The quest of the year

It seemed simple, really: I wanted to find some plain, normal sized, red-and-white striped, peppermint flavored candy canes. No chocolate mint, no cherry, no jumbo, no mini, no exotic, no Mrs. Fields gourmet. Plain. Damn. Candy canes.

Walgreens had everything but: foot-long, 1-inch-thick? Check. Starburst flavored? Check. Boxes of 100 mini canes? Check. Plain old freakin' candy canes? No way.

Safeway was also no use, nor was Trader Joe's or Bed Bath & Beyond (though they seem to stock every other holiday candy ever created). Finally, tucked away in the corner of Target--out beyond where you have to walk past the security guard and risk setting off the alarm if you take your cart with you--there they sat: box after box of lovely, simple, unassuming candy canes.

The madness of my quest for what seems like it should be a ubiquitous Christmas confection (I mean, seriously: it's not like I was trying to hunt down Peeps or wax lips or anything) was matched only by the ludicrousness of my search for Sara's alarm clock.

My sister-in-law wants a regular (i.e., non-travel) alarm clock that has a 5-minute snooze function. On its face, this seemed like an easy wish to fulfill. But its face clearly lied, as I looked at--and I am not exaggerating--well over 35 alarm clocks trying to find one that didn't have a 9-minute snooze. (Who decided that 9 minutes was the perfect amount of time to delay an alarm once it goes off? And why has the entire electronics industry, with very few dissenters, bought into this insanity?)

I was sure Amazon would pull through, but they really didn't. The huge number of merchants within the site means you're unlikely to get standard info from one product to the next. One alarm clock is listed with exhaustive technical details and a link to the PDF of the user's manual. The next won't admit to anything more than being an alarm clock and sporting black casing. I looked for about 40 minutes last night before I finally gave up.

Finally, as with the candy canes, Target ended my search, though not before I dug out the manual from every alarm clock on the shelf to find out how long the clock's snooze lasted. (Note to manufacturers: Why not print that info on the packaging and save harried shoppers like me a few minutes of frustration?)

So Sara will get whatever model it was I ended up finding (it immediately went into a box of gifts to be shipped home, and I can only remember that it wasn't Timex and it wasn't Sony).

Maybe, for good measure, I should tuck in a candy cane before I wrap it.