There are two ways to buy someone a Chanukah present:
- Ask them point-blank what they need.
- Take a wild guess and hope they like it.
Asking them point-blank is no fun. There’s no surprise. “Hey, you got me that thing that I found and sent you a link to! Thank you for paying for it, I guess, and also for holding on to it for several weeks until Chanukah!”
That leaves the guessing option. With guessing, most of the time you’re going to end up buying something they already have or something they really don’t want. And then they have literally one second to get used to the idea that this item is now in their lives. For example, you can say, “This guy likes jokes. Let’s get him a funny mug.” But he doesn’t like all jokes. And he doesn’t find your mug funny, plus he already has a mug, and now he has to drink from yours even though it has a joke he doesn’t stand behind that other people will now think he thinks is funny. And also maybe he’s an English teacher and the joke on the mug is grammatically incorrect. I am not talking about me. This is an example.
I think all of this is the real reason some people don’t give Chanukah presents. Because it’s not like they’re showering everyone with gifts the rest of the year either.
Maybe you would be better off having someone who doesn’t know your recipient at all picking a gift for you to get him or her. I can’t do any worse than you. And that way you can say up-front that the present wasn’t your idea, and if they don’t immediately light up, you can say, “That’s OK; I’m not offended. I got the idea from a humor column.”
So here’s a short list of actual items that will be perfect for anyone on your list, at least as a conversation piece:
For people who love to sleep: The Hoodie Pillow (hoodiepillow.com, $30).
This is a pillowcase that looks exactly like a pillowcase that normal humans would use, except that on the front of it, there’s a hood with a drawstring. At least we assume that’s the front of it.
This is useful in case, for example, you don’t want to get up to turn off the light. Or if your head is cold but nothing else is. Or if you’re sleeping in a sukkah and it starts raining. Now you can just stay in bed!
This gift is great for the person on your list who keeps losing his yarmulke in the middle of the night. Or who doesn’t want to take his head off the pillow in the morning. Now they don’t have to!
And I bet it’s phenomenal for sleeping on public transportation. Because nothing says, “I don’t want to talk to you,” like a hood with a drawstring. Not even the fact that you’re asleep.
Not ideal for:
- People who already wear a hoodie everywhere
- People who sleep on your shoulder on public transportation
- People who sleep on their side
And speaking of being exhausted,
For people who love to eat in the car: Exhaust Burger
This is a small device that is sort of shaped like a small, round indoor grill, except that you bring it outside and attach it to the exhaust pipe of your car, and it cooks your burger for you as you drive. I assume there’s also a clamp of some kind in case of potholes. And by the time you get to your destination, you have a nice, hot burger that does not at all taste like an exhaust pipe.
There’s no way this thing is safe.
At least that’s what one would think. But it turns out that it is, according to the manufacturer, which is located in Iran. According to the company, the burger is not actually cooked by the exhaust fumes themselves, but by the heat generated from those fumes.
Right. That’s why they called it an exhaust burger.
Apparently, the exhaust runs past the burger in a separate rerouted pipe, and the heat of the pipe is what cooks the burger. Ergo, it’s not cooked by the carbon monoxide. It’s cooked really, really close to the carbon monoxide from the heat of the carbon monoxide.
But let’s face it: Barbecuing can be exhausting work. (Sorry.) Surely there has to be an easier way. And this is it!
It’s not the easiest way. Firstly, you’re not basing how long you’re going to be on the road on how much time your burger needs in order to cook. So you have to keep getting out in the middle of the highway to check on your burger.
“Is it done? Nope!”
Also, the device only holds one burger at a time. So if there’s more than one of you, you have to stop at a red light and nudge your passenger awake from under his hoodie pillow, so he can grab his plate, run out to the back, bend down in the path of the rerouted exhaust pipe, pop open the grill, scrape your burger off the street, and put his on the grill. All before the light turns green. Then you have to find somewhere to wash.
Wait until the homeless guy at the intersection discovers this thing.
Anyway, this grill is great for the person on your list who drives great distances alone, such as a plant mashgiach.
Not ideal for:
- People with 15-passenger vans
- People who already have health issues
For people who just want cash: Metal-Detecting Sandals (Hammacher Schlemmer, $60)
Remember metal detectors? A lot of people had those as a kid. You would walk back and forth over the seashore or the midbar or the sandbox at the park looking for cash in the form of small coins because the metal detector could not sense bills…
But then you stop using the metal detector at some point, because you’re an adult, and you’re not hauling this thing around in public looking for pennies.
But this gift item can bring it back. Basically, someone built the metal detector into the sole of a pair of flip-flops. The flip-flops are attached to a wire that is attached to a device that you wear around your calf that contains the batteries and also lights up and vibrates when you find a paint can or whatever. And this way, your hands are free to hold your multiple phones and not miss an important business call.
You can also wear it if you’re a security guard, and have some incredibly awkward moments scanning people.
THE DOWNSIDES: Only the right sandal has the mechanism, so if you want to comb an entire beach, you have to drag your foot across the sand.
Or not. If I remember correctly, the best way to use a metal detector is to swing it in 5-foot arcs in front of you as you walk. So good luck doing that.
And this gadget literally pays for itself! Though you will never in your life find $60 worth of coins. Unless you stumble across a buried treasure chest. Or like the one spot on the lawn where somebody dropped a pushka.
Not ideal for:
- People who actually are under house arrest
- People who can’t wear flip-flops (such as contractors or anyone in plumbing)
- Anyone who works on a girder
And speaking of looking ridiculous, for people who are crazy about their kids: Baby Bangs (baby-bangs.com, $30)
This is a sheitel you buy for your baby girl if she was tragically, nebach, born without a lot of hair and strangers keep coming up to you and saying, “What a cute boy!”
What are you going to do? Not correct them? What about shidduchim?
Enter Baby Bangs. Just pop this wig on your baby, and people will stop assuming things about her and start assuming things about you.
See, most people have been dealing with this situation by smiling and nodding, putting on a headband with a massive flower on it, dressing their baby like a wad of bubble gum, or giving her earrings. But what kind of lunatic puts their baby in earrings? Instead, put a sheitel on her!
There is no way the baby is not going to pull this off and start eating it the first chance she gets. In fact, according to the manufacturer, the wig is not recommended to be worn while sleeping. So I’m not sure these people have ever had a baby. How many times are you going to have to change your baby out of her sheitel and into a tichel over the course of a single outing?
“She’s asleep! Pull over!”
“OK! And while you’re out, check on the burger!”
Baby Bangs works great as an apology gift for a family where you actually did call their girl a boy. Unless it wasn’t recently.
Not ideal for:
- The elderly
- Middle-aged men
- New kallahs n
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com. Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at 5TJT.com.