“Many happy returns” is a phrase that is sometimes included as part of a birthday greeting; it means, of course, that there is a wish for many more happy birthdays. It does not, of course, refer to the returning of merchandise.
I am less bothered by returning something I purchased for my own use and enjoyment because it didn’t work out than I am returning something that was bought for someone else because I got the wrong size, color, quantity, edition, brand or model. This bothers me because it demonstrates a gap in communication – usually between my wife and me.
While planning for a party it was brought to my attention that we needed some more lights to replace the ones that were no longer working. I figured forty feet should do the trick. Because I used sloppy math and inaccurate measurements (in the interests of time and convenience) I allowed for a healthy margin of error (within ten feet or so) and headed to the store.
Because I was replacing a string of white “Christmas tree” lights that had proved unreliable in a particular application and location, I decided to upgrade. I had heard good things about LED bulbs and went shopping for them.
“Can we help you find anything in particular?” two guys dressed like twins standing in front of the unseasonably early Christmas decorating section asked. I quickly concluded that Christmas lights weren’t what I was looking for because they didn’t suggest it.
I had no idea that shopping for lights could be so enlightening (I had considered using illuminating instead). In addition to strength and size, LED bulbs come in various colors and groupings. I was confident I was going to look quite bright when I came home with four lengths of rope lights – apparently enough to hang myself.
My wife didn’t like them, saying they would look like a hose hanging on the barn, but to her credit she said I could put them up anyway. I had learned my lesson in the past; if she didn’t like them now – she would grow to hate them later. It was best to return them now and save myself the hassle of putting them up and them taking them down once her true feelings were known.
When I returned them to the store the next day, the lady behind the counter asked me why I was returning the lights. When I told her my wife didn’t like them she said, “I see this all the time. You guys always get it wrong. I don’t know why you guys don’t just send your wives to get what they want in the first place.”
She’s right. I have made that same mistake too many times. Fortunately (or wisely) my wife offered to shop for the light bulbs a day or two later. She ended up getting several strings of white Christmas lights – exactly what was being replaced, and apparently exactly what she wanted.
My wife’s birthday is coming up. As is often the case, when I ask her what she wants for her birthday she responds, “Nothing.” I never listen. But I suppose this year I could wish her many happy returns as I hand her the gift with a gift receipt.