Recovering from Christmas
I work in a small warehouse. Many of the items are great gifts. Black Friday and Cyber Monday come riding into my small department on a pale horse. Leaving empty boxes and tape rolls, scattered empty, water bottles and the sad remains of whatever Christmas cheer I may have had. To compound matters I have been battling osteoarthritis in my knee, so when the physical therapist asked if there was pain I told him yes, everywhere.
People rush to their devices, PC, tablets, phones and grab at gifts for everyone. It is easy to imagine people sitting in front of a digital electric fire, blazing on the television screen, candles scented to smell like smoke burning on the table, poring over websites, checking the various shipping rates, delivery options, credit card information loaded more or less securely in some almost fool proof cloud depository, Santa hat drooping over the side of their head. Eggnog and peppermint in hand. Pointing, clicking, touching the screen.
Each transaction initiates a series of digital manipulations, beeps, blips, zeros and ones fly across the wired distance. Someplace someone picks up a piece of paper, or looks at a screen, displaying a desire, and a location and the poor sap trudges off to grab a spatula, candle, toy or coffee cup. Someone else checks to make sure it is the right thing, puts it in a box and sends it off to be labeled, and loaded on a truck. Eventually it will end up on someone’s porch or some loading dock where it will wait until Santa’s little helper takes possession completing the circle of life. It might have traveled hundreds of miles, maybe only across town. And the process is being cycled through millions of times, in thousands of places.
If there is a war on Christmas it is being fought with credit cards, in living rooms, at desks and work stations, in kitchens, by people whose only real connection to the holiday is through the World Wide Web. Those brave souls who think a priced shipping and delivery schedules are the stuff of Yule legend. Looking at the hundreds of packages on the UPS, FedEx and USPS trucks you are forced to wonder if the wise men would have bothered following the star. “Maybe we could just have the gold, frankincense and myrrh sent 2nd day air, there is only a small surcharge, our Savior will understand, and appreciate our wisdom.” Inns are notoriously full this time of year allowing innkeepers to charge exorbitant fees. Plus, travel can be difficult, and uncomfortable.
For the past four weeks I have been toting, taping, picking, packing and processing until I hear the sounds of a shipping label printer whirring in my sleep. If I never hear another person say “can you get me some stuff” it will be too soon. If I never see another email that begins “I know you’re busy, but,” I may die in peace. But, the respite is temporary, I have a week off, and the demand will return, lessened and slower, but it will build over time until we reach the crescendo again, insistent, unforgiving, seemingly endless. A monster as voracious as it is unforgiving. Christmas wearing a Napoleon Bonaparte mask.
We have a small cabin, at a local state park for a couple of days. Just my wife, me, a fireplace, a bottle of wine, and quiet peace. There are miles of hiking trails and my knee is recovered enough to enjoy the beauty of nature. And there is no better remedy than the graceful, charming beauty of my wife, the quiet kindness of her strength. Her love is tonic, we have come to the point in life where we are really just one person, with different ideas about how to eat eggs. It’s funny how you adapt to each other, and how you don’t. But, after a few days with her, I will be ready for work, and work will be waiting.
"This is a piece about the true cost of the holidays."