It’s that time of year again. The annual gift exchange at work. This year, we’ve decided to draw names. And that’s good. I guess. The ‘good’ is that I only have to buy for one person as opposed to other years, where I bought a millionty presents.
The ‘I guess’ is because, frankly, I used to get a millionty presents.

And don’t go all “spirit of the season” on me here. We all know that Christmas at home is a whirlwind of activity in which you are in charge of the gift buying, gift wrapping, gift shipping, house decorating, baking, cooking, and keeping up with the kids and stopping them from killing each other for the three weeks they are out of school. When you do sit down to open your presents (usually last, and usually after you’ve assembled or put batteries in several toys), they consist of (a) stuff you pointed out and said “I’d better get that” to certain people, and (b) stuff that your family bought on their own when they should have just stopped at (a). So the “work haul” was the motherlode. Particularly when folks tried to outdo each other in the area of giftgiving. Ah, yes, the sweet, sweet smell of gift-wrapped angst.

But this got me thinking about prior gift exchanges. Gift exchanges that went terribly, terribly wrong. I remember one in particular. It was a large office, where I supervised about twenty-five people. We elected to draw names, but some of us didn’t know each other all that well. So we just decided to have a “throw-it-up-on-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks” mentality about the whole affair and hopefully have fun in the process. Everyone was encouraged to make a list of certain items they might like to receive, and a price limit was set ($30), agreed upon by the majority of folks. We were off and running.

The day of the gift exchange, we all sat in a circle, fueled by onion dip and party sandwiches, and commenced to givin’. So we got to one girl, who announced to her recipient that “you put a bottle of cologne on your list that was $30, but with tax, it came to $32.50, so I need you to pay me back the $2.50.”

Oh yes she did.

We got to the next gift. One of the employees received a sweater. Instead of putting it aside and discreetly getting rid of it later, she announced that “oh, this sweater is just not me…I’m going to have to give this to my sister.”

You have reached the Department of Tact. Can you hold one moment, please?

At a family gift exchange, usually referred to as a White Elephant exchange (where you bring a generic gift, then you do the one-at-a-time thing where you are able to ‘steal’ another already opened gift or choose one from the pile), an uncle unwrapped his gift, looked at it disgustedly, declared, “aw, sh*t!” and walked away.

Then there was the gift exchange in the dorm one year. We drew names with the entire floor and dropped off “Secret Santa” treats for a few days prior to the big gift exchange. One girl never got any Secret Santa treats, so she was expecting a big old present come the Christmas party. We got college t-shirts, funky pieces of jewelry, baskets of really great munchies. She didn’t.

She got a coconut.

Please tell me I’m not going to regret this.

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