I was there trying to buy thank you gifts for the people who gave us congratulations money for Meg starting school. That's right, they give us money and then we buy them a gift. Crazy huh?
It's all so ritualised, too.
You get a set amount of money depending on whether the person doing the giving has the same surname as you, is your immediate neighbour or just a neighbour.
Then you take half the money you received and use it to buy a thank you gift (from the non-department store store.)
The gift is traditionally towels. More specifically, a set of two hand towels.
So, I headed off to the store thinking this would be a pretty simple shopping expedition- I knew what to buy, where to buy it and how much to spend- what could be simpler, right?
The return gift towel section (yup there is a whole section) doesn't sell towel sets. You have to choose your towels and have them boxed up into sets. And there are sooo many towels to choose from. Seriously. Floral? Striped? Plain? Embellished with ribbons? Glitter? Embroidery? Th choice is yours. And they come in every colour of the rainbow as well.
I'm overwhelmed by the choice and panicky about making a mistake. Is there some kind of towel language I should know about? Are solemn colours for illness money return gifts? Cute characters for birth money return gifts? Do you give towels representing what you're returning (from a 6 year old girl so something colourful and fun?) or who you're giving to (older couples so something elegant?)
Does it really matter?
I call K.
I am sure K is going to say "it doesn't matter, go with whatever." I am sure of that as that is his answer to most of my social protocol dilemmas.
He's often wrong.
Why do I still want to ask his opinion then? To halve the responsibility!
It doesn't matter in the end anyway as he doesn't answer his phone. (As an aside, who else would love a device that gave husbands a small [safe of course] electric shock if he didn't answer his phone after ooooh seventeen or so rings? Seriously. I'd pay good money for one of those!)
Anyway, after another 10 minutes wandering through the aisles of towel splendiferousness, getting ever more towelled out and calling K another three times I threw in the towel (ha ha!) and went for a tasteful, elegant yet sprinkled with cute flowers set of one blue and one white towel for each neighbour.
Took them to the register, wrote Meg's name down for the saleswoman to print off a special paper covering for the blue and white wrapped be-paperbagged boxed and folded just so towels. Phew.
From the time I handed my purchases to the assistant till the time I received everything was a full 15 minutes.
15 minutes of my life I'll never get back.
And we still have to go around the neighbourhood and deliver them.
Wouldn't it be nice if everyone who gave us money only gave us half from the very beginning and then said 'don't worry about the returnee gift.' I wouldn't have to go through this ridiculous towel circus and they would avoid getting - yet another set of- overpriced and over fancy towels.
Bah humbug. I'm such a gift grinch.