Saturday, December 19, 2009

On the wonders/hazards of technology

Okay, so quick survey of my reader. Wishlists on Amazon and other online retailers make things really easy for people who insist on buying us gifts at Christmas, whether or not that's a big deal for us, even if we swear quite sincerely that we don't need or expect anything at all, but the gift-giver insists that we make a list anyway because he wants to buy us something, but he doesn't know what we want, so it kind of feels like making a shopping list and sending him to the mall, but if it makes him happy we go ahead and do it because we love him and want him to be happy, The Boy.

Anyway, these lists frequently include an option to sort items by gifts purchased and gifts unpurchased. They question: Do you peek? Do you check back to the list and see what has already been purchased, or do you choose "purchased items" to sustain the surprise? For that matter, if you have kids, did you want to know the sex of the baby beforehand or wait until the doctor pulled it out and checked the undercarriage? It's kind of the digital equivalent to shaking presents under the tree, albeit a lot more accurate. (The Amazon wishlist is, of course, rather than the sex of the baby. One is discouraged from shaking babies.)

I'll admit: I was a checker. But at the same time, I was a sustainer. Having directed folks to my wishlist, I have gone back a single time with the intention of peeking. And when I did this, Amazon stopped me by hiding all of the already-purchased gifts. "Do you really want to know this?" Amazon asked. "Do you really want to ruin the surprise? You can click here to show the gifts that have been purchased, but if you do, they won't be a surprise." And facing that door, I chose not to peer through the keyhole to see what Godpapa Drosselmeyer had planned for Christmas. The promise of a surprise stands, and the delicious anticipation gets deliciouser and more anticipatory by the second.

Thank you, Amazon.

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