Holiday shopping. It’s a curse. For eons, people have had to get in cars or carriages, and journey around to retail establishments, agonizing over displays of gloves, underwear, pajamas, baby dolls and dreidels. It was exhausting, and somehow there was never just the “perfect” gift awaiting. 

I am not sure who got the brilliant idea for retailing via the post office. I am also not sure when the catalog was invented. But I am almost certain that Mr. Hammacher and Mr. Schlemmer were involved. Or it might have been Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck. No matter. The result has been the liberation of the shopper. Add in Al Gore’s invention of the internet, and we shoppers are now thrilled and delighted that we can do every bit of our gift buying without changing into street clothes and leaving our laptops. 

This year, I spent a delightful afternoon with my coffee, my flannels, a little plate of triscuits, and a stack of catalogs. I looked at athletic gear, assorted bird feeders and wind chimes, holiday cashmeres, and glittery cosmetics. None of this is surprising. But there are things you can get from a catalog that threw me for a loop. If you have not had the time to go through your stack of catalogs,  I will save you a little time and issue this holiday retail report

The Vermont Country store now sells vibrators. Really! Old Mrs. Orton died, and the young Orton boys must have seen an unfilled niche, and they jumped on it! Now, along with your arthritis liniment, wool legwarmers, flannel nightshirts and licorice, you can buy sex toys geared for the senior set. I was tempted also by the “stimulating lotion” that they say “enhances life in the bedroom.” I passed, however, and went ahead and ordered some Tangee lipstick and a can of creamed chicken.

 The Sharper Image is for those who are dazzled by technology, I guess. There are robots that dust and vacuum. For those avid sports fans, there is a completely heated jacket. For a couple of thousand dollars, there is a Shiatsu massage chair that has been approved by the American Chiropractic Association. My favorite item, however, is the handsome fountain pen that is actually a video camera. Now you can video tape the people at Starbucks as you pretend to be writing a novel. I have never WANTED to watch a video of people drinking coffee, but perhaps somebody out there does.  If you want to get just the right gift for your teenager, you can send him/her to “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp” for only $7000. That’s right. It’s a small price to pay to get rid of Junior and his tattoos for a week. 

But the catalog that packs the most bang for the holiday buck, in my view, is the Hammacher and Schlemmer holiday edition. They appeal to all ages from babies to Boomers.  For only around $500, I can get GPS ski goggles. These  must be aimed at the aging athletes who insist on going out on the slopes but forget how to get down the hill and back to the lodge. There is also a similar GPSlike device that one can strap on a wrist to find fish. I can’t speak for anglers, but I thought that half the fun of fishing is guessing where those little devils are and if one might bite. For the children, there is a remote controlled tarantula. But my favorite is the “year round sled” that has some sort of frozen apparatus on the bottom which allows the kiddies to careen down hills and crash into trees or oncoming traffic YEAR ROUND. It is under $100, so it can fit into many holiday budgets. 

So I got all my shopping done in one afternoon without leaving the privacy of my own home. I bought presents for everyone on my list before I even finished my coffee. But my most exciting discovery?  For my son in law, I found the perfect gift from the messrs. Hammacher and Sclemmer: 

The Pump Action Automatic Burp Gun.

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