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We put up our Christmas tree a few days ago.  The first gift under the tree is a pair of used wiper blades from our car.  I’ve wrapped a red ribbon around them.

Say what you will about seasonal excesses (trips abroad, diamonds, a silver Lexus idling under a huge red bow come to mind), I think you’ll agree that I may stand alone for sheer holiday exuberance.

I actually gave myself new wiper blades for Christmas, but they’re already on the car.  I didn’t see any good reason to continue driving with a rain-streaked windshield just so I could unwrap new blades on Christmas day.  I put the used blades under the tree to remind me of how very generous and thoughtful I’ve been to myself.

I didn’t scrimp.  These are top quality blades.  The pair cost more than fifty bucks and came from a bona fide auto parts store.  They’re custom sized, too.  One is 26 inches long and the other is 20 inches.  I am baffled how two strips of skinny rubber can cost more than 50 bucks, but I read that the blades are coated with patented hydrophobic magic polymer or something.

I buy expensive blades in the hope that when the rains come, or the snows, I will be able to see out of my windshield.  I have found this a great advantage when driving, and I’m confident that those with whom I share the highways and byways are as grateful as myself.

I report these mundane details about my endlessly fascinating life to encourage all of us to spend some of our Christmas money on what we might call “preparedness items.”

You know what would make a perfect Christmas gift?  New tires for the car.  New tires and wiper blades are two of the best things you can own.  I’ve bought both over the years, and I can attest to the satisfaction of ownership.  Diamonds might be better, but I doubt it.  I have no personal experience.

Have you considered giving yourself and your family water filters?  A few weeks ago, a water main in our urban county burst and thousands of households had to boil their water for a few days.  I know a church (a church, for heaven’s sake!) that sells water filters, and I think every family ought to have an effective filter that can be used in an emergency.  (Brita brand filters do not count.) 

 In the past three weeks I’ve bought twelve headlamps from Costco.  They are Duracell brand that come three to a package for twenty dollars.  Batteries are included.  They work great, and the price is outstanding.  If you’re getting a small gift from me this year, odds are high it will be a head lamp.  When you need a flashlight, there are few substitutes, not even wiper blades.

How’s the family fixed for first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors?  Have you got a radio that is powered by batteries or the sun’s rays?  Put Santa to work.

The church I referred to earlier sells food that is packaged for long-term storage in #10 cans.  You can get these cans delivered to your front door, which is pretty much how Santa works.

For a really inexpensive gift (about a buck each), consider an envelope to protect RFID credit cards.  We live in a world so morally advanced, so technologically remarkable that thieves can steal our credit card information when we pass near them on the street.  

To return to the windshield motif, if you’ve got kids looking to create and give away gift certificates, ask them to create a gift card that promises that the inside of your windshield (and all your car’s glass) will be clean and bright throughout the year.  Look on the internet for tips on how best to clean the glass.  One top tip: don’t let your cleaning rag touch the dashboard.

Six months from now, I will be grateful for my Christmas present of a gleaming, streak-free windshield which I will enjoy every day as I peer out at God’s glorious creations and tens of thousands of automobiles creeping along at ten miles per hour.  Billions of dollars of this year’s Christmas presents won’t last nearly that long.

Mr. Oliphant will spend Christmas either in Virginia, where he lives, or in Gstaad, where he will lavish expensive gifts on himself.  Does anyone know if the European Union levies an import tariff on used wiper blades?