Santa Barbara is an appealing seaside town that shows no signs of a financial downturn. During our recent visit, we strolled the crowded downtown area, enjoying the Christmas decorations and the smiling, bustling crowds laden with packages, bags, coffee cups and ice cream cones (we participated in the ice cream). A small band played Christmas carols in a pocket park; solo musicians played on street corners. In side-by-side windows of the Saks store, two lovely, young ballerinas in stiff white tutus turned slowly on the tips of their toes and posed for photos. The entire scene sparkled in the cool sunshine and we enjoyed being part of it in our small way (Odel bought two new cotton t-shirts).
Finished with our walk and shopping, we found an open bench in a large courtyard near a group of musicians and sat to enjoy music and people watching. Nearby, a nicely dressed, middle-aged volunteer wrapped gifts in return for a charitable donation (I don’t know which charity set this up). Shoppers brought their packages, dropped them off, then returned later to pick them up and make a donation.
The longer we sat, the more interested I became in the wrapping. Glancing over, I noticed that the paper she cut for the package she was wrapping was not sufficiently long to cover the box. I figured I must be wrong, at the wrong angle to see what was really going on… but, no, after slapping tape on the paper and box, she cut off another strip to use as a patch, and covered the gap (again, plenty of tape going in all directions). Then I got distracted by other sights…
Next thing I know, Odel elbowed me and pointed out that the wrapper was using a too-short piece of paper to wrap another gift! (The paper was cut from large rolls, not pre-cut). Now we both were interested in the process. Again, she cut another short strip to patch the gap, using tape liberally. Done with the patch, she flipped the wrapping down over the sides, slapped more tape on, and turned the box so the patch was on the bottom. She selected a tiny, pre-made, adhesive-backed bow which she affixed to the upper corner of the large box, a tiny boat bobbing on a large ocean. Corners wrinkled, ragged cut edges showing, tiny bow on the big box, she tossed it into a bag ready to be picked up.
Odel and I looked at each other, eyes wide. Odel nudged me and pointed secretly to another wrapped package sitting on the table – we agreed that looked like it had been wrapped by a ten year old boy. If I am receiving a gift from a ten year old boy, I would love that look… but when/if I’m paying for gift wrapping, I’d expect it to have a bit more polish – quite a bit more!
As we walked back to our car, I wondered how shoppers reacted when they returned to pick up their wrapped gifts. Did they make a small donation and walk away disappointed, rewrapping the gift at home? Laugh, and say “You’re joking, right?” or “Am I on Candid Camera?” Refuse to make a donation? Ask the wrapper to remove the gift wrapping and decline to make a donation? Pay enough to cover the cost of the materials, under protest?
I don’t know what the heck I would have done. How about you?