Rex Huppke | As most of you know, there are myriad holiday gifts out there for working professionals, but they are predominantly awful.

Share story

Greetings, holiday shoppers, and welcome to the second annual edition of my long-running, nationally renowned column offering gift ideas for the hard-to-buy-for working person in your life.

It’s possible that millions of people found last year’s ideas helpful — anything’s possible, right? — even though none of the gifts I presented were actually real. (No, Virginia, there isn’t a cubicle-based doughnut harpoon.)

I suppose these ideas are more aspirational than practical, but what better time of year to believe in the impossible?

As most of you know, there are myriad holiday gifts out there for working professionals, but they are predominantly awful. A smartphone stand that is slightly more sleek than the smartphone stand you already have. A desktop Zen garden that you can ignore while not feeling Zen. A “10 Steps to Being a Better Manager” book that you will use to elevate your smartphone stand a couple of inches.

So to help, at least theoretically, I give you this year’s edition of Rex Huppke’s Shopping List of Workplace Gifts that Don’t Exist but Should:

Anti-Meeting Warning Beacon: This handy, cubicle-wall-mounted LED light flashes the words “Are You Sure That’s Really Necessary?” in friendly red letters any time you so much as think about calling a meeting. The beacon’s advanced biometric monitoring system is designed to detect both dread and guilt, key emotional responses found in people preparing to request a meeting. The system also monitors desktop and mobile devices for words and phrases like “huddle up” and “gather” and “brainstorm in the conference room.” Once triggered, the light reminds the user that there could be an alternative to dragging people into yet another stupid meeting. If the person persists in writing a meeting-request email, the beacon begins emitting a high-pitched squeal that persists until the user deletes the email and replaces it with one that says, “Let’s just discuss this via email.”

Coffee Drone: Don’t you hate it when you try to discreetly get up from your desk to go to Starbucks, only to have 17 co-workers along the way ask if you can pick something up for them? What started as a relaxing stroll to get a latte turns into a half-hour ordering fiasco that leaves you with a burned finger and peppermint mocha stains on your shirt. Fret no more, friends. Now you can fetch coffee without leaving the safety of your workspace by using that Quadcopter Coffee Drone. Remarkably stable and easily programmable, this hovering state-of-the-art drone will fly unnoticed over the heads of your colleagues and slip out the door (or window) to the nearest coffee shop to grab you the beverage of your choice. It’s equipped with Smart Small-Talk Technology that allows it to chat with strangers in line at the coffee shop and comes with an optional Splash Net to prevent any in-flight scalding accidents. And if colleagues spot the drone and ask it bring them something, it has a small Taser that delivers a “fun-spirited” 6,000 volts to the “unwanted aggressor.” (18 AA batteries not included, may require FAA licensing depending on height of office building, attachable pastry tray $50 extra.)

“10 Steps to Being a Better Manager” Book Recycler: This handy under-the-desk tool takes any book that offers simplistic advice and sunny aphorisms aimed at helping you be a better boss and incinerates it into a manageable and considerably more useful pile of ashes. It then prints out a bright yellow sticker that bears the words, “Try just being nice.” Fits most book sizes. Models also available for “10 Steps to Reaching Your Work Goals” books, “10 Steps to Success” books and “10 Steps to Writing 10-Step Books that Will Eventually Be Incinerated” books. (Possible fire hazard, use only as directed.)

Desktop Dumpster Fire: Speaking of hot gifts (!), this fun little number is a great way for unhappy workers to visualize their work lives and/or careers, all while keeping the cubicle warm during the winter months. This realistic, 14-gauge steel mini-dumpster can burn desk garbage for up to three hours with minimal harm to the surrounding environment. Broken pencils, performance reviews ripped up in anger and yellow “Try just being nice” stickers that fell off your boss’s shirt while he or she was failing at being nice all make perfect kindling for this desktop blazer. Voted the “most sadly appropriate gift of the year” by “Oh My God 2016 Has Been Awful” magazine, the Desktop Dumpster Fire is the ideal choice for a friend or loved one whose life is crumbling. (Small fire extinguisher or tiny fire truck not included.)

There you have it, folks. May your aspirational holiday shopping be pleasant, and may your workplaces be filled with good cheer. And the faint buzz, and occasional Taser crackle, of coffee drones.

Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions by email at