How to avoid giving dumb gifts


If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lifetime seeking just the right gift for that special occasion. If you’re even more like me, you’ve failed. Happily, salvation is at hand. I have prepared a list of gift suggestions that are so creative, so unexpected, we can consider our gift-giving dysfunction cured. 

But I had help. My summer catalog from Hammacher Schlemmer arrived the other day—containing 359 gift possibilities if you count two appearances of The Rapid Heating Wood Burning Pizza Oven (2,700.00), an item perfect for my pal, Herb, who loves to grill by the pool.

Herb and his friend, Flora, spend all summer in their pool—Herb calls Flora his “Significant Otter”—and the Hammacher Schlemmer folks know that. Their catalog is chock full of treasures that would make welcome additions to Herb and Flora’s Sunday splash parties.

Let’s start with The Pool Guarding Gator (39.95). This floating funster has three hinged sections—head, torso, and tail—and will make visitors think that Albert the Alligator has waddled into the water. It has beady red LED eyes that Herb says look just like a chicken’s.

There’s a new twist on inflatable pool chairs—like the one Fat Flora bobs around in all afternoon drinking Miller Lite. Hammacher Schlemmer has introduced The Motorized Pool Float (199.95), a floating chair with two tiny propulsion units. Now Herb can sneak up behind Flora and give her a blast from The World’s Loudest Bicycle Horn (39.95), which is waterproof. Sort of.

While The Pool Guarding Gator and other guests are cavorting on the surface, Herb’s weird kid from his first marriage, Sidney, will be “down under” the fun—at the controls of The Underwater Scooter (2,000.00). This submersible sneaker can go 5.5 mph, allowing Sidney to pester pool users for as long as he can hold his breath or until his meds wear off.

With all this frolicking in the water, what about guests who just want to relax at waterside? They can kick back in The Generously Sized Zero Gravity Lounger (99.95) or The Wegner Inspired Stacking Deck Chairs (399.95 for a set of four). These wooden wonders are made from durable Brazilian eucalyptus wood. There’s also The Reclining Cool Mesh Rocker (139.95 for a set of one). It holds occupants weighing up to 300 pounds, meaning that Flora won’t likely wreck the thing. It is not made of Brazilian eucalyptus. 

Herb, no lightweight himself, will like The Two Cooler Patio Bench (349.95). This dual-purpose accessory will hold 440 pounds, and its side-by-side padded lids conceal two separate coolers. That will let Herb fill one side with Miller Lite and put the good stuff in the other. “It’s too cool,” Herb quipped.

Enhancing all the stress relief that comes standard with these items, The Cordless Ultrasonic Rodent Repeller (39.95) will keep pesky rats and possums from splashing into the pool and ruining things for everyone. (A woman from Tupelo wrote in claiming that the device works for snakes. She was wrong.)

The Cordless Bug Zapper (79.95) won’t repel snakes either, but its 750-volt charge will flash fry every mosquito within a half-acre radius. (How Hammacher Schlemmer converts an area measurement into a linear radius remains a mystery.) You’ll want to keep these death dealers well away from the water.

A useful summertime gift is The John Wayne Cuckoo Clock (199.95). This limited-edition timepiece tells guests when it’s time to saddle up and scratch gravel. But instead of squeaky “cuckoos,” every hour brings an interlude of thundering horses’ hooves (a hoove is similar to a hoof, only louder). This clever clock clears off barstools quicker than the Duke himself—who appears when the little door opens.

There are nearly 350 other fascinating gift choices. And when the winter catalog shows up, it will overflow with even more season-sensitive gift items—The Carbon Fiber Electric Snowshoes, The Insulated Compression Socks, and The High Impact Styrofoam Portable Igloo are possibilities.

You think I’m making all this up? Go to and order your own catalog. In no time at all you’ll be exhausted from ordering clever gifts. And when it’s bedtime, you have The Temperature Regulating Adjustable Bed Wedge (99.95) and The Deepest Sleeper’s Alarm Clock to get you primed and ready for a new day of fun-filled shopping. 

William Jeanes is a Northsider.

Breaking News

Erosion continues to eat away at the banks of White Oak Creek, as evidenced by a recent tree... READ MORE


Martha Hardage Magee, 90, died Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at Highland Home.  She was born in... READ MORE


1. He has been married for 21 years to his high school sweetheart. 2. He and his wife have four children.