I suppose the problem is I never consciously decided to give my niece an elephant for Christmas. I stumbled into it one leg at a time, which with long legs doesn't take long. The problem is memorable gift advertisements, like getting your sense of taste revised so tea seems weird, or naming a new shade of blue, or getting hover-forklifts. Buy one Five Good Ideas For A Dollar pack and they seem like possibilities. Get Four Credibility Units For A Dollar and you believe you should buy stuff like Christmas carols sung in Latin to slop so much class it doesn't even matter the instruments are auto-tuned goat sneezes.
I called for more information, but what's more informative about an elephant than an elephant? Even an elephant expert, certified by the Elephant Expert Certification Institute (a subdivision of Crazy Quilt Dragons of Canandaigua, a leading zydeco band), can only give information at a trunk's remove. Two trunks, if the elephant comes with luggage, which it will, since elephants are not light packers, short for pachyderms. If they were they'd be helium elephants, which I couldn't give my niece. She'd float away.
This wrecked the surprise, since they sent an elephant trainer trainer. I agreed it didn't make sense sending elephant somewhere without trainers ready. If everybody did the streets would be packed --- let's not try that again --- would be filled with elephants, snarling traffic and making it almost impossible to use cruise control efficiently.
The house was judged perfect for elephants, once it was radically changed. They mostly had to extend the living room way forward, surprising the city's Bureau of Having A Sidewalk Outside The House. But since the living room level's a couple feet above ground there were inches of clearance over the sidewalk still. You'd think the Bureau didn't have other sidewalks needing to be talked about.
And then, what else, but the first bale of hay arrived. Do you know what elephants do with hay? No, they don't do that. They don't do that either. Nobody knows what they do, but need a lot of it since right away a second bale came. I hear a full year might need a third, maybe even a fourth. It's good they had hay delivery because on my own I'd be stuck. I'd guess to drive in some direction to find a reputable hay merchant, but which? There's nearly eight possible destinations, and do I get to any of them? No, of course not. Better to order hay online.
We still needed an elephant trainer, lest the elephant go through life uneducated. Community colleges would earn the elephant an Associate's Degree, but that's just setting up for a transfer to a four-year school. Yes, once its dander was up it could get into whatever it wanted to, but how do you get it to dander-raising form? By training, so we needed a trainer, see?
That's where the gift fell apart. Normally to get a trainer you watch the sidewalk and grab someone who has no idea what's going on. Those people are usually be glad to have something to cling to. It even qualifies as managerial experience. Plus if you can master the Circus Style Sheets you get all kinds of snazzy outfits, some of them shiny. But it turns out my niece lives in a town where people won't get on their bellies and crawl under giant living rooms. What kind of public spirit is that? We gave it a fair try, waiting over a dozen minutes. We had to call it all off.
It wasn't a total loss, since the trainer trainer explained a single helium elephant wouldn't be nearly enough to carry my niece away. It would take two, maybe even three if she'd just had lunch. Plus the extended living room means my sister-in-law can finally host those cricket matches. But I'm going to be paying off the bill for this for like ever, and I didn't even get to see the elephant.
Maybe I should have given her the elephant for Easter instead. But then where would I get enough Easter wrapping paper for it?
Trivia: In 1909 the Big Store in Columbus (Ohio) promised out-of-town holiday shoppers free railroad fares and ``a good dinner besides'' if they spent $25 or more. Source: Service and Style: How The American Department Store Fashioned The Middle Class, Jan Whitaker.
Currently Reading: America's Wars, Alan Axelrod.