{ Observations of a Consumer Made While Shopping for Family-Related Gifts on Groundhog Day }
story and illustration by Jennifer Meccariello

the new yinzer - jennifer meccarielloThe Hyundai Santa Fe, the most cartoonish of all sport utility vehicles on the roads right now, is a favorite among the strip mall-shopping crowd. In one row of parked cars, four out of eleven automobiles were sport utility vehicles, and two of those four were Santa Fes. And they were both red.

Diaper bags are hideously marked with a wide selection of Teddy bears, rabbits, and moons and stars, as if the baby will be carrying them instead of fully-grown men and women.

Family and friends generally register for a combination of very expensive gifts and very inexpensive gifts, ignoring average, middle-of-the-road items in the $30 range. These people, it seems, already have all of the things I can afford to give them because they, too, can afford and have surrounded themselves with $10 pie plates, silverware from Ikea, and grocery store-bought can openers. This means that I very often have to purchase newlyweds and mothers-to-be strange combinations of saltshakers, chopsticks, and Playtex nursing bottles to to add up to a universally acceptable gift value.

Girls as young as three are carrying very large leather purses these days.

There are a plethora of clogs and backless shoes for sale in both chain shoe stores and department store shoe sections, though most women shopping in these stores are wearing some variation of the paddock boot—some even with the western style fringed toe—to navigate the three-inch deep slush running in rivulets through the malls' parking lots and sidewalks.

If you're at a shopping center and find yourself thirsty, it's nearly impossible to locate a freestanding soda or juice machine unless the shopping center has a grocery store or a Wal Mart within it, outside of which is usually placed a vending machine or two. This forces you to go inside a local sub or pizza shop and pay upward of ten to twenty cents more than the average soda machine price. Gone are the literal days of a dollar a pop. To make matters worse, Pepsi seems to have cornered the market on mom-and-pop sandwich and pizza joints, forcing a patron to make an uninspired decision between regular, diet, lemon-flavored, and cherry-flavored Pepsi. Or the blue kind.

Baby clothes come in either pink, blue, or green. Sometimes yellow. And most have ducks on them.

When buying wedding presents, you have to consider your form of transportation for getting to the event before selecting the gift. At first, a set of bar tools may seem like a good idea, but, in actuality, a lemon peeler, a corkscrew, a bottle opener, and a knife are probably going to show up as weapons by the luggage screeners at the airport. Especially at six in the goddamned morning.

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