Written by Tom Deighan, LPS Superintendent
They appear in late October, clog the aisles by mid-December and clutter the clearance shelves by early January. No Christmas season would be complete without these strange gifts for that special someone who is a Christmas gift-giving mystery. My favorite Christmas gadget gift is the shaver/groomer/nose-hair trimmer, an elaborate device designed to discreetly let the special man your life know his nostrils look like unexplored jungle caves (I assure you, the other attachments are useless). I also love miniature appliances like tiny slow cookers that can simmer half a serving of soup for twelve hours or the mini-choppers that require pre-diced vegetables to fit them inside the dicer. The best gadget gifts, however, combine several useful items into one “convenient” package that renders every single item completely useless, the Christmas versions of Swiss Army Knives. I have invented one myself, the humidifryer, which conveniently combines a room humidifier with a vegetable steamer. I am still working on the name, but I am eagerly seeking investors.
This entire Christmas gift gadget industry is built around two huge challenges: gifts for men and gifts from men. The gadgets designed as gifts for men are founded on the myth that men are hard to buy gifts for, but honestly, we are not that complicated. We have three main categories of items we want for Christmas: 1. Items so ridiculously expensive that no one takes us seriously, like jet boats and fully restored muscle cars. 2. Items too dangerous to trust us with (generally requiring a helmet and/or eye protection). 3. Items we are embarrassed to ask for as grown men: nunchakus. Everything else we want we already own or can borrow from a buddy. The Christmas gifts that make men happiest generally make no sense to the women in our lives – gift cards for stuff like gas, fast-food, or car washes. Trust me, nothing makes the average dad happier than a twenty-dollar gift card for stuff he already has to buy.
Most other Christmas gadget gifts assume men do not know what the women in their lives want. On the contrary, we men fully understand what our daughters and wives desire, but the subtle nuances of those gifts confuse us as much as the local paint counter. There are too many seemingly identical options for a man to navigate, even with explicit instructions. One tiny detail can forever relegate a well-planned gift for “special occasions” that never seem to roll around, so we fear ruining Christmas without knowing why or how. Christmas gadgets are safe, go-to options for man-gifts and man-giving. Hence, our homes fill up shiatsu foot massagers, food dehydrators, and cordless multi-tools that never get used. The whole cycle is overwhelming for a holiday-challenged man like myself, and I do believe this phenomenon explains Scrooges and Grinches. They do not hate Christmas, they are just men befuddled by the whole process. Fortunately, my wonderful wife and exceptional daughters simplify gift-giving to the point of “push this button,” saving me from all the commercialized angst and them from terrible gifts (mostly).
Being a school superintendent is the other blessing saving me from being a humbug, for this is my favorite time of the year to visit schools. I see children joyfully creating ornaments and artwork to bring home. I hear dozens of renditions of slightly off-key Christmas carols, and when I am extra lucky, I get to catch a portion of a Christmas play in which every child has a part, no matter how many reindeer horns we need to make. It is the most joyful time of the year in a public school district, and not a gadget in sight! It is enough to keep an old scrooge like me on the merry side of Christmas. I sincerely wish all my students and staff a Merry Christmas, for each year, you remind me how blessed I am. God bless you all.