Super Saver Christmas

You don’t really realize how addicted you have become to the electronic age until you detach from it.

We are so accustomed to sending e-mails, text messages and such and receiving instant replies, we are spoiled. All our news is but a mouse click away, as well as our communities of friends and like-minded persons.

But as I was searching for a design for a suitable wooden skiff to build this winter, I came across a Web site with several that I was very interested in.

Turns out, the designer is in Oregon and only lists a few boats, but he did have a brochure or catalogue of his entire portfolio.

Trouble is, you can only get it by regular mail, what is ungraciously called “snail mail” today.

Since I was interested enough in his work, I made out a check for twelve bucks and put it in the mail.

First of all, I was not thinking correctly. After three days, I started checking the mailbox. No catalogue. A week passed, still nothing.

Finally, it was one of those forehead-slapping moments: Well, of course, dummy…you sent it snail mail.

I find the term distasteful and impolite to postal employees, so try not to use it except for such occasions where I have to make a point. I checked my mailbox every day, and in two weeks, I got my catalogue.

Interestingly enough, the check had not yet cleared the bank. But I had my catalogue and, as it happens, found a design or two I like very much.

But it all put me in mind of our hustle-bustle world. If you go on a certain mega-retailer’s Web site, you will see notes on item pages that proclaim “Order today and get it before Dec. 24!” Or, you can qualify for “Free Super Saver Shipping” which I assume means your order will be transported and delivered by canoe, raft, mule, pogo stick or at best, scooter.

I remember when I was a kid I would order stuff out of the back of comic books. I can’t really remember what, but I do remember doing it. I actually mailed cash, and got the stuff I ordered. Try that today. Once, though, I tried to mail a few coins in change, and was severely scolded by the postman. What, I was supposed to know that at eight?

One of the disadvantages of a) living in a small town and b) having friends with unusual tastes, is that I can’t find b) anywhere in a) half the time.

You can find pretty much anything you want on the Internet. You’d be amazed the things I’ve found online. I bought my 1957 Mercury Mark 55 outboard motor on Ebay, and it came from Wisconsin. The steering cables came from Georgia, the shifter from Pennsylvania and a replacement aluminum wrap-around cowling from Michigan. Lots of trouble? Yes, but on my classic runabout replica, it looks like it belongs there.

On the one hand, online sales are a deathblow to local businesses. On the other, it broadens and augments the locals who can’t possibly handle everything. For instance, the plans for the boat I’ll build may have been located online and purchased from Oregon, but I’ll buy the materials locally. I wouldn’t have bought anything at all, if I hadn’t been able to locate plans.

Which brings me to Christmas.

I think Christmas wouldn’t have become so commercial if it weren’t for online retailing. See, I think that all this point-and-click ordering of Christmas gifts takes away something very important to the season: Shopping.

When you’re shopping, you run into friends. You chat with people. You overhear gossip, sometimes really juicy gossip! You find out how folks are doing, what car they’re driving now, who’s fooling around with who, who had a baby, who got divorced. You can see how much hair I’ve lost at the top since last Christmas. You can learn that Main Street has been paved, and Franklin is still the parish seat, though nobody else seems to notice.

Online purchasing has made Christmas commercial. Not that it wasn’t heading that way already, but you still had to walk to your local B&M. That’s online talk for a “brick and mortar” or, in plain English, a store that actually exists in something other than binary.

I could fuss about not being able to get stuff that isn’t available locally, but you know, I lived without all those things for many years. Oh, don’t mistake me: I’m as guilty as the next guy, but at least I make an effort to find some things locally. Of the Christmas gifts on my list this year, two were cash for my boys, four were purchased locally and four online. I am therefore moderately commercialized and moderately traditional.

Y’all have a Merry Christmas, hear?

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