Bridled generosity   Leave a comment

Also: the “gift vouchers are a scam” rant, and why you’re an idiot if you buy them.

I really didn’t feel like getting out of bed on Thursday (the 15th), but I’d forgotten to take the bins out the night before, so I had to pull some clothes on to do that. I wouldn’t have bothered normally (it sometimes takes more than a fortnight to fill my kitchen bin, so the wheelie bins not being emptied for four weeks isn’t a problem, especially when it’s cold), but it was the last collection before Christmas and I already had loads of cardboard and packaging to get rid of. And that I’d not bothered to throw away yet, so I had to rush around popping air-bubbles and dismembering boxes before I could put the bins in the road.

After that I didn’t really feel like getting up properly, at least before having coffee and so on. So of course I spent the day sort-of looking dressed but not really “up”, constantly intending to have a shower and get dressed properly, just after the next thing I’m going to do, but then never actually getting around to it. I didn’t have any plans to venture further than the bins (I would rather have not gone outside at all), and I didn’t interact with anyone all day, so it didn’t matter.

The day was work. I finished a job, thinking I’d got everything I needed to do done, and then my boss invented more things. Worse: urgent things. So I worked a bit late getting those done, after I’d assembled MEGAPASTIE: THE REVENGE and put it in the oven.

Thursday’s MEGAPASTIE wasn’t as tasty as Wednesday’s. Maybe the filling didn’t cope with being fridged very well, or maybe my pastry design let too much of the cheese melt and leak out. It was still quite a good and tasty dinner, just not as excellent as the previous day’s.

Then there was programming. I generalised the code I’d written on Wednesday. I’m still quite proud of it.

Oh, and there was a ‘phone call with my mum. I’m supposed to be going riding at some point over the weekend, but nobody knows when (and I still don’t as of Friday night, so I hope it’s not Saturday morning because I won’t be up). More annoyingly, I’m supposed to be buying Christmas presents for one of my cousins’ families.
I have four cousins, they all have families. The ones on my father’s side of the family we see once or twice per year, are friendly enough when we meet, and generally forget about each others’ existence the rest of the time. This has been pretty much the case for our entire lives. All is well. On my mother’s side, we used to be quite close until their mother dragged them off Up North with some boyfriend or something (I don’t know the details, and I don’t care about their mother; only met her once and by all accounts she has little to recommend her). One cousin stayed in touch, visits regularly, and so on; we get on well, we always buy her presents, she buys them for us, everybody knows where they stand.
Her sister is the problem. She vanished fifteen-odd years ago and I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of her since. Well, minor exaggeration, but I probably wouldn’t need two hands to count the occasions we’ve met in the meantime; certainly there have been no letters or emails, and I don’t recall any ‘phone calls either. So it goes, right? I neither know nor care about them; they neither know nor care about me. There’s no reason to pretend otherwise.
But apparently I’m supposed to buy probably-three (see? I don’t even know how many of them there are!) people, about whom I know almost nothing, some (how many?) presents. Firstly, why? There are plenty of people I care about more whom I don’t buy presents, because giving gifts for the sake of feeling obliged to give gifts (and therefore imposing the obligation to give gifts onto your victim, perpetuating the cycle) is stupid. Surely if I were going to start being generous they would be better recipients? If I could figure out some way of doing so without lumbering them with the obligation, at any rate, because then you’re back to playing stupid zero-sum games rather than giving people things because you want to. Or I could give to some charity that would find the it actually useful, perhaps. Secondly, what should I get them? I don’t know the first thing about them. All I know is that they wanted money and iTunes vouchers*, but when they’ve been given not-money before my uncle’s complained they didn’t have anything to unwrap. Thirdly, couldn’t I have been told this before I thought I’d finished all my shopping, when the shops still had generic-Christmas-present stuff in stock? Things have been vanishing off the shelves, or going up in price, for weeks! I thought I’d been leaving it late by putting off getting some of the edibles until almost December.

Grargh. Until now I’d been quite enjoying Christmas this year. And it’s more to wrap at the weekend, when I’ve better things to do. Hmph.

Yes, I rarely see my cousins, and have only met my (ex-?)aunt (who lived only a few miles away for several years) once, at least since I’ve been sentient. My family is rather distant; it’s always been this way. I suspect a psychologist could have a field day correlating that with my asocial tendencies.

* Have I done the gift-vouchers-are-a-scam rant here? Just in case: gift vouchers are a scam. You should absolutely never buy anyone gift vouchers (unless the voucher is worth considerably more than you paid for it, of course, but this never happens because it would completely defy the point), because they are worse, for the recipient, than being given cash in almost every respect; as you can only spend them in certain places it means they can’t shop around for what they want, or for the best prices. If the shop goes out of business they’re left with a worthless present, and you will be out of pocket. And maybe they have more important or urgent things to spend the money on, so they’d rather have cash they could spend in Tesco or at the garage, than a voucher for Harrods. The only entity that benefits from your buying vouchers is the shop itself. Do you care more about a shop than the recipient of the gift?
If anybody you know ever complains about being given actual money instead of a voucher, disown them immediately and never speak to them again. What is the complaint? The vouchers will have their “value” printed on them, so it’s not like you don’t know exactly how much they cost.
Oh, and specifically iTunes vouchers? Well.


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