Although it sometimes lends itself well to delivering zinger one-liners, spot-on commentaries and especially pointed rebukes, it's not exactly a blessing to be the cynic in the group, the one who almost by default or biological wiring sees, first, the bad and the negative in people, events and other things before barely giving a passing thought to the positive.

    How can it possibly be fun or a good thing to always assume the worst? So you can be pleasantly surprised now and then when your dark and gloomy and depressing assumptions are wrong? That particular brand of surprise is overrated.

    Which leads us to Christmas shopping, and ordering gifts online and having them delivered to your front door. My wife and I did some online shopping this year, as countless others do. I had some gifts delivered to the Times office because they required a signature upon delivery, but as for the rest, I was apparently comfortable enough to simply have them left outside the front door of our house, where they would remain, vulnerable and in the open, for hours before someone in our family came home from school or work to collect them and bring them safely inside.

    Thievery is not a new vice, it’s not a new-age, contemporary crime brought on by diminished morals or the latest technology unleashed on the masses. People have taken things that don’t rightly belong to them since cavemen with small rocks and spindly twigs envied their neighbors who had big rocks and thick branches.

    But, these days, especially during the Christmas shopping season, those who would mischievously navigate our neighborhood streets on foot or in vehicles as brown cardboard boxes with gifts inside are left outside of front doors from coast to coast have been given a clever, alliteration-inspired name. They're called “Porch Pirates,” and they're coming for your stuff, if they haven’t snatched it already.

    They've been on the national news almost daily. One especially awful Porch Pirate waited in the car, choosing instead to send her daughter who looked to be about as old as a kindergartner up to someone's front steps to steal a couple of Amazon boxes. Another couple went from neighborhood to neighborhood, parking their vehicle and then casually strolling the sidewalks, each wearing a large backpack, almost like they were on some kind of suburban hike. Once their backpacks were full or they had found all the loot they could swipe, they headed back to their ride, unloaded, and drove to their next targeted area.

    We saw all these Porch Pirates in action because so many people these days have surveillance/security cameras on their property. We saw some of the more entertaining Porch Pirating moments, thanks to "smart doorbells" that have become a must-have gift item themselves. They're motion activated, so when a would-be Porch Pirate comes slinking up to your door, the app on your phone kicks in and alerts you even if you’re not at home, and not only can you see the up-to-no-gooders on live video, you can startle the packing foam out of them by announcing to them that you can see them, they're being recorded on video, and that they'd better reconsider before stealing anything.

    So we'd had multiple gifts successfully delivered to our front door this month and not stolen by anyone. Two not exactly cheap gifts were lagging, however, and when I checked online to track their whereabouts, the United States Postal Service indicated to me that the packages had been left by our front door several days earlier.

    After confirming that no one else in our family had brought the boxes inside and forgot to tell me, I immediately went into all-is-lost-and-I-hate-everyone mode. We'd been attacked by Porch Pirates and Christmas was ruined, perhaps the New Year, too.

    My calmer, more rational wife, who tries to meticulously and methodically rule out other possibilities before simply assuming that life has dealt its latest body blow, tried to call the post office in Crookston, but no one picked up the phone. So she called a national USPS number and the recording told her she'd be on hold for something like 1 hour and 3 minutes. Around 2 hours and 20 minutes later, the eardrum-busting, static-laden noise that appeared to be passed onto waiting callers as holiday music ceased and a human being asked my wife how she could help her. After hearing of our Porch Pirate predicament, the woman, predictably, related the exact information I’d read on my laptop screen earlier in the day and had no other insight beyond that.

    So we went into scramble mode, trying to buy a couple last-minute gifts to replace the pirated ones.

    But, then, a minor Christmas miracle. The next day, our neighbor who lives across the street and one house further down the hill – not exactly right next door, if you get by drift – knocked on our door with two boxes in her arms. They’d been sitting in a corner of their garage for days, with no written notification on their door, in their mailbox or anywhere else indicating a neighbor’s packages had been left with them. We, too, had received no such notification, leaving us to wonder if it was possible the packages had simply been left at the wrong house.

    But that’s smaller-picture thinking. Big picture, my presumptive, glass-is-entirely-empty view of the world had been flipped on its head, for a moment at least. No one stole Christmas gifts from our steps, they’d simply been delivered in apparently mistaken, or at least lackadaisical fashion. 

    So, with that, Happy New Year to all from this suddenly chipper, upbeat guy. A hearty, “Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrgh!” to you all...