"You know what would be great?" said my husband last summer. "One of those heavy grill press things that keeps meat and bacon from curling up when you're cooking it." You know what he's getting for Christmas? A heavy grill press thing that keeps bacon from curling up when you cook it. He never bothered to put it on his wish list, I just made a mental note and bought one, and I plan to pat myself on the back every time he uses it.
This, I like to think, exemplifies a crucial aspect of skillful gift-giving: listening. Another crucial aspect: remembering. Also crucial: time, money, and feeling some affection for the person you're buying for.
But what if it's December 22 and none of those aspects are in place, and suddenly you need to pick up a little something for the person in your office who invited you to cocktails Friday night? Or your husband's step-sister who suddenly decided to fly in from Norway? Or the sitter who's coming. over. right. now?