Okay, so you screwed up. But this year you’ve been told if the Christmas gifts you buy all come from the 24-hour drug store late on the 24th of December, you’re in the doghouse and the dog will be eating turkey in your place at the table.
Forget the drug store. Hit the gas station.
It’s not that you can pretend you didn’t do your festive shopping on the ride over, it’s that your version of frankincense and myrrh will be so much more useful than bath beads or an electric toothbrush.
First, the most obvious. If a stranger to our shores walked into a gas station mini store, they would presume that jerky is one of our prime food groups. I have never seen such lavish displays of so many kinds of jerky in my life, all apparently taking place a block from my home. Jerky comes in sticks and packets and cubes and strips; jerky is flavoured; jerky is popular; jerky is pretty gross. But if there is a jerky lover on your list, your local gas station is jerky nirvana.
You can give the gift of heat, which may just make you a hero this holiday season. Bundles of firewood sit on a skid outside the door, waiting to be tossed into someone’s wood stove that will be consuming wood the way a toddler eats mini marshmallows. Some stations have those magic logs that claim to clean your chimney, so you can say you were thinking of their health as well as their safety. Explaining a hot fireplace flue to that same little kid on Christmas Eve is up to you.
Dads (and in-laws) are notoriously hard to buy for, so go right for the heart. Winter wiper blades sit quietly in a corner, one of the most overlooked areas of car maintenance. You can Google the make and model and get the right sizes, and if you really want to impress, include a jug of windshield washer fluid, and offer free installation of both when you get there. In the dark. In the cold. Extra points.
The Canadian Automobile Club (CAA) has noted an increase in calls this year for people running out of fuel. “But how is this possible?” you ask yourself. “Doesn’t every car now have a little countdown thingy?” Well, seems that’s the problem. Whereas in the old days we’d squint at the quarter-tank mark and think, “Why risk it?” and top up, today’s computer-trusting drivers are thinking their car cannot lie (or fib, or estimate, or be wrong). But you can purchase a little gas can to go, all red and cute. When your kid/sibling/spouse calls you in a panic, you can go rescue them without hauling the huge, grungy lawnmower gas can out of the shed.
Air fresheners make for fragrant stocking stuffers
Every gas station has a couple of freestanding kiosks; an ATM and a lottery booth. I’m torn about giving someone a lottery ticket as a gift, because if it’s a loser they’ve given you nothing but false hope and a wounded feeling deep in your soul, and if it’s a winner, they probably expect you to share it with them. If you give them a sweater, they don’t expect you to share. An ATM, on the other hand, shoots out cold hard cash, and I’ve yet to see anyone torn about receiving cash. Unless it’s your wife, and if you hand her cash, prepare to die.
Everybody wants to be the hit of the party, and trying to pick up things at a gas station on the way to a party means you’re just bringing Gatorade and jerky, which is hardly champagne and a party platter. I say think ahead; there is an excellent assortment of headache remedies, heartburn meds and anti-nauseants on offer at the gas station. Be the party after the party. Adding purchases from the sunglass display for the walk of shame are optional. Nobody wore their sunglasses the night before. You might be a hero.
While I don’t often go the gift card route, I will say this for the Petro-Can I was in: If you purchase a gift card for the driver in your life – the young drivers in my house love getting gas cards – you don’t pay an activation fee. Compare that to the $4.95 activation fee the drug store wanted to charge me on a Visa $50 gift card. A 10 per cent fee to use the card? I don’t think so. I’ll stick to the gas cards.
Fuel, warmth, drugs, safety. All that, and so much jerky. So much jerky.
Video: Gas prices rising in the midst of holiday travel season