Short on Time, and Cheer

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One day, the company nurse was simply gone, laid off and replaced by the penny-pinching Scrooges in management with … a glass-encased defibrilator. It looked for all the world like a vending machine.
“What if I have a heart attack and don’t have 50 cents?” Shop Boy asked a colleague, only half-kidding.
“Or what if I fall down over there and the cord doesn’t reach? Do you promise to carry me to the hallway?”
He did not.
I was thinking about this late the other night in connection with Santa’s elves.
Not that Mary would ever let Shop Boy listen to holiday music while she’s nearby. And when she’s rushing around like she has been, I don’t push it. But earlier, I’d gone to make a polymer plate in another part of the studio and switched my Pandora account to Holiday Favorites or whatever. The first thing that popped on was an orchestral overture to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You know, little snippets of all the songs blended together to give you a hint of what’s coming.
Call Shop Boy a sap, but one of the things that struck me — even through the panic of knowing Mary needed the plate NOW — was that every stinking song on that soundtrack is a classic. Brilliant, moving.
Just that quick, I was up to my elbows in polymer-scented rinse water and awash in nostalgia.
And I thought, “I wonder if any of Santa’s elves ever had a heart attack on the job while racing toward the Christmas Eve “drop-dead” due date for the toys?
(In newspapers, when asking for the “real” deadline for a story vs. when the editor [me] would prefer to have it in hand, reporters were in the habit of asking, “So, what’s the drop-dead on that?” They wanted to know how many minutes and seconds they could stall before I’d walk over to their desks and tell them, “Your story is no longer required or desired: Drop dead!”)
Don’t know if you’ve seen old Shop Boy around lately. But a new (awesome) desk job and too much potential exercise time spent instead catching up at Typecast Press have left a bit of a belly that, yes, shakes when I laugh, like a bowl full of jelly.
OK, OK, there’s an extra cookie or tw…elve in that “to blame” file as well. Picky, picky. Who ever heard of a skinny Shop Boy?
(That’s paraphrasing Rudolph — Mrs. Clause telling a stressed-out Santa he has to eat something.)
The point is, it’s been a little stressful, and adding “pre-holiday mode” hasn’t helped. So I was taking a mental timeout, just sorta thinking what kind of Elf health plan Santa’s got at his shop.
I mean, surely a few of the elves are huddled right at this very minute outside the toy factory’s front door, fresh snow covering for the moment an ugly sidewalk full of discarded cigarette butts. They’re huffing and puffing about their names ending up in the wrong column of the Naughty & Nice list, about the reindeer constantly flying over and pooping on their windshields (and then it freezes!), about the company 401k, about Tim Tebow getting dissed by the Jets. (It’s Christ-mas, after all.) And the Angels! What on earth are they thinking, paying Josh Hamilton all those millions to play baseball? With his bad habits!?!
Mostly, they’re just blowing smoke, stressed about being so stressed. So close to finished, so close to putting their feet up, so close to a cocktail at Clarisse’s Tavern and … so close to taking a goddamn hammer and
Surely, one of them has simply keeled over on occasion.
Right?
Oops. That’d be Mary calling. Sounds stressed. Better put Pandora back on the Dirge and Drudgery station. It’s going to be another long winter’s night.
Happy Holidays, everybody! Hope to see you there.

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