Twenty years ago, when I first started writing columns about the Christmas holidays, I was full of ideas to make them better.
Some of my gimmicks -- fruitcake flavored chewing gum, reversable wrapping paper -- never caught on.
But once, several years ago, I called for what I described as "... Expanded Express Lane Shopping: One of the many ideas Christmas merchants can borrow from otther businesses. If you just want a bottle of perfume, there's no reason why you should have to wait behind Granny Clampett down from the hills to buy Jethro, Jed and Ellie Mae new shirts and overalls."
Well, you can imagine how I felt last weekend, standing in a local big-volume discount store, watching customers with light purchases zip right through a series of smaller cash register stands.
A tear almost came to my eye, not so much from pride as from the monetary regret that I hadn't filed a patent.
Nevertheless, there are more holiday ideas where that one came from.
Even-Odd Parking: Between Dec. 2 and Dec. 23, malls should set aside 200 spaces near the main entrances and reseve them for vehicles with even-number plates on even-number dates, and odd plates on the odd days.
It would be strictly enforced (tow-truck drivers need to make a buck off Christmas, too.) Of course, all bets are off on Christmas Eve when it's every man for himself.
The Year's Hot Toy: Every Christmas brings a new item that is desperately sought by parents. This year, I think, it is some sort of Muppet Ernie doll. Whatever, the item will be placed in a corner and guarded, allowing only one customer at a time to the shelf to peruse it.
This avoids the potential embarrassment of adults shopping for children and acting like them at the same time.
Happy Hour Shopping: Taking a tip from the bars around town, retailers could encourage folks to shop during the store's "off" hours. Give them 2-for-1 deals and red- and green-light specials. And if that doesn't work, get them free booze.
Switchable charge cards: Gas stations have been doing this for years. Say you're in one department store and you've only got the card from another. The store would go ahead and take your card and use it as an automatic application for its own version of plastic.
Early-bird shopping: Airlines, grocery stores and fast-food chains have found that there are a lot of folks with money to spend at unusual hours. For those of us who get up early or go home late, a few hours of shopping before breakfast or after mightnight would be welcome.
Faster escalators: Face it, escalator and elevator technology is in the horse-and-buggy days. We're at the dawn of the millennium and surely someone has invented something faster.
Make a few adjustments and ZAP! "Beam me up, Rudolph."
They once laughed at the "Express Lane" checkout idea, too.