13 December, 2009

Fold, Tuck, Stick, Turn, Fold, Tuck, Stick

I'm not too busy at the moment so I put my name down to be a gift wrapper at a local department store. It was something different and I'm into trying different things right now.

Before being let loose on the unsuspecting Christmas shoppers I needed to attend a training session. This was run by couple of old-hands who have probably seen it all. Ten minutes was spent on how they want you to wrap the presents and an hour and a half on discussing what to do when things go wrong. It was a valuable session. At the end of the training session we had some spare time and someone thought it would be a good idea to try wrapping something awkward. A soccer ball was produced and we willing students attacked it with festive gusto. I can honestly say that I have never seen a sadder looking gift in my life.
Lesson learnt: if someone hands you a ball tell them you are too busy right now but they can leave it and come back later. Make sure the time you arrange is after your shift has finished.

Day one of gift wrapping was quiet and most of my time was spent on setting up the booth and making a supply of boxes. The boxes were my first unexpected problem. I was handed a pile of pre-cut cardboard with a few creases showing where a fold should occur but no instructions on what sort of origami technique is actually required to produce a box. I'm not a big fan of instructions normally but I like to have the option of ignoring them rather than being given nothing at all. After a great deal of experimentation and a few tears I have come up with a user guide for future box producers:
  • Using your right hand fold in side 1.
  • Using your left hand fold in side 2 which is opposite to side 1.
  • While still holding the sides 1 and 2 with your right and left hand, fold in side 3 with your chin and tuck the corner pieces of side 3 under sides 1 and 2 with your tongue. Take care not to drool at this point as making the corners soggy will ruin the finished product.
  • While holding sides 1, 2 and 3 bring your knee up and fold in side 4. Lift your knee up over your head and tuck the corners of side 4 under with your toes.
  • Put the finished box under the counter where nobody can see it.
Perhaps I'm a little judgemental but I firmly believe there are some things that should never appear under a Christmas tree. So when a punter proudly hands me a singing trout to be gift wrapped I find myself struggling for festive and heart-warming things to say (and I'm not often rendered speechless). I quickly realised I needed a collection of pre-arranged comments for these occasions:

I didn't know you could buy these here.
(translation: You shouldn't be able to buy these anywhere)

I have some ribbons here that are going to make this look wonderful.
(translation: This is going to need a special effort from me to compensate for the fact you haven't gone to any effort at all when selecting this gift. And if I tie the ribbons hard enough I might just manage to break the sucker and save Christmas for everybody)

I don't think this will fit in any of the boxes and I could probably do a better job wrapping this in paper.
(translation: the boxes cost $5, your gift didn't. You're getting paper.)

There was one final thing that I was unprepared for: Endless version of Jingle Bells being played over the PA. I'm used to be bombarded with Christmas carols at this time of year, and I have been know to sing along, but after many hours I started to realise I was hearing one particular carol that kept playing over and over again. It seems that every Christmas album ever released has a version of Jingle Bells and after a while it stops being funny. At one point while in the middle of a wrapping frenzy I snapped and all Christmas spirit left my body. I looked at my punter with a desperate and manic look and said:
“This has to be the worst version of Jingle Bells I have ever heard. I don't care if it trendy, Jingle Bells should never be hip-hop”

As it gets closer to Christmas we gift wrappers will get busier and busier and I won't have time for my normal cynical thoughts. If you see a gift wrapping booth over the next few weeks don't be scared to get some wrapping done. Not all wrappers think like me. They will think your $2.50 crocheted doylie is just adorable and they will be singing along to the Christmas carols with genuine enthusiasm (doof doof – dashing through the snow – with my favourite ho – doof doof). It's unlikely you will get me was your wrapper as I'm most often found under the counter trying to extract my tongue from fold 4 without drooling.

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