As the holiday gift-buying clock winds down and all you cybershoppers sit smugly at your computers, bragging to anybody who will listen how easy it was to shop online, allow me to taint your eggnog.
You have no idea how much time you wasted -- time you could have saved had you only jumped into your cars and purchased all your gifts at the local mall.
iPad? Actually go INSIDE the store instead of letting the store's entire contents appear on my screen? What have you been smoking?"
Oh, you poor, misguided fool. Take it from a reformed cybershopper; online gift buying isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Let's begin with the obvious: the inability to actually touch and, depending on your gift, smell what you are buying. My wife recently ran out of her favorite perfume. Since husbands as a rule cannot identify any fragrance other than Old Spice, I faced a dilemma: ask her what brand she liked and order it online or take my chances at the mall. But doing the former would spoil the surprise. And women love surprises, right? That's why I went to Macy's cosmetics counter and, with apologies to the staff, started sniffing every bottle in sight. Eventually I found one that smelled exactly like the love of my life. Try doing that on a smartphone!
Still not convinced? OK, let's consider all those online accounts you had to create before you could go cybershopping. How much time did you spend typing your name, address, credit card number, personal and secondary security questions and passwords before actually clicking "create account?" Then you waited for an email asking you to verify that yes, it was really you who did all of that. While you hit "refresh" in your mail program, I was at Best Buy, asking the helpful sales clerk the difference between pixels and megapixels. He explained it far more thoroughly than Siri could have.
Furthermore, did you REALLY get the best price for your item? Did you Google "on line coupons?" You would be amazed at what's out there although it requires an awful lot of internet time to find which coupons go with which items. Just make sure you have a good pair of reading glasses to decipher the .2 font containing the code which must be properly entered into the website where you made your purchases. Personally, I'd rather cut a few "20 percent off" coupons from the Sunday newspaper.
"Hold on," you arrogantly say. "I did all my shopping in one sitting. Now I just have to wait for my purchases to be delivered directly to my front door."
You live in a fantasy world, don't you?
Do you seriously trust that phrase, "guaranteed by Dec. 24?" Right now, that hard-to-find gift for your 6-year-old that you bought while simultaneously folding laundry is at the bottom of a warehouse in Tennessee. You will be lucky if the shipping service UNCOVERS it before Christmas Eve, much less ships it. I, on the other hand, know exactly where all my gifts are since it was me who took them from my car and deposited them in a hiding place known only to myself and my dog.
Finally, I assume you quit your job and stayed home all day so you could intercept the UPS deliveryman before another family member answered the door. Face it, it's not easy to surprise your 11-year-old son with an Xbox from Amazon if he signed for it.
I have one more store to visit. On the way home, I'll stop at church and pray for you. Specifically I will pray that your Internet doesn't go down before Dec. 25.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com.)