With Thanksgiving falling so late this year, there are fewer shopping days between then and Christmas.
I was having breakfast recently with a friend who was stressing over it, and she politely remarked that I didn't have that problem since I was Jewish and Hanukkah already was over.
"Au contraire," I responded. Then I offered to show her my Christmas-shopping list.
I get as stressed, too, trying to buy the best holiday gifts for clients, bosses and especially the wonderful service people who work at the businesses I frequent. And I have to be just as creative as I would be if I were buying for family.
So I try to put myself in the shoes of my gift recipients and ask advice from their co-workers or others who might be more tuned in.
My hair stylist, Kelley, is really easy to shop for because she always tells me how much she loves Banana Republic.
A gift card requires just an easy trip to the mall, so I picked it up Monday, because I wanted to get the gift to her this week.
Bert, one of my waiters at Penny's Diner, is a wonderful guy and appreciates anything he is given.
Without Bert, my mornings would begin on a sour footing.
He's a big Yankees fan, and last year I checked out the bookstore where I work for books about the Yankees.
I must have pulled out 10 books before I finally gave up and headed to Kohl's for a gift card.
Bert seemed thrilled with the gift card and told me he was overdue for a couple of white shirts. He made my day.
She, like Bert, is a really upbeat person, and when I go in she's right there with water and coffee. And if I need a coffee to go, she slips it in without charging me.
Of course, I can't show up with a Starbuck's gift card for my great counter people, Barb and Sharon, at the Doughnut Inn.
That would be tacky.
So I explore stores like Kohl's, Trader Joe's, Target, Marshall's and Pier One.
Both women have been wonderful to me, and my coffee is on the counter just as I'm coming into the store most of the time.
Today, they both know me by name. But in the early days I was just a large black coffee half decaf/half regular, three Sweet `N Lows.
I've decided this year to give something to my newspaper delivery people too. They provide their envelopes, and this year I have vowed to respond.
They work hard, in all kinds of weather, getting the newspapers to my driveway. So I'll make sure there is something in those envelopes this year.
Our dog walker, Diane, goes above and beyond for us. She has rescued us in emergencies, especially when my wife or I have forgotten a commitment.
She takes such wonderful care of the dogs and has even driven by the house if we use a new dog sitter, just to be sure that the person's car is there.
Shopping for clients is a whole other ballgame for me this year.
Two of them own restaurants, so a nice food basket just won't cut it. Neither will a cookbook, I'm afraid. But I'm already on the case.
When I was with one client this past weekend, I discreetly asked his bartender to find out the most unlikely gift he would want. And I have some ideas about the other restaurant guy, who owns a pub in Black Rock,. But I'll see how that goes.
My third client is a legislator, and I haven't a clue about what he would want. So I'll have to do some quick sleuthing between now and the holidays to find something very different
We're going away this weekend, so I'm running out of time on gifts. It was going to be a bit of a scramble this week to get in all the shopping -- especially for my boss at the charter school where I teach. But I have a gift in mind for him.
As I dashed around last weekend and Monday, searching for gifts, I thought of my friend and her Christmas-shopping stress.
I'm really right there with you, I thought.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.