Gift Wrapping

by Terry Hargrove
In 1980, I took a part time job at a men’s clothing store so I could make a few extra bucks for Christmas. While it is true that I suffer from Fashion Deficit Syndrome, that wasn’t much of a hindrance, since most folks who came into the store already knew what they wanted, and if they didn’t, hey, it was 1980. Everything looked ridiculous. So it was low pressure sales job, and that suited me. But because it was Christmas, the customers wanted their purchases gift wrapped.

I don’t know why I was so bad at wrapping presents. It was a skill I had never mastered, and the harder I tried the worse I got. I carefully observed my co-workers take a rectangular box, a sheet of paper, some tape and ribbon, and transform those simple elements into a masterpiece fit for Santa’s tree. It looked so easy.

Of course, golf looks easy. But give me the same box, the same tape, and the same paper, and after an hour of honest labor I could produce something that looked like a space rock. It was sad. And at the end of each day, I’d come home with paper cuts and tape stuck to my hair, a few pins hanging from my sleeves, and gift tags, the horrible gift tags, were everywhere. I found two in my sock one night.

The store owner was a buddy of mine, so I didn’t worry about being fired. But he was also a businessman, so he called in Maude and Claude, professional gift wrappers from Franklin. Really. I don’t know what’s stranger, that there are professional gift wrappers out there, or that two people named Maude and Claude actually found each other.

Claude was kind of creepy, so I worked with Maude, a gigantic German lady who viewed my attempts at gift wrapping with complete contempt.

“You silly man,” she huffed. “You have not the gift of the papers. I learned the art of gift wrapping from my grandfather, who learned it from his uncle, the great Lars Von Hupsfeldt. Gift wrapper for kings he was. You think it is enough to throw some paper on a box. I will teach you. This fold I have created here, this is called the Dornheim fold. It is used for boxes less than 12 inches wide. Notice that the angle of the fold is precisely 45 degrees. It must be so. Here, you try. Nein! Nein! You do it all wrong! Get away!”

“Silly man,” mumbled Claude.

That Christmas season was a long one. Eventually, Maude and Claude took over the entire gift wrapping section, and brought in their own paper and tape and ribbon and bows. I was banished to a table in the smoking room near the store’s exit. Occasionally, Maude would look in my direction and mumble something in German, and as the ribbon floated in the air between them, they would laugh and laugh.

But the holidays are a magical time, and my luck was about to change. A wealthy gentleman named Robert Dalton came by and purchased a watch for his wife. Since Maude and Claude were busy with stacks of purchases, he brought the package to me. I did the best I could for him, and 90 minutes later, the watch was wrapped. The next day, he returned.

“I need a favor, young fellow, and I’m willing to pay you for it,” he said.”

“Yes, sir. What can I do for you?” I asked.

“See, the thing is, when my wife saw that watch you wrapped under our tree, it

was… well, let’s be honest here, it was the worst gift wrapping she’d ever seen. I mean, it was so ugly, it was almost art. So she assumed that I had wrapped it myself. And she was so happy that I had wrapped her gift myself, that she… well, a gentleman doesn’t discuss such things.”

“Women are funny,” I said.

“But the thing is, I’d like you to wrap all her other presents for me. The same way you did the watch. It meant a lot to her, but I just don’t have time to wrap them myself.”

“Why that’s very kind of you,” I said. “I think. But you’ve got seven packages here. It’ll take me about 9 hours to do all of them.”

“I’ll give you $200.”

“Deal!” and we shook on it. I threw the packages in my car and was up all night, but by sunrise, they were all wrapped, and each of them carried my distinctive style. Mr. Dalton didn’t stop grinning until May.

It wasn’t long before word of my talents got out, and I had a growing clientele, men who wanted their wives or girlfriends to think they had taken the time to personally wrap their gifts. I was busy right up to Christmas Eve. While I should have felt guilt over being such an integral part of this deception, I was only 25, so the part of my brain that is capable of feeling true guilt wouldn’t develop until, I don’t know, it’ll develop some day, I guess.

Still, Christmas miracles don’t have a long shelf life. By the time I finished the packages for my last client, I had, tragically, become fairly adept at wrapping packages. I even mastered, accidentally, the Dornheim Fold once, but I haven‘t been able to duplicate that feat without lots of beer. On December 26, I went by to see Maude and Claude, who were staring at their own personal holiday nightmare.

“Look, silly man, look!” demanded Maude. “Do you see this thing? It is an abomination.”

It wasn’t really. It was a gift bag. They were suddenly everywhere, and I made plans to use them whenever possible. For Maude and Claude, they were a sign of change, and nothing is more frightening than that. But when I told them of my new venture, the art of making packages look like a helpless male had wrapped them, they were intrigued. It was a good idea, and I guess I shouldn’t have given it away for free.

But it was Christmas, after all. Ladies, check your presents, especially the horribly wrapped ones. If there is an M or a C on the box, well, you know the truth now. But you didn’t hear it from me.


1 reply »

  1. Thank you. I shall no longer fret over my inability to wrap things. I’ll just smile at my girlfriend the next time she asks why i used so much wrapping paper to wrap something.

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