NEW YORK -- A woman who in 1977 gave a co-worker a very small, poorly made, and essentially useless holiday gift has received the exact same essentially useless, poorly made holiday gift from a different co-worker at a completely different company in 2004.
The item, a 3-inch snowman of unidentifiable whit-ish material (possibly cheap plastic?), with a garish red and green striped hat made of itchy synthetic fibers that cause an immediate allergic reaction in the fingers of the person holding it, has no immediately apparent purpose. It is not edible; it does not contain anything edible such as chocolate; it does not contain either bills or coins; it cannot be used as a paperweight because it is too lightweight; and it is of no religious, moral, political, intellectual, or cultural significance.
Time has not been kind to this "chatchka." Its formerly whit-ish cast is now a more grubby gray. Some of the fibers have fallen off the hat, and there is a tiny chip in the center of the snowman, about where its appendix would be, if it had one.
"The year I gave this gift was the one and only year I gave gifts to co-workers," explained the woman, who was horrified to receive the snowman after its presumably wordlwide travels. "What did I know? I was just out of graduate school, totally broke, and being inundated with horrible useless items from all these people I hardly knew and disliked."
"Back in 1977, I gave a few people chocolate, and they complained that they were on diets," the woman continued. "I gave a few other people wine, and they complained that they didn't drink. I gave a few other people paperbacks, and they complained that they didn't read. So, I decided to find the rest of the people on my list something that they couldn't do anything with. Then they couldn't complain. Actually, I was hoping to stun them into silence by the sheer uselessness of this thing."
Forensic examination has confirmed that the object was passed along from co-worker to co-worker each between 1978 and 1985. It sat in storage until 1987, when it and various other items were offered for sale at a garage sale. Between 1987 and 1995 it roamed the Chicago area in search of a home, and in 1996 its unknown owner tossed it onto the Dan Ryan Expressway, where it was washed to the side of the road and picked up by a pigeon, which flew it to New York City.
There, it migrated to various thrift shops, and late in 2003 was purchased by the CEO of a managed care company who was looking for a prototype of an inexpensive gift to give to doctors who had been good gatekeepers. Unfortunately, the item fell out of the CEO's jacket pocket while he was running for a taxi, and it was picked up by a small child. The CEO decided it would be better to penalize all doctors, and the child gave the item to his mother, who washed it and wrapped it and gave it to her co-worker, the woman who had originally purchased and given it.
"I said thanks," said the new owner and original giver. "What else could I say?" But this time, I'm going to bury it somewhere where it will never again see the light of day. Because, do I want to see it in another 30 years? No. No way."
Sigmunda Froid, a NYC psychotherapist, commented that "no deed involving holiday shopping--good or bad--goes unpunished."