The gift of gas

With oil close to $100 a barrel and Christmas right around the corner, gasoline may turn out to be this year’s Tickle Me Elmo. The most popular “Santa” may be the person who shows up with a gift-wrapped, 5-gallon jerry can of regular, not the guy with the latest iPod or the smallest cell phone. And oil makes a great present for everyone – granny or grandkid, boss or employee, rich or poor.

What do you get for the person who has everything? Gas! What do you get that hard-to-shop-for relative? Gas! What do you bring for the host of Christmas dinner? Candles? A bottle of wine? Homemade cookies? Flowers? Why not 5 gallons of gas? (Just a note from personal experience, make sure your host doesn’t put it near the open-flame chafing dishes.)

No one returns gas the day after Christmas, you can give as much or as little as you want, and you can do all your shopping in one place. Say you find out that someone you didn’t shop for will be a Christmas party, gas is ideal for last-minute shopping. What could be easier? It saves a lot of running around, which saves gas!

The bright-red gas containers already come in Christmas red, but I’m sure companies will start making “gift cans” with the appropriate decorations when barrels top $200. Birthday cans, anniversary cans and graduation gas cans for your favorite student. Remember, nothing says, “class” like a vintage import.

I was surprised that this year’s Neiman Marcus Christmas Book featured a $1.5 million submarine instead of, say, your own personal, backyard oil field and refinery. I’m sure the submarine is a swell gift, and certainly better than their cheesy $73,000 diamond-incrusted cell phone or the low-end $398 “Hobo” purse. If that’s all you can afford for a purse, why bother? You probably don’t have any money to put in it.

But really, wouldn’t a personal, backyard oil field and refinery have been a better gift choice for Neiman Marcus? After all, how often were you going to use the stupid submarine? And what’s it going to run on? Nuclear power? Of course not. It’ll need tons of that $100-a-barrel oil.

Now a lot of people will say that petroleum is not a very romantic present. Sure, nothing says “I love you” like a crock pot, a gift certificate to a tattoo parlor or that little dressed-up hammer that lets you shatter the window when you’re trapped in your car under water. But a gas can be romantic as any. We have a saying around our house, “Little gifts come in small packages, and no one wants a little gift.” You give someone a 5-gallon container full of gas – they know they’ve been gifted.

‘Perhaps it’s the world’s largest diamond,’ they will think. Or a wall safe. Or a lifetime supply of hair gel. And when they shake it, few people can guess what’s inside – unless you’ve forgotten to screw on the cap the entire way. (Let me tell you, that is a hard smell to get out of a sofa, no matter what you do.)

So why not think outside the gift box this Christmas, and think inside the gas container. The next time you’re at the pump, instead of thinking how much money you’re pumping out of your bank account and into your car, you’ll think of all the joy you’ve brought to your friends and family. And OPEC.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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