Colorful wrapping could be hiding disaster

Published 9:47 pm Monday, December 22, 2008

Each year, thousands of Americans die because they are unfamiliar with the dangers posed by certain Christmas presents. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but if you’re still reading then I caught your attention, which is important if you are to avoid the real possibility of an injury this year.

While the great majority of presents won’t be opened until Thursday, many gifts will lose their wrapping paper before then. I’ve been watching my flat screen TV and listening to the speaker system hooked up to it since August, for example. I shudder to think of the damage that could have already been done by unsuspecting gift recipients. I apologize if this column is too late to help you, but I will do what I can to help everyone else avoid a loss of life or limb this week.

We’re all familiar with the dangers toys present to children, whether it be toys that might choke or strangle or those that contain toxic chemicals. But big kids are at risk, also. Ladders aren’t recommended as gifts because the user could fall. How bad would that make the gift giver feel? I was considering this gift for my dad, but he’s getting a hose pipe, a tree pruner, a rake and a garden cultivator instead (don’t tell him). Obviously, he’s into yard work, and I’m into presents that I know will be used.

And while giving a gift that won’t be used is dangerous for your relationship with that person, I’ll tell you about something far worse: giving a book that is part of a series that has yet to be completed. I spent countless hours reading the first four books — which averaged more than 1,000 pages each — of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series only to have the release of the fifth installment of the planned seven-book series delayed almost three years now. At this rate, either Mr. Martin will pass before he completes the series, I’ll be blind or I simply won’t care anymore. No one should be doomed to this fate in the guise of a Christmas present.

Also, beware electronics and other items packaged in that remarkably stubborn plastic. You know what I’m talking about, the plastic that refuses to be torn and is cut only by the hardiest among us. Either you’ll cut yourself trying to open the gift or you’ll throw something, and neither result is a particularly pleasant way to spend your Christmas. If you unwrap a gift only to find it protected by an impenetrable wall of plastic, simply thank the giver before telling him or her this just isn’t your kind of thing.

Finally, I’m hearing rumblings about what might be the most popular gift this year: the Nintendo Wii gaming system. What could be wrong with something that seems to bring such joy to so many? Maybe the tennis elbow and profuse sweating users are complaining about.

Sorry to end any illusions of Christmas being simply a time of smiles and candy canes, but there are dangers lurking under the tree.