December 21st, 2008

Sly: Bentley Writing

Christmas Essay 2008: Wrapping Paper Odyssey

It's a personal tradition to write a little piece each Christmas. Here's this year's holiday reflection... extra-reflective, too.

Wrapping Paper Odyssey

I was doing the grocery shopping when I got shinied. Shiny wrapping paper, four rolls of it with matching bows, bundled together in a pack and priced to move.

One of our family's Christmas traditions is that I wrap the presents with the exception of my own. (Though one year, I think that I was handed my present packed in a brown cardboard box and asked to wrap it.) This isn't so one-sided as it might sound. I don't mind present wrapping and I evidently take more of an interest in it than most of my kin. I care about the corners being neat and crisp. By dint of the fact that I'm the only one that cares, I end up taking over that role.

It also occured to me, as I stood at the end of the grocery aisle looking at the special bin, that we didn't have wrapping supplies at home though we did have presents waiting to be wrapped. Plus, this paper was shiny. That sealed the deal.

I scurried home and began the wrapping ritual. That was when I first discovered the problem with this wrapping "paper" that I'd purchased. Perhaps you've been lured by the shinyness and also made this discovery. It turns out that this stuff isn't paper but is instead some stange amalgam of metal, plastic, and pure evil.

It didn't fold. I don't mean that it was unbendable but that it didn't fold properly, as one requires for present wrapping duties. You could not leave a crease in this stuff though it'll wrinkle if you breathe on it. You cannot form good corners with it. Since it refuses to hold its position, you have to pin one edge down, fold the other pieces across, and then (with your third or fourth hand) rush to tape it down before it slips away from you.

I got frustrated and crumpled up a piece that I'd botched because the tape hit it a moment too late and, of course, peeled away the design printing as I tried to remove it. I missed when I threw the crumpled ball at the trash can and it landed on the floor. I watched in fascinated horror as the thing began to unfold itself, crinkling and snapping as the plasticy surface moved. With a few more twists, it had rolled over and completely unfolded into a flat though wrinkled sheet, making a mockery of the whole present-wrapping tradition that I hold dear.

Who would produce something like this? My only guess is that some corporate conglomerate found a way to print metallic effects on this plastic film and it was one cent cheaper than printing wrapping paper in the usual way, so they leaped on it and damn the traditions or its suitability as a product. Christmas supplies are a profitable market segment!

After wrestling with the evil for a few packages, I told my wife that we'd need to go back out and buy some proper supplies. (Despite this, she later went in to wrap my present, went "Shiny!", and also was less than impressed by the result.) The local drugstore had an aisle full of papery paper in various designs. Despite my interest in proper wrapping, the paper design has never been something I've been obsessed about.

My criteria are, in order of importance, that the wrapping paper fulfill its function (and this is where I was bamboozled by the shinies), that it be economical, and that it feature rodents. This last one is peculiar to my own tastes, as you might've guessed, but it's very useful as a tiebreaker for otherwise fungible purchases. And I did find some wrapping paper featuring mice. ("And not a creature was stirring," you see.)

As a final thought, I want to share an idea I came up with for wrapping paper. I had several books to wrap this year, some for kids. It occured to me that you could have some fun with this, especially since it's pretty obvious that it's a book unless you go to great pains to hide it.

They should make wrapping paper that looks like the cover of math textbooks. Just to mess with the kids a bit. They could have a handful of books under the tree that all looked like "Advanced Algebra for Insomniacs" or something. Heck, I'd buy a roll of that, even if there wasn't a way to incorporate rodents into the design. ("Gerbil Geometry"? "Capybara Calculus"?)

Let me add a qualification: I'd buy it as long as it's not that plastic foil again. My new wrapping paper rule. That stuff is not going to become a part of my Christmas tradition, even if the holidays are less shiny for it.
MST3K: Merry!



The dramatic survival tale soon to become a major motion picture

Dec 20th
Snow began to fall last night in gentle, steady, innocent-looking flurries amid an evening of Christmas cheer. During the night it silently piled up, slowly building up towards the windows inch by inch. By morning, it had accumulated to almost seven inches which was still well short of the windows but a noble effort by the snow gods (Shiverus and Frostico).

Dec 21st, 7:48am
We woke up to find that the power was out. We were able to determine the time only by observing the angle of the shadow on a stick poking up through the snow outside the window next to Beth's fully-charged cellphone. She'd been up earlier and recalled seeing "7:35" on the clock, so power had not been out too long and there was no imminent danger of having to resort to cannibalism.

Snow was still falling. The outside paths were entirely obscured. There's discussion about whether it'll be possible to trek overland and try to locate civilization, such as a piece of civilization labeled "Starbucks." It was just possible that there were still islands of survivors out there who had stores of food and caffeine. Early reports of gnaw marks on my ankles turned out to be a false alarm and were only grooves caused by tight socks.

No signs of frost in the bedroom yet. Fortunately, I'd spent several hours last night sewing survival curtains designed to help keep heat in the room as well as providing snazzy wine-colored drapes, properly lined, hung on a decorative bar over our previously-bare window. The bedroom looked a lot better. And it was warmer, of course.

We took stock of our situation. The previous evening we'd wisely filled a pot with water (though our water was still running), put aside a pile of candles (in case we wanted the excitement of open flames near a toddler), and we'd baked emergency survival apple pies (far better than just having apples, really). It appeared there was no need to resort to cannibalism; the barbecue sauce was returned to the pantry cupboard.

Since we were well-prepared to weather the storm, the power came back on. Damn.

We're still trapped by the snow. Caught in the iron grip of winter, we are unable to leave the house and must resort to sitting around eating bacon and omelets while watching "The Muppet Show". It will be hard but we will survive. The holidays will happen and, oh yes, we will be merry.

(With apologies to anyone who is actually in a bad situation, snow-wise. I'm just amused about the local freaking out that happened. The grocery store yesterday was completely nuts. It's like there's seasonal amnesia and we forget that there will be winter storms.)