Rrrrippp! Elizabeth Gondan tears bright red wrapping paper from the roll. No need to measure the length. After 28 years as a professional gift wrapper, Gondan knows how much is needed to wrap the purse entrusted to her by a Macy's customer.
Crease, fold, tape. Double-sided tape ("No tape should show," admonishes Gondan). A snippet of ribbon and a bow. Maybe a snowman ornament or a sprig of holly.
The purse is now a wrapped Christmas gift.
Fortunately, notes Gondan, the gift wasn't an ape.
It was a large stuffed animal that stood in the way of Gondan's winning the title "America's Most Gifted Wrapper" in a contest Nov. 22 in New York City.
Gondan was one of 11 professional gift wrappers who traveled to New York for the competition sponsored by the maker of Scotch-brand tape. She represented the Marley Station Macy's.
With almost three decades of gift-wrapping experience, Gondan arrived prepared, she thought, for whatever the contest would dish out. She's wrapped it all: televisions, live plants, even soup. "The soup was hard. You couldn't turn it over to tape the bottom," Gondan remembers.
But she wasn't ready for this contest. Three rounds of competition with unusual objects to be wrapped without the benefit of a box.
"I looked under the table and I saw a stick there -- a hockey stick," says Gondan, amazed at the choice of items.
The first round also included cookies and a football. "Now I know how to wrap a football without a box," she says.
After making the initial cut, Gondan was faced with a globe and a guitar in the second round. Successful again, she and another contestant made the finals.
"I turned around and there was an ape!" she said. A large toy animal that stopped her winning streak.
"I wrapped my ape all around. The other woman made it look like a display with the ape's arms and head showing," says Gondan, a note of disapproval in her voice.
Gondan finished second.
Years of experience
But second place in a national competition is a long way from where Gondan started when she began her career as a wrapper at the now-closed Hutzler's department store at Southdale.
Originally from Hungary, Gondan found her language skills were challenged as she learned her craft. "I didn't know left from right, and my English was not very good," she says.
Laughing, she recalls one of her first packages.
"The customer wanted a tie box. I didn't understand what 'narrow' was. She kept pointing and pointing."
Now Gondan is the lead gift wrapper at Macy's.
'I know my boxes'
"I like to satisfy my customers. Many come back and ask for me," she says.
"I know I am a good wrapper. I know my boxes and I know when my customer is happy."
Happiness that will be shared in many homes this holiday season. Until
Pub Date: 12/14/97