Opinion: A stressful holiday time squeeze

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Once again, the most difficult part of Christmas shopping for me was finding stuff to put in my wife’s stocking. For over 40 years, looking for appropriate gifts for this Christmas morning ritual has stumped me. My wife, Mary Ellen, never thought the piece of coal was very funny, so I stopped doing it after we were married six years.

But this year, with the help of TikTok, I found dozens of inexpensive gift ideas that that solve everyday problems, like threading a needle effortlessly or hanging a picture without a hook or nail. One product particularly intrigued me — not a gift for Mary Ellen, but for my stocking. A toothpaste squeezer, a tiny plastic contraption with a key that when turned extracted the final bit of product from the bottom of the tube. Of course, it was made in China. I am not a big fan of Chinese goods, but I do love good Chinese — especially moo shu pork.

I ordered the squeezer. Days later, I started getting notifications updating me on where in the world my toothpaste squeezer was on its trip to Indiana. I was always given both a tracking number and an order number. In the seller’s last text, I was informed that my new order number was 78675439879464, which, thanks to Bing’s AI, I now know is 78 trillion, 675 billion, 439 million, 879 thousand, 464. Mary Ellen made me add a digit at the end of the number before publishing this because she is still a little paranoid about unsavory people getting our personal information.

That is a lot of plastic toothpaste squeezers, about 13,000 for each person in the world, including places where people have no teeth. My stocking-stuffer gift did finally arrive, just in time for New Year’s Eve. I quickly went to my bathroom cabinet and retrieved the 16 tubes of Colgate that I had refused to throw out in 2023.

The notes apologizing and explaining the delay in delivery still came every day. According to the seller, that little thingamajig had spent time in post offices first in China, then Norway, Finland and Patterson, N.J. Not exactly the end of an otherwise perfect vacation. I emailed the seller.

Dear Toothpaste Squeezer People:

My squeezer did finally arrive. Finally. But it broke in half the first time I tried it. I would love to return it for a full refund, but I don’t think it is worth the trouble, like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, which is probably another gift option you are selling.

I may order another squeezer next year. But only if you make one for my four two-thirds-empty open plastic containers of Gulden’s Mustard that Mary Ellen keeps threatening to throw out.

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