Opinion: Give the gift of Blocky this Christmas

Columnist Eric Welsh says it’s time to simplify Christmas shopping and step away from tech.

Christmas shopping is the worst.

Navigating crowded parking lots and stores is enough to give a guy PTSD, and trying to find that ‘perfect gift’ is a near impossible task.

It occurred to me last year that I should buy my wife a car.

I assume this is something many people do because every TV commercial I’ve seen since late August has someone in their driveway on Christmas morning, smiling happily at a new luxury SUV with a massive bow on it.

And if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that life as portrayed in commercials is 100 per cent accurate.

But giving someone a luxury SUV is not as easy as it looks.

First off, where does one find a massive bow, and how do they get it to look so good on TV? I found material at a local fabric store and tried to duplicate the process on my distinctly non-luxury vehicle. It looked like I’d tied it blind, with my left hand, after consuming 15 pots of coffee.

Not good.

I thought about going with simple wrapping paper instead, but that was a touch pricey. I calculated needing 62 rolls to fully cover an average-sized vehicle, plus 134 rolls of tape.

Someone suggested getting the big roll from Costco, and it’s true, you could wrap a battleship with that much paper.

But, I also calculated it would take nine hours to do it.

The final hurdle was the vehicle cost. I had my eye on something with a sticker price of $54,000, which was $53,997 above my budget, so I moved on to the next best thing.

On Christmas morning I put a tiny bow on a Hot Wheels version of that SUV and presented it to Mrs. Welshy.

She looked at it curiously for a moment, then suddenly got really excited and bolted out the door into the driveway. No doubt, she was looking to show all her friends my thoughtful gift. She came in moments later with a profoundly disappointed look on her face, and I can only assume her friends were all inside.

Shopping for kids is just as challenging. Over the years I’ve bought many things that seemed great on the surface, but ended up being giant headaches.

There was a dollhouse that took five days and assistance from an engineering firm to assemble.

There was the drone for my daughter. It never did fly in a straight line and we couldn’t figure out how to land it. We took it out to a field in Promontory, sent it up into the blue sky and last we saw, it was cresting the snow-covered peak of a nearby mountain, heading towards Bellingham.

As I watched it go, I swore (loudly and colorfully) that I would simplify future Christmas gifts, and go back to a simpler time.

The best gift I ever got was a wooden block. I called it ‘Blocky.’

It was about eight inches long and four inches wide and it did everything. Most of the time it was a heroic robot, fighting for the freedom of all sentient beings.

I called it ‘Optimus Block.’

My son says it should have been ‘Blocktimus Prime.’

At various times it was a car, boat, airplane and spaceship.

It was briefly a football too, until little Johnny Doogin clumsily missed a perfect pass from me and ‘Blocky’ smacked him in the forehead. The concussion was serious and if you look closely, you can still see a rectangular indentation above his right eyebrow.

‘Blocky’ was a treasured friend. I used to go to bed with him resting by my pillow every night. That had to stop when I kept rolling over onto ‘Blocky’ and waking up with horrible neck pain, but still, no toy ever brought a boy more joy.

Both my kids are getting ‘Blocky’ this Christmas, and I’m certain they’ll be much happier that they’d be with a smartphone or Nintendo Switch.

I’ll be much happier too.

One word of caution though. If you want to get your child a ‘Blocky’ of his or her own, make sure you sand it down first, because nothing spoils Christmas quicker than a trip to the ER with a three-inch splinter.


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