'Twas the day before the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature is stirring except the hyper-procrastinators who are hyperventilating because they forgot to get something for a faraway dear one.
Don't give up. There are options, even at this late date.
* The post office and some shipping companies deliver on the big day, for a premium.
* Store delivery is sometimes available, but you have to hunt it down.
* Finally, through the modern miracle of e-commerce, it's possible to get a gift certificate across the country -- or even around the world -- in minutes, although it won't be as personal as a new tie (and that could be a good thing).
If all fails, take comfort in remembering that even the three kings were late with their presents.
Most people don't realize that the U.S. Postal Service delivers mail every day of the year.
Overnight Express Mail, which costs a minimum of $16.25, goes to homes even on Sundays and holidays. Christmas delivery is no exception, except that there's a major asterisk: no guarantee.
"For a guarantee that the package would be there on Christmas, you had to get it to the post office by Dec. 22," spokeswoman Joanne Veto said.
Still, there's a glimmer of hope that an Express Mail package sent today or even Monday will make it.
"If you're in Los Angeles and want to send a package elsewhere in Los Angeles, the prospects are pretty good," Veto said. "Beyond that, you have a chance but no guarantee."
To get an Express Mail package started on its journey today, you could go to the Airport Station post office near Los Angeles International Airport. It's one of the few postal service branches in the country with Sunday hours.
The address is 9029 Airport Blvd., Los Angeles, and it's open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
If you go to a post office Monday, you probably won't have to fight crowds. But don't wait until the end of the day.
"It's usually very quiet on Christmas Eve day," postal service spokesman Larry Dozier said. "In fact, some branches will close early."
A branch might close at 3 p.m. or even before.
"Rushing to the post office and finding out it's closed is just another aggravation you don't need," Veto said. "Get there in the morning."
Like a mantra, she repeated the warning that there was no guarantee that an Express Mail package would arrive on Christmas.
"That's really late," she said. "Your grandmother or your aunt will be really mad at you."
Unless you have a lot of money.
United Parcel Service and DHL both have same-day services that will deliver on Christmas Day. But there are some conditions, in addition to hefty fees.
To get something to a distant city on a holiday, these delivery companies would normally use commercial airlines. "We get it on the next flight out, in the U.S. or international," DHL spokesman Robert Mintz said.
But because of increased security since the 9/11 terrorism attacks, airlines can accept parcels only from companies in the "known shipper" database maintained by the Transportation Security Administration.
If you're authorized to send packages in the name of one of those companies, the delivery service will get a 3-pound package, for example, door-to-door from Los Angeles to New York for $199.06. The package has to be in DHL's hands by about 6 a.m.
If you're not "known," DHL has a same-day ground service that operates year-round. But in addition to being much more limited in the distance it can cover, it's a lot more expensive. That same 3-pound package going from Los Angeles to San Francisco would cost more than $1,000 to ship.
Still, that's not the most expensive same-day option.
"If you're Daddy Warbucks and price is no object," UPS spokesman Dan McMackin said, "we can charter a plane for you." Minimum price: $10,000.
If you're just sending a tie, it's probably not worth it.
An FTD-associated floral shop will do a same-day delivery in a distant city on Christmas Eve day, according to the company. But the delivery fee -- usually about $15 -- probably will get bumped up by a few dollars.
On the company site, several nonfloral gifts are listed as available, mostly in the chocolate or balloon families. Until you actually try to place an online order, however, you won't know if a particular item is available in the recipient's city.
Another way to go is to contact a shop frequented by the person getting the gift.
"You might be able to call them, even at the last minute," said Lauren Freedman, president of researcher E-tailing Group. "See if they will do you a favor and drop something off if it's not too far away."
If you speak to someone at the shop who knows the gift recipient's tastes, you might be able to get something he or she would particularly appreciate.
It's likely that this would work only with a small store that's not part of a big chain.
"Then you have a better chance to get old-fashioned, personal service," Freedman said.