The pollyanna

By Tom Cardella
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 8, 2011

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This is the time of the year when folks hold a pollyanna in offices everywhere. A pollyanna is a way of ensuring that you don’t have to buy a gift for everyone. Most of us don’t buy a gift for everyone anyway, but that’s another story for another slow news day.

In the typical pollyanna, everyone writes their name on a piece of paper. The names are placed in a hat, Crock-Pot or a bowl made out of Waterford crystal (the container that is used depends on whether the workplace in question is a welfare office, a cafeteria or a multi-national corporation). Each person draws a name (other than their own) and buys a gift for that person. A price limit is placed on the purchase. This ingenious system guarantees even if everyone dislikes a person, that person will get a gift.

To better understand this concept, let’s use some of the current Republican presidential nominees as an example. Under the pollyanna concept, even Rick Santorum would get a gift though he is running at 1 percent in the polls (if you round off from six decimal places). Herman Cain would qualify for only one gift-— be it from his wife or mistress.

There is a rumor that the Three Wise Men were in their own pollyanna. Contrary to popular belief, only one of them had picked the name of the babe in the manger out of an ancient cereal bowl. The other two Wise Men selected each other. None of them were willing to admit who it was that had selected the infant in Bethlehem, so all three of them brought a gift (the gift being a year’s supply of swaddling clothes). The Star of Bethlehem was actually the forerunner of today’s GPS.

The truth is no one likes pollyannas. Most of us have trouble enough shopping for family and friends on our list, let alone the dork in the next cubicle. One of the problems is that the price limitation in pollyannas has not kept up with the times. Most pollyannas have a price limit of $25 or 17 shekels to keep the biblical theme. Because of inflation, $25 doesn’t buy much these days. This fact has placed greater pressure on shoppers. A survey recently taken by The New York Times found that the most popular pollyanna gifts purchased for $25 are a gift certificate to IHOP (tip not included — neither are the special pancakes), a cake of Shea butter soap (the Shea butter has been replaced with margarine), two three-packs of undershorts at Macy’s (cotton-polyester blend), and a hardback book at Barnes and Noble (sale bin). A warning about the books in the sale bin: The selection is limited to “The Baltimore Harbor: Is There Anything Else To Do Besides Visit the Aquarium?”; “The Conspiracy to Discredit Andy Reid”; “Recipes for People Who Love Gluten”; and “The Kim Kardashian Wedding Pictures.”

The easy answer would have been to raise the limit on the pollyanna. I made such a suggestion to the members of my wife’s sorority and was set upon by my angry female friends and tossed out of a speeding car in the dead of night somewhere in South Jersey. To be candid, I am even frightened of South Jersey in the middle of the afternoon because I get lost easily trying to use fast food restaurants to guide my way home.

Finally, someone came up with a solution to the dilemma of the modern day pollyanna. In addition to placing their name on a slip of paper, participants have to list three specific items they wish to receive within the agreed upon price limitations. In this way, the onus shifted from the giver to the recipient. The recipient has to try and figure out what it is they want for $25.

Inasmuch as recipients also are givers, in effect, this solution solved nothing. But it created the illusion of a solution, kind of like what is supposed to happen now that the Super Committee has failed to come up with way to trim our budget deficit or the way Newt Gingrich has created the illusion that he is a man of ideas. I’m not crazy about being in this new version of the pollyanna. Recipients get too specific. I am in one this season where my pollyanna has listed three suggestions:

1. A 1/4-pound of Iberian ham (it costs $100 a pound hence the request for a quarter pound) that must be purchased from Garces Trading Co. Be sure to check if the pigs were fed black acorns;

2. Real Cuban cigars. (Note: Doesn’t this require me to deal with the black market?);

3. The Justin Bieber CD “Under The Mistletoe.” On this last choice, I refuse to be an accessory to a crime against music, which is what I consider the Bieb’s rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.”

Maybe the pollyanna has outlived its usefulness. SPR


Contact the South Philly Review at editor@southphillyreview.com.

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