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Rapping the Gifts : After Years on the Receiving End, a Man Makes His Presents Known

June 18, 1989|JACK SMITH

AS A MAN who has almost everything, I have decided that I don't want anything more.

I may not have quite everything, but I certainly have everything that I want.

I am making this position public because I want to impress its seriousness upon all of my loved ones--especially my wife.

She likes to buy things for me that she thinks I need. She is convinced that (1) I don't know what I need, (2) I'm too shiftless to buy it for myself, or (3) I'm too cheap.

Consequently, I own a stationary bicycle that remains exactly that: stationary.

By design, it not only does not move from place to place, but its pedals never turn. I tried working them once or twice, but I found the exercise too boring.

Then my wife bought me a small color television set that I could watch while exercising.

I found nothing to watch during my exercise hour but cartoons and boring variety shows.

The television set now sits at the end of the kitchen counter. If I happen to be watching a sex-and-violence movie in the living room while my wife is preparing dinner, she watches the same show on the kitchen TV set. That way she keeps apace with my cultural enlightenment.

When I complained of being bored while working out on the rowing machine on my three mornings a week at the gym, she bought me a compact disc player and a clutch of discs. It worked fine for a while. I listened to Beethoven and Mozart while I imagined I was rowing across the Hellespont.

Then my instructor took me off the rowing machine and put me on the treadmill. It is not practical to listen to a CD player while walking on the treadmill. So my wife bought me one of those little radios that is concealed in a set of headphones.

I found the tuning knob too tiny to turn with accuracy, but by chance I got it fixed on KFAC and enjoyed classical music for a while. But I left it on between visits and the battery is dead. I haven't had enough desire to buy a new one.

Some years ago, she bought me a telescope, which I suspect was expensive. One night, from our house in Baja, I saw Saturn, with its rings, through it. I was thrilled. However, I have never found Saturn again, and the telescope sits unused.

Once or twice I tried focusing it on the windows of our neighbors' houses across the canyon, but I felt guilty about that and gave it up.

My wife's most recent gift to me was a fax machine.

As I foresaw, it has been of little use, though I was thrilled one morning to see that David Hockney was sending me copies of some of his work.

A few times I have received material from The Times' library, but I would say the fax is not paying for itself. The only communication I've received in weeks is an ad from some fax repair and supply company.

Just the other day, the United Parcel Service man brought a large package that turned out to be a machine that I can pedal to exercise my legs while I'm working at my computer or watching television. Unfortunately, it came unassembled.

Long ago, after a frustrating three hours trying to put a microwave stand together, I swore never to assemble anything ever again. Selling things unassembled ought to be against the law. The next thing you know they'll be selling us cars in a carton with a screwdriver and a wrench and a set of directions written in "Japanenglish."

I live in constant anxiety that my wife is going to buy me something else. What's left? All I can think of is a telephone for my car.

Of all the things I don't want, a telephone for my car would come first. I think the idea of making telephone calls while you're driving on the freeway is insane. And the idea of receiving telephone calls while you're driving on the freeway is worse. Driving on the freeway is stressful enough without holding a conversation with someone who isn't there.

But who knows? Maybe when I retire, I can watch the neighbors through my telescope while I'm using the pedaling machine to exercise my legs--if I can get my wife to assemble it.

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