It’s a conversation that takes place in every bar in every town during every festive season — you know, the one that involves guys standing around, glasses in hand, talking about how much they hate Christmas shopping and how they’ve left it to the last minute again and how they’ll probably end up buying something at the gas station or the convenience store on the way home on Christmas Eve.
"Yup, it looks like she’ll be getting booster cables this year."
Chances are, however, that it’s the beer talking, and in reality the guy holding the mug has already purchased at least a couple of thoughtful and appropriate gifts for the loved ones waiting at home.
But… what if you really were so slow, or lazy, or desperate that you actually did find yourself buying later-than-last-minute gifts from the kinds of stores described in those timeless, ale-fuelled tales of panic-prompted present purchases?
Well, it might look something like what happened when the Free Press sent two of its manliest men — music writer Rob Williams and TV critic Brad Oswald — on a quest to find 10 of the most craptastic Christmas gifts that can be purchased at a convenience store or gas station. They didn’t make a list, so they couldn’t check it even once ... but here’s what they found, in no particular order:
Blue Bombers logo thermal mug (with first-fill-free coupon; $6.99)
WHAT ROB SAYS: When it comes to big coffee mugs, it doesn’t get much bigger and better than this. Throw in a line about bringing it on a possible future trip to an all-inclusive resort and you’ll look like a hero.
WHAT BRAD SAYS: Football season’s over, but the much more timely Jets mug was too expensive. And this one had a tag that said "Great Gift Idea" attached to it — Christmas is all about believing, isn’t it?
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: I admire the size of your bladder. And did I mention that the first fill is free?
DVD copy of the romantic comedy It’s Complicated ("previously viewed," $9.99)
WHAT ROB SAYS: I could have purchased a used DVD of the Canada-Russia ’72 hockey series, the new Star Trek movie or Godzilla, but I care about your interests.
WHAT BRAD SAYS: It’s Complicated? Uh, no, it’s not. You’re saying "chick flick," but she’s hearing "cheap flick." At very least, try to scratch the "previously viewed" sticker off the package.
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: It’s a movie about divorced people; think of it as a training film.
Grow Some Mistletoe ($2.99)
WHAT ROB SAYS: Hopefully all those kiss-under-the-mistletoe scenes from TV and the movies are true and your love will respond with a rain shower of affection. The box says, "This is the great way to get the holiday smooch you were hoping for," and box claims never — like things on TV and in the movies — lie.
WHAT BRAD SAYS: We knew this was a great gift idea because it was in the rack at 7-Eleven labelled "Great Gift Ideas" — which is actually shrewd marketing, because if you’re Christmas shopping at Sev, you probably wouldn’t know a great gift if it hit you in the kisser. Speaking of which, even if this mutant mock mistletoe grows to 600 per cent of its in-the-package size, you really needn’t "Get ready to pucker up," as the label suggests.
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: The back of the package says this lip-lock lure might take up to 10 days to grow to its full size; by then, your maximum-sized contempt for my lack of shopping effort may have begun to subside.
Stuffed snowman with "Insert Gift Card Here" sleeve (gift card not included; $4.99)
WHAT ROB SAYS: You better insert some gift card there or expect to be on the wrong end of the stuffing.
WHAT BRAD SAYS: Frosty the Snowman was a jolly, happy soul. Giving this might place you more in the "golly, that’s crappy, fool" category — especially if you forget to buy a gift card for the plastic sleeve.
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: I almost care enough to give you something completely generic that you still might somehow actually like.
Stocking Stuffer scratch-to-win lottery ticket ($5)
WHAT ROB SAYS: Shows you want the recipient to be rich and living the good life he or she deserves. This gift will be best appreciated if the ticket is a winner. A losing ticket is good for nothing (literally). Don’t go less than $5.
WHAT BRAD SAYS: Given the odds of winning a lottery, easily the dumbest last-minute present ever. Those odds, however, also match your chances of getting any festive lovin’ after you give this as a gift.
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: I want half.
Nutty Club® Prize Popcorn (28g; 99¢)
WHAT ROB SAYS: The recipient’s delight will depend on the prize, but it’s a win-win situation: boxed popcorn and a surprise! Is it that pink popcorn in the box? That’s two surprises!
WHAT BRAD SAYS: It’s a win-win situation — I’m offering you a sweet treat, and I’m supporting the local economy by buying local. See what a thoughtful guy I am?
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: Popcorn and a surprise — don’t think of it as a cheap, crappy gift; think of it as two cheap, crappy gifts!
Little Trees® car air freshener (new car scent; $1.69)
WHAT ROB SAYS: Honey, your car stinks.
WHAT BRAD SAYS: Even if you’re a for-real convenience-store shopper, this could only be given for kitsch/prank/irony purposes. No one — sane, crazy, or otherwise — would wrap this up without merry mischief on his mind.
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: I don’t love you enough to buy you a new car, but I do want you to feel better about driving that 1987 Cavalier.
Love Hearts® candies (32g; $1.09)
WHAT ROB SAYS: Please don’t hate me because I am a stupid, cheap idiot. I love you so much, "sugar lips." (And please don’t throw the package at my head. I love you so much).
WHAT BRAD SAYS: A classic retro-cutesy choice, to be sure, but be warned — if you toss this in as a stocking stuffer, you’ve removed it from your last-minute Valentine’s Day shopping arsenal.
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: I simply can’t find the right words to tell you how I feel — but hopefully, sugary sentiments like "Ever Mine," "Cute Kid" and "To Be Sure" will make you forget such actual feelings like "Cheapskate," "Procrastinator" and "Numbskull."
Beanie Boo’s® plush puppy (name: Slush, d.o.b.: April 30; $4.99)
WHAT ROB SAYS: The perfect gift for a young niece or nephew who would have no way of knowing this is from a gas store display. They could be collectible some day.
WHAT BRAD SAYS: Those big blue eyes are sooooo cute, the lucky recipient might not even notice the telltale smell of motor oil and windshield-washer fluid.
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: The stuffed-toy rack was right near the door, but please respect my romantic instincts because so was the display of trout-shaped BBQ lighters and fishing caps.
Lock D-Icer (30 ml; $2.29)
WHAT ROB SAYS: Useful and thoughtful. There is nothing more frustrating than being locked out of your car after a freezing rain. A true saver of time, money and mental health. You could be a potential hero with this small, but practical, gift.
WHAT BRAD SAYS: Honey, it’s the thought that counts — and I really do think your opinion will change when it’s -40 C and the locks are frozen and you remember it was ME who gave you this little bottle of salvation. Unless, of course, it’s locked in the glove compartment inside the car.
WHAT THIS GIFT SAYS: I want to make sure I can get into my car, because after you open this, I’m pretty sure you’re going to lock me out of the house.