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All I Want For Christmas

Rolling down the Hudson on a train, hypnotized by the sleepy, snowy sunset, I start feeling a bitódare I sayóseasonal? As I nod off, visions of something resembling sugarplums (or Jujubes, Iím not sure) begin to form in my head.

BRRRRRRING! ďHello?? Blanche?Ē the guy two feet behind me screams. ďCan you hear me?Ē He launches into a lengthy discussion of closing costs on her new house. No, wait, the sugarplums! Come back!

Now Iím really awake, dammit, and Mr. Loudmouth gets up and waddles toward the far end of the car, yammering into his headset all the way. I close my eyes and try to pick up where I left off. Five minutes later Iím half asleep and BRRRRRRING! ďBlanche? Yeah, I lost you in the bathroom!Ē At the top of his lungs. ďThe bathroom on the train! I donít think the signal works in there! Yeah, itís all metal walls and I donít think the phone works in there.Ē For the next 15 minutes, the phone-bathroom conundrum is explored in excruciating detail.

It sucks having the sugarplums knocked out of you. Or even the Jujubes.

Iím trying not to be a Scrooge, I really am. Each year Christmas seems to kick in a little bit later, like a car whose battery is slowly losing its starting power. The fact that Iíve become chronically averse to the cold and gray doesnít help either.

Add to that the sheer, numbing emptiness of crass commercialism, this year made worse by some unholy imperative of pity and ersatz patriotism, implying that if we donít all go out and mindlessly consume, the economy will collapse, just because we didnít get our sorry asses to Wal-Mart (or as the hillbillies call it, ďThe WallmartísĒ) to wait in line for 45 minutes to fork over $106.84 for a Braun Syncro Smart Logic Self-Cleaning Shaving System (ďAs seen on TV!Ē).

The entertainment industry is also pinning its hopes for future solvency on my willingness to part with 20 bucks to sit through such unwatchable crap as Gothika, or Timeline, or The Haunted Mansion, or even (no! not that!) Dr. Seussí The Cat In The Hat.

Sorry to break it to the retailing and entertainment moguls, whose daily grosses have somehow become our problem, but Iím sitting out this dance; youíll have to have your miraculous economic rebound without me.

On the positive side, after years of constant bombardment, I think Iíve finally become immune to the things-may-look-bad-but-golly-theyíre-actually-pretty-swell tripe that passes for seasonal TV entertainment. The best news is that Itís A Wonderful Life has lost its sentimental grip on me. Get real. In any imaginable world, George Bailey would have been railroaded out of business in six months. Hotsy-totsy Potterville looked like a lot more fun than sleepy old Bedford Falls. And Clarence is just a royal pain in the ass.

That said, even we veteran grumps occasionally try to ignore the noise and the manipulation, to let the inherent goodness of the season overcome our antipathy and weather gloom and perhaps carry us away to a moment of peace and good will, a moment that traditionally brings out the best in people, or at least used to. I fear that moment may have been overwhelmed by crazed shoppers trampling each other to be first to grab a $29-piece-of-crap DVD player. Or by that tub of self-absorbed lard screaming into his phone. I mean, itís the holidays. Couldnít he have been just a little more considerate?

No iPod, no flat-panel TV, no McFlurry maker, not even a Hokey Pokey Elmo; a little civility, thatís all I want for Christmas. Santa, give me the luxury of surfing a small wave of sentimental good cheer without some rude knucklehead knocking me off my board. Just once more Iíd like to believe that the season still has the power to make us better people, not for what we give, but for how we act. Is it asking too much for those arrogant, overindulged, myopic, rude, entitled navel gazers to look around, even for just a minute, and acknowledge that they might not be the most important thing in the known universe?

So, you there, in your little cocoon (or Hummer), looking to give a great present this year? Itís easy: Just stop being a dick.

Pick up your dog crap from my lawn. Stop yelling into your cellphone. Consider someone elseís opinion. Donít cut me off on the Northway. Turn off your power tools after 9 PM. Stop bringing your infant to the movies. Donít use your money or social status as a club to humiliate others. When you call me on my cellphone, begin by saying ďhello,Ē not ďwhere are you?Ē Leave that server a decent tip, fer chrissake. Do something nice for someone else when no oneís looking. Donít blow your cigar smoke in my face. Tell me whatís bothering you the first time I ask, not the 30th time. Make that damned dog stop barking. Refrain from using that baby stroller as a battering ram. Hang up and drive. Cover your mouth when you sneeze. Turn around now and then to see if youíre in anyoneís way, especially if youíve suddenly stopped in the middle of a busy aisle or sidewalk; if you are, move. Wait until people get off the elevator before you barge in. Stop treating salespersons like peons. Teach your children some manners. Donít phone me and immediately put me on hold. Donít make me wait while you take that other call. Keep your music to yourself. Stop forwarding me every lame e-mail joke that winds up in your mailbox. Use some deodorant.

And stop hogging the sugarplums. There should be more than enough for all of us.

óAl Quaglieri


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