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I Want One. What Is It?

November 26, 2000|MIKE DOWNEY

Holiday shopping began in earnest on the morning after Thanksgiving. At least one popular toy store opened its doors Friday as early as 5 a.m., a time when even the eyes of Barbie and G.I. Joe are bloodshot.

It's important not to waste time, particularly if Junior is already warning Mommy and Daddy that if he doesn't get that Sony PlayStation II he wants, he'll be moving to Alaska by himself in January, to be raised by wolves.

We've hardly digested our yams and already we're out buying gifts.

I pride myself as being an above-average holiday shopper. I don't care if it's Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, I can shop, wrap and ship it to you whenever and wherever your gift needs arise.

If there's a cutting-edge gift item, novelty or luxury, I'm usually right on top of the situation. Children could count on me if, say, Mattel were to manufacture a limited number of Florida Secretary of State Barbies, or Overseas Military Absentee Voter Joes.

But for once I'm having a few problems.

I did what many a shopper did over Thanksgiving--scanned all of the advertisements in my morning newspaper. It was time to cram for my first foray of the holiday season into that wondrous Whoville-like world of merchants and malls.

(Others among you may rely on television commercials, but TV can be confusing, especially since virtually every commercial features the same person: Howie Long.)

Leafing through my paper, I circle the print ads, keeping track of holiday gift ideas and bargains.

Yet the more ads I see, the more goods I find that are completely and utterly baffling to me.

It makes me eager to go out and buy some of this stuff, if only so I could figure out exactly what it is.


Let me give you some examples of what I mean.

I enjoy looking at a full-page advertisement for Lowe's home improvement warehouses, which to the best of my knowledge is a first-rate chain of stores carrying useful products for your house and family. Tools, ladders, electrical cords--you need it, Lowe's strikes me as a fine place to find it.

And then I read:

"Special Buy: Save $.99 (Was $4.96), $3.97 for 500 Pack, Cable Tie Jar. Contains 200 4", 100 5.6" and 200 7.5" natural cable ties."

Well, I'll bet this is a swell deal. For all I know, thousands of customers will line up outside Lowe's first thing in the morning, simply to take advantage of this sale.

I just don't know what cable ties are. And this worries me, because it's entirely possible that I am the only living soul in California who doesn't know what cable ties are. And here they are, marked down to $3.97, and I'll probably miss out.

Or take the big "Super Sale" going on at Big 5 sporting goods stores.

Binoculars, scooters, skates--top-of-the-line recreational products, at reasonable prices. I circle several.

But then I notice:

"Dragon Fire 'Vulcan' Paintball Marker, 12 Gram CO2 Powered, $19.99, reg. $29.99." (Next to a picture of a dark handgun with a pink barrel.)

Man, am I out of touch. What is a paintball marker? Do people paint with paintballs now? Do people shoot other people with paint? Can you shoot paint without a license? Is pink paint permanent?

Miller Toyota and Miller Honda, of Culver City, sell excellent cars, of that I'm sure. Therefore I am happy to check out their new models.

"New 2000 CRV EX AWD," a large ad reads.

Look, it's just me, I know. But I've heard of Corollas, Camrys, 4Runners, Accords--fine automobiles all. I just don't have a clue what a CRV EX AWD is.

Bloomingdale's has coats. Attractive coats, worn by attractive models.

"Natural mink," an ad reads, "in scanbrown or scanblack."

Hmmm. It's $5,750, but regularly $10,000, so it must be quite nice. If I had $5,750 to spend, maybe I'd buy somebody one. But what is scanbrown? Is scanbrown superior to regular brown? Or to, say, burnt sienna?


L'Occitane en Provence is selling "Shea Butter." I bet it's good. It contains "marvelous virtues for the skin and hair." I think I'll try some. Do you wash your face and shampoo with it?

Fry's Electronics has a "3.7 Interpolated Mega Pixel Digital Still Camera With Memory Stick" for $899. I want one. What is it?

Tower Records has a sale on CDs by artists like Weezer, Shawn Mullins and Guru's Jazzmatazz. I want one of each. Who are they?

Busy Body fitness stores have "Ellipticals, starting at $559." I'll take two. My ellipticals probably need work.

Macy's is selling "HoMedics AquaScape relaxation lights." I need to relax. Lights might help.

This year, I've made up my mind that every holiday gift I buy is going to be something that I've never bought before.

But boy, are friends going to be surprised when I drive up in my CRV EX AWD with a paintball gun full of scanbrown Shea Butter.


Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to: Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. E-mail:

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