Why bother? Why pretend you even want to find presents for your friends? What have they ever done for you? (Besides the kidney donation.) Who's got time to shop for them—or, for that matter, the members of your clinging, needy family? Let them spend hours looking for downtown holiday parking, standing in line at Nordstrom, or returning gifts later on. You've got more important things to do, like eating Christmas dinner at a table for one at your neighborhood Thai restaurant, or getting blitzed while you spend another New Year's Eve alone. Set some priorities; do the cost-benefit analysis and you'll see that there's no better present than cash. That's right, cash. Because you basically don't care enough to shop for loved ones, business colleagues, or that guy whose name you can't remember who once did something nice for you—whatever it was. Accordingly, the guidelines below should provide a quick and easy index to the correct gift amounts—call it tipping if you must—this holiday season. Remember: Shopping convenience is as near as your local ATM!
$5—Perfect for the paper boy, garbage man, or your fat Uncle Louie in Cleveland who named his child after you. What better way to say "thanks" to your best friends who deliver your pizza, Chinese food, and TV Guide? (One of these days you've really got to learn their names.) Don't even bother enclosing the fiver in a Christmas card you saved from last year. Just a simple envelope and a Post-It Note provide an elegant, appropriate wrapping for President Lincoln—always a welcome visitor during the holidays!
$10—Okay, this special someone obviously means a bit more to you. Perhaps your mother, estranged children, or second ex-spouse. (The third we won't even mention—that no-good cheat!) It's also appropriate for co-workers who covered for you when you were drunk or sleeping in the supply room, and for the postman who conveniently "loses" all your past-due billing statements.
$20—Ouch! Okay, okay, we can hear you protesting, "That is way too much money to spend on anything besides a fifth of Stoli." We hear ya, but sometimes the occasion demands it. As with, for instance, the stepsiblings who didn't beat and humiliate you during childhood, and that nice old lady whose downstairs apartment you flooded last June. (Then again in July. Damn those leaky faucets!) Who doesn't welcome a call from President Jackson?
$25—The right amount to atone for forgotten birthdays, missed anniversaries, and the children whose names you can't remember. (Hint: One of them starts with a "p.") An appropriate stocking stuffer—if you didn't already stuff it in the garter of a dancer at D骠 Vu. Also makes a fine gift for the aunt who once mortgaged her house to bail you out of jail. (Where is she living now?)
$50—This is a serious amount, generally bestowed upon bosses or employers to preempt your imminent firing. Remember not to reuse the company Christmas card you received, and try to deliver the gift before you get blotto at the office holiday party. It's also an excellent way of placating the next-door neighbors if you should back your car over their child or cat.
$100—Offer this discreet present at your IRS audit for covering those fiscal years when you "neglected" to file a return: 1998, 1997-93, 1992, and all the '80s and '70s (time spent in prison or draft-dodging in Canada excepted). Also appropriate for the children you gave up for adoption (just before college tuition was due).
$150—For your special friend in the municipal transportation bureau who keeps you supplied with handicapped parking passes. (Disability category marked "indolent.") Because those parking lots are just too damn big to walk! You may wish to consider enclosing a card.
$250—Take a deep breath. This whopping amount is usually reserved for the conjoined twin you haven't spoken with in 10 years. It's time to patch up the feud. Besides, how else are you going to get the remote control back? A decade of MacGyver reruns is enough.
$50 million—Only to be given as a last resort, the best means of saying to the Department of Justice, "Oops, I'm sorry that I accidentally monopolized the software operating system industry." And remember to sign the Christmas card this year. It's the little things that count.
Brian Miller is the film editor at Seattle Weekly.