I Want For Christmas
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!
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
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
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
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
And stop hogging the sugarplums. There should be more than
enough for all of us.