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On technology and shopping malls - Michael Davis

It used to be that I could answer many of my dad's technical questions – on computers, anyway.

We all know that the younger crowd are generally more “hip” to the trends in the world of gigabytes and hard drives, but these days, my dad is outpacing my own admittedly limited techno-savvy.

Only a few years ago, I had to show him the finer points of surfing the Internet after he finally got an ISP that wasn't stuck in first gear. “Web mail,” I told him, “is where it's at. You can check it from anywhere.”

Well, he's taken it to heart.

He got himself the mother of all laptops this year, and when he set out on one of his extended road trips, he vowed that what bills he couldn't pay before he left, he would pay while on the road – on the Internet.

Necessity, it seems, forced him into the world of online bill pay. But I think once he found he could trust it, and that the water company wouldn't shut him off if they didn't get a paper check at the end of the month, it opened up a whole new world of “online” for him and this Christmas could quite possibly be his first-ever Web Christmas.

Christmas shopping has always presented a special set of problems for us. First, and probably least, is that you have to think of who to give to. Next, what to give them.

The big snafu comes when you've got to go out and get it. All the planning and plotting and great ideas of what could be can quickly go out the window when it comes down to actually getting out of the house and tangling with the holiday masses. That usually entails a trip to the mall, and by God, that's the last place you want to be around Christmastime, isn't it?

Winding your way around ruddy-faced toddlers in the death-grip of their parents. Teenagers congregating around the ice cream booth in the food court and talking in loud, teenager voices. Getting caught behind a slow-walking couple with no apparent destination – and more time that should be allowable to get there – and being unable to go around them without stepping out into the opposing lane of shopping traffic.

Recovering from head-on collisions with rapid bargain hunters in front of F.Y.E. is not how you would normally like to celebrate the wonders of the holidays. No tidings of comfort and joy there.

Nor in the canned Christmas music piped in in quantities near unimaginable over a speaker system that was designed for a 1978 Dodge Charger. How many times can you listen to “Carol of the Bells” while you're waiting in line at Sbarro or browsing through sweaters and scarves at Dillard's?

It can all be a bit less than cheerful.

So this year, my dad has taken to online gift-giving. And I couldn't be prouder.

It's not that it's his first foray into Internet shopping. Earlier this year, he bought a rather high-quality camera after doing some Internet price-hunting. He even ordered his laptop online.

I only wish that I could go digital and leave the shopping to my mouse and credit card. I guess I'm just having trouble giving up the cheerful holiday tradition of opening my wallet wide for some pimply high-school-junior check out clerk to jump in and take his due.

Michael Davis covers government for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at mdavis@henryherald.com .