08:44:01 am on
Monday 15 Jul 2024

Valentine's Day Gift
David Simmonds

The advertisement in the Wellington "Times" stopped me short. "Give your Valentine sweetheart the gift of rust proofing."

Well, that's an interesting juxtaposition, I thought, bathing my words with irony. How could any woman not just melt in the arms of a man bearing that gift.

I don't know what your experience with rust proofing is, but mine is heavily on the negative side. I've never even seen it as a commodity. I've thought of it as a catch phrase used by car salespeople, doubled over with laughter. As in "but then we sold them the rust proofing package, and they still drove off thinking they'd got a great deal".

You've probably had the experience. Utterly fatigued at bargaining with a nervy salesperson, you are then taken to a windowless room at the back of the dealership. "I don't know if my manager will go for this" the salesman will say, quaking, and leaving you to provide for your own personal safety as he scurries out of sight.

The sales manager says "well, given where we are in the month and how good a customer you are, I guess we have a deal", and you begin to exhale, when he suddenly continues with "but of course you'll want rust proofing." He then pulls out a brochure from a company whose name you have never heard of before, showing you its state of the art testing facility somewhere in a New Jersey back alley. There are three price points, each higher than the discount you have negotiated on your car.

The pitches come hard and fast and they're all strikes. "Everybody buys rust proofing - just look at this list", unraveling a multi page computer printout that has been supplied by his props department. "Countless children owe their lives to their parents' decision to purchase rust proofing." "I knew a guy once, he was so distraught that he hadn't bought rust proofing, he went and ...." At this point, desperation induces you to choose the cheapest option. And that's the last you ever hear of rust proofing.

But if rust proofing has its negative connotations for me, so too do the usual Valentine's standards - chocolates, flowers, a night in the Stephen Harper suite at the Hampton Inn in Cornwall. We're all expected to dance to the Valentine marketers' tune: "Come on, come on shoppers - we've got St. Paddy's Day, next month, and we've got to clear out all our red inventory to make room for the green inventory - you know the drill".

Some sigh with resignation and head out on to the dance floor. Some just roll their eyes and decide not to dance at all. And some noble souls decide to dance to their own tune.

And in that select latter category, after some further thought, is where I would put the author of the advertisement that I was about to put down so sarcastically. To give someone a GIFT of rust proofing says: "You and your worldly goods are worth conserving for the long haul. Nobody's forcing me to do this, but I want to make an investment in you. There's no gimmick, flash or sizzle that will be gone in a few days. I'm not standing to gain on the rebound - and yes, I admit that last year I sort of knew you wouldn't like those beer and pretzel flavoured chocolates I bought you, so I'd get to eat the leftovers."

Now don't those sentiments go straight to the heart. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that giving the gift of rust proofing is just about the perfect expression of the Valentine sentiment.

So here's an idea. Why not leave the flowers and candy to car salespeople to present to new car purchasers for braving their ordeal (the dealers can keep the Stephen Harper room for their salesperson of the month award). And let's save rust proofing as a gift to be given by one sweetheart to another to mark the deepest, truest love.

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Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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