Friday, December 17, 2010

White Elephant Gift Exchange

Apart from telling a story about a bad beat in poker or a tough loss in fantasy football, the only surefire way to get everyone in the room to pay attention to you is to start a sentence with, "At my company's white elephant gift exchange..."

At my company's white elephant gift exchange, I brought a Lego Seattle Space Needle. This is a gift that Max has been wanting for years. When he saw me wrapping it, he asked with a Cindy Loo Hoo look, "Who are you wrapping that for, who?"

I explained the idea of a white elephant exchange. He kept asking questions, so I broke down the rules for him:
  • The gift should cost about $20, no more
  • The gift should be recently purchased, not pulled out from under a bed
  • Each person gets to choose between taking an opened gift or opening a new one
  • A gift could only be taken 3 times
  • The first person to draw gets to make the last swap
Max encouraged me to employ the strategy of bringing home the Lego Space Needle. "We can all build it together, and then we can put it maybe in my room."

There were 30 participants in my Digital Publishing group, and I got the number 5 draw.

The first few people picked awful gifts -- a lidless butter tray, a Santa Claus tea set, a lava lamp -- so I decided to make Max happy. I opened the Lego Space Needle. There, I thought. Max will be happy. No one else will want this.

The number six picker grabbed the Lego Space Needle, and it was locked down with the third pick by the person who went ninth.

Really? A Lego Space Needle?

Unfortunately, that's the end of the exciting part of the story. I opened a package of Kentucky bourbon, kept it until the number 29 picker nabbed it, and ended up with a Family Feud game for the Wii.

When I picked up the boys from art class, the first thing Max said was, "Did you get the Space Needle? Did you?"

"No, but I got a game for the Wii!" I said, perhaps a little too excitedly.

"But we don't have a Wii," he said, hangdog style.

I was hoping he wouldn't bring up that particular point.



  1. Good story.

    But I must protest, your rules describe an inexpensive gift exchange, not white elephants. The awful gifts you mention are acceptable white elephants. The goal is funny, and crap can be funny. Try a Sarah Palin book next time (if you can bring yourself to pay money for it or even touch it).

  2. Yes, "White Elephant" is the wrong term for our event, strictly speaking. The gifts were supposed to be desirable. The problem is that White Elephant has become a collective term for any gift exchange. The guy who set it up said something like, "This is a White Elephant Gift Exchange, only no crappy presents!! You have to buy it, and you have to think that at least a few people would really want it." Let's agree to call it synecdoche.

  3. Robbie has a Wii