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Shopping for the Perfect ‘Surprise’ Gift

December 13, 2008
By Wayne Sheets, Contributing Business Writer

It was not my fault. I was shanghaied. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sue was in Steubenville, Ohio, during the Thanksgiving holidays visiting our daughter, Heather, and helping her with her baby shower - we're expecting a new addition to the family around Jan. 8. On Thanksgiving Eve, I joined them to spend some time with Heather and our son-in-law, too. I should have known better, it being near the Christmas gift-purchasing time of year.

I went through this same ordeal last year and thought I had a sure-fire way of preventing it this year - wrong. Black Friday arrived on the heels of Thanksgiving, as it always does, so it was "go shopping or bust" with me in tow. You see, they had a surprise Christmas gift picked out for me, but I had to try it on before they made the purchase. I countered with, "Why not go ahead and buy it, you can always take it back if it doesn't fit." The second and primary reason was, of course, to get out of going in the first place. Guess who won that argument - it's a no brainer.

With Heather driving and Sue coaching, they sped toward Robinson Mall in Heather's car while I did my best to keep up in mine. It didn't take her very long to forget that I was behind her what with all the shopping to be done on her mind.

While all this is going on, I'm wondering why instead of sleeping until mid-morning we didn't get up and leave earlier preventing the need to be in such a rush to get there before the "big sale" ends at 1 p.m. After all, the stores opened at 4 o'clock that morning. I knew not to voice that opinion though. Family feuds tend to put a damper on the Christmas spirit.

Once at the mall, trying to find a parking place was a challenge worthy of the tenacity and skill of the most seasoned NASCAR driver. As I dodged frantic shoppers looking for a place to light, as I was, I couldn't help but compare the situation to a "real life game of bumper cars."

Anyway, after 17.352 miles of going up one aisle of cars and down another I challenged an oncoming Cadillac with a woman driver for a spot near mid-aisle. I won. I guessed she didn't want a white stripe on that big beautiful car after all. By this time I had lost the whereabouts of Sue and Heather.

I called Sue on her cell phone and after an inordinate number of rings, (while I was waiting for her to answer I could see her frantically digging for her phone in that suitcase she carries that she calls a handbag) I heard her cheerful voice sternly say, "Hello, where the h--- are you?" That was just about enough to put me back in the car and point it in the direction from which I had come, but I desperately needed a little time to settle my shattered parking-lot-bumper-car nerves. I held my temper though, sweetly told her where I was and asked where to meet her and Heather.

She decided that we'd meet at JCPenney's and off I went saying to myself, "wonder where the h--- that's at" while dodging my way through a swirling sea of humanity. Finding the store in an unfamiliar mall is frustrating enough; finding that it had several entries and exits didn't help my mental state either. As you might guess, I ended up at the wrong place. I gritted my teeth and called Sue again. This time her cell phone rang only two or three times - guess she was expecting another call.

Together once again, we headed for the clothing department where I was to be shown my "surprise" Christmas gift.

On the way, I caught sight of this long line of people in every body position possible yet standing upright, or nearly so anyway. It hit me like a bolt of lightning - this is the checkout line. Oh, merciful heavens I thought to myself - I knew better than to say anything out loud - it's going to take forever to get out of here.

By now Heather had about enough of my throwing my head back, looking at the ceiling and rolling my eyes so she said, "call me when you're finished." To protect her reputation, I won't repeat what else she said.

After reaching the section that held my "surprise" Christmas gift - a leather coat - and a bit of discussion, Sue and I realized that we had different ideals about the style of coat I wanted. I wanted one that comes down about mid-way between what I sit on and my knees and has a belt around the middle. Sue thought I wanted the waist-length jacket style. Another head-thrown-back-eye-rolling-gesture at the ceiling quickly ensued - unnoticed this time.

"Well, now that they don't have what you want, what do you want?" Sue asked in an imaginable tone of voice. My reply was quick in coming. "I want to go to the car and see if I can play dodge-cars well enough not to get hurt so badly that I cannot get back on U.S. Route 22 west and go home," I said. That didn't go over too well either.

My effort to calm everyone's frustration, mostly mine, was to suggest we have lunch at The Red Lobster, after which I would get back in my car and go home leaving them to shop in peace. By the time we finished a delightful lunch, the three of us were back on speaking terms. To help keep the regained peace, I got in my car and went home. I haven't figured out yet who was the happiest.

What, if anything, I get for Christmas will truly be a surprise.


Just when you think you've seen the best they have to offer, they come up with another show that is nothing short of spectacular. On the other hand, though, I suppose one should be prepared for the extraordinary from such a group of talented professionals as those at the American Mountain Theater.

Believe me, the AMT's Christmas show is nothing if not spectacular. If you miss this one, you will have missed the best they've offered to date.

There is little I can say without saying too much, but I learned at last Saturday evening's performance that the costumes were designed and made by the cast and the lyrics of the songs in the second half of the show were written by Beverly Sexton. The costumes are beautiful, creative, humorous and, of course, seasonal.

While the show celebrates the season, as well it should, its strength lies in its portrayal of the reason we celebrate Christmas. I can say, without divulging any of the show's surprises, that it will take you on a rollercoaster ride of carefree laughter, heartfelt joy, gratitude for the sacrifices of others, particularly at this time of year, and give you reason to pause and consider the blessings of the season, both personal and for all mankind. Don't miss it.


The Inter-Mountain is hosting a book-signing event with Hall of Fame sportswriter Domenick "Mickey" Furfari in conjunction with the release of his new book "Mickey's Mountaineer Memories."

The book contains a unique collection of stories and observations, which detail modern day WVU athletic history. From Jerry West and Don Nehlen to Chuck Howley, to Hot Rod Hundley, Sam Huff and Fred Schaus, Mickey's got it covered. Special features on the NIT Basketball Championships in 1942 and 2007, along with the football program's huge wins over Miami, Oklahoma, Boston College and Pitt, are included as well as stories on soccer, baseball, gymnastics and rifle.

The book signing will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday at the Elkins-Randolph County Family YMCA. It's Mountaineer history - get it!



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