Element of surprise

Why do I think it’s necessary for birthday/Christmas presents to be a surprise?

Several weeks ago, Rob saw a book in a used bookstore that he wasn’t sure if he owned. He went home and discovered he did not and he wanted it. Wouldn’t it be neat to get it for him for Christmas, I thought. It would have, if I’d remembered which book it was.

Back at the store, I picked out a book that could have been it and bought it, because I didn’t want to spoil Christmas by asking him which one it was. No no, it’s much more fun for him to unwrap a book he already has two copies of (for reasons unknown), which I could have discovered on my own, if I’d been patient enough not to buy the book that day, but to go home and give our bookshelves a cursory glance.

Fortunately, I also got him some of those energy-efficient light bulbs and a lamp shaped like the Egyptian goddess Isis, so Christmas wasn’t completely ruined. But I did feel like an idiot, especially since I threw away the receipt.

Today, conveniently one day before his birthday, Rob showed me the cover of a similar book to the one he wanted. So I took back the first book, which cost $15, and was all set to beg to trade it for the correct book, or resort to paying for the new book, if they wouldn’t take back the original book. I debated whether to go to the counter first and ask if I could exchange it, or run the risk of the sales lady not believing that I didn’t slip the book off the shelf into my plastic grocery bag. I didn’t even want to get into it though, if they didn’t have the right book.

Very quickly, I spotted the book on the shelf that Rob had showed me earlier, it was next to a similar book. Even though I have about 8 minutes on my cell phone to last me another 5 days, I called him.

“Is it ‘Jeet Kune Do: Kickboxing’?”
“Uh, I think so. What is the one I showed you earlier?”
“‘Jeet Kune Do: The Textbook.'”
Sheesh, if he can’t remember, how am I supposed to?
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Thanks.” Click. 14 seconds. Too bad Cingular counts that as a full minute.

The new book cost $6.95, and miraculously, the lady not only took back the first book, but gave me change. She paid me for my mistake.

And Rob will get what he wants for his birthday.