Wandering past the printer, I noticed an invoice copy lying at the top of the tray.
''I see that I've ordered your Christmas gifts, Honey. Did I pick out something nice?''
''Oh, it's wonderful, just what I wanted,'' my wife said.
I studied the invoice as if it was the first time I'd seen it - which it was. I couldn't find a thing on the list that I personally would have chosen.
I dropped the invoice. ''Shall I wrap them when the stuff arrives?''
''How sweet of you, but no, you can leave your duct tape in the garage. I'll wrap.''
''As you wish. They're your gifts. By the way, do you want to know what you bought me for Christmas?''
''Why don't you save it. I love surprises.''
We walked away smiling.
Since we figured out how to do it correctly, gift-giving has become much less stressful.
The traditional method, of course, is he picks out gifts for her and she chooses presents for him. This results in disaster for one key, highly scientific reason: Our brains are wired differently.
Women's cerebrums, as near as I can figure, run on the clean, smooth efficient energy of windmills and solar power.
Men tend more toward Mentos dropped into a Diet Coke bottle.
The sooner we accept the fact that this leaves men without the foggiest idea of what constitutes a ''thoughtful'' gift that ''communicates our innermost feelings of love, appreciation and passion'' for her, the faster we can get on to more important considerations, such as, ''But I saved the receipt.''
Oh, I tried the traditional route. And for the record, bathroom scales are NOT thoughtful.
''But you said we needed new bathroom scales. Look at this baby. It's so cool. It stores weights in both pounds and kilograms, measure body weight and hydration, and transmits all the numbers to the iPad or iPhone of your choice.''
''Plus, it weighs all the way up 350 pounds!''
Not long after being released from the hospital, I began research into the art of gift giving.
It turns out that functional does not necessarily equal thoughtful. Filling a need does not necessarily fulfill passion. And what she says is not necessarily what she expects you to just somehow know.
Researchers claim the real problem is reciprocation.
In general, women's hearts melt into great gooey puddles of warm gunk when they spend hours deciding just the exactly right caring (but useless) gift that demonstrates not only their innermost emotions, but also communicates to the recipient just how loved and cherished he is.
And that's what they expect in return.
Whereas men's innermost thoughts can be summed up along these lines: "Huh?"
And: ''A stupid candle? By the time she gives me enough candles to see inside the engine compartment, the car will blow up.''
After scratching our heads with the lit candle, our final thought before calling 911 is, ''I know, I'll give her a gift card.''
That's when my thoughtful wife came up with the wonderful plan we use, the one that just radiates love, caring and consideration.
At least I think it does. I'll find out Christmas morning when I finally see what I got her.
---- Write for Burt's gift-giving guide at burtseyeview@tribtoday or at the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.