and after all is said and done could there be any better ending to the Christmas shopping ordeal than those magical words : “Would you like it giftwrapped?”

Sink or Swim

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Regardless of age, taking on something new in life begins with the desire to do so. Then, get up off your heinie and go do it!

 Anybody can swim. Right?

 I’ve always liked mucking about in water and I can sort of swim. ‘Sort of’ meaning I never mastered the art of breathing. Breathing: kind of an important function. I can hold my breath for an eternity, but eventually I have to crack the surface to grab some air.

I wanted to change this. I wanted to learn how to swim-breathe properly.

I wondered if gill implants were an option or one of those porpoise blowhole things.  I needed help. Professional help.

 I turned to family and friends, to strangers on the street and to them I wailed, “Who can teach me to swim?”

“I could teach you,” said Tom, gym buddy-friend- Aquatic Club Head Coach.

 Secretly, I wondered if this guy was any good.

 I was feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious  that first lesson parading out onto the pool deck. Questions splashed through my mind. Was I wearing the right kind of designer swimsuit? How was my hair? Was my stomach flat enough? (Let’s just forget about firm enough.) Serious concerns. And I hoped my first lesson wasn’t going to see me wearing a pair of pink water wings and blowing bubbles in the shallow end with a cluster of five-year old kids.

 Tom began with, “Let’s just do some simple floating.”

 Float? Simple? Who could possibly flunk floating? My Scottish Mum could float. But all women seem to have the body assemblage that encourages floating. The Scottish guys I know (I include myself), our body shape does not compliment the act of floating . . . or swimming. Where’s our incentive to accomplish either? Even in July the water temperatures surrounding Scotland range from chilly to frosty. And if you are stupid enough to take the frigid plunge, the whole time you are frolicking you have to be aware that at any second the jaws of Nessie might close upon you. But what we Scottish men can do well, is sink.

I sink very, very well. Tom thinks it’s just a natural gift. In a race to the bottom I would have beaten the Titanic.

 Swimming in a straight line is proving to be my major challenge. I know the idea is swim from here to there and come back. Pretty simple. I start from here and then veer off into some sort of scenic route, often ripping my knuckles open against the metal bulkhead or entangling myself in the buoy lines. Lifeguards have had to cut me free twice. Tom thinks it’s a blind thing. I think I need a swimsuit with GPS.

 I don’t see swimming the English Channel anytime soon, but with Tom’s guidance, I’ll doggedly keep kicking, improving my swim stroke and most importantly, I’ll keep breathing.

I’ll just keep on breathing.