Sunday, December 24, 2006

December 24

This morning I looked out the window of my office. I work on the eighth floor, my office overlooking the Four, or K'Vish Ga'eh, as the locals call it. The road, headed toward Tel Aviv, was packed. During my commute, only an hour earlier, my ride and I laughed at those poor bastards sitting in traffic. We knew where the backup began, and knew that they were in for a long wait. As I looked down on traffic, I wondered if the cars we saw at the same intersection an hour earlier had made it through the jam, or if they were still sitting there, looking at their gas gauge and tapping on their steering wheel, trying to get to work on time.

An hour passed, and I looked down on the road again. This time, at least as far north as Ranaana, it was all clear.

Business as usual in Israel.

I have one very distinct, very perfect, Christmas memory.

For some reason that I can no longer imagine, I was walking through Manhattan on Christmas morning. The city that is defined by its constant buzz was silent, its legendary traffic jams were clear; the roads were empty. Snow was falling that morning, light and fluffy.

It was, for me, a perfect New York morning.

There were years when I volunteered to work on Christmas. I knew, then, of course, that I would be turned down. I work in a field that shuts down in late December and doesn't wake up until early January. There was no need to work on Christmas, and nothing to be done, but I hoped that my manager or boss would give me some bonus points for volunteering. I needed whatever bonus points I could get; I was cashing all my goodwill every winter Friday, bailing and dumping work on people that needed to be done by someone other than me, because it needed to be done on Friday night.

I watched the traffic on a busy Sunday morning. It was December 24th, just a few miles away from the place where legend has it, a child was born in a manger and a new religion was seeded. And it was business as usual in Israel.

I had a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I worked in an ad agency, a retail agency, and our main client, the one I spent three years working on and writing for, was Kmart. Christmas work helped pay my bills, but Christmas work began in June or July, when we first started to work on our Thanksgiving ads. There were six large Christmas ads. Thanksgiving, the last Sunday in November, and four weeks of December.

Then, there were the smaller, high-pressure midweek ads, some of them only four pages but crammed with up to sixty items, on a tight deadline. Their was an occasional Saturday ad, and then, for good measure, some extra January advertising, where we were giving almost everything in the store away at 60% off. And that was before Kmart filed for bankruptcy. The Christmas they were in Chapter 11, our ad managers and product merchandisers were under incredible amounts of pressure.

The Christmas work season finished, for the most part, just before Thanksgiving, just in time for me to be bombarded with Christmas everywhere. The fruits of our labor, and other ad agencies around the country, were all battling for attention in a marketplace that got increasingly more crowded and louder.

And I think it was sometime there, beneath the Christmas cacophony, that I decided I did not want to live in a world that spent five months a year on Christmas, pausing briefly for Valentine's Day, Easter, Valentine's Day, Mother Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and of course, Christmas again.

This morning, as I stood looking out my window, there was only one reminder that tonight was Christmas Eve, that tomorrow was Christmas. It was the date on the bottom of my computer screen. December 24th, it said.

Tomorrow, while most of the world is quiet, I'll be on a conference call. Doing what I've always claimed to want to do on Christmas.

Working.

4 Comments:

Anonymous heidi said...

Nice writting. Thats the AT i remember. I also have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love having everyone home, and having nothing really to do. But, I do feel somewhat guilty indulging in the Christmas break.

December 24, 2006 10:15 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

I like Christmas, though hate the mad buildup for the six weeks prior. The incessant songs, vapid commercials, and cheap, pandering materialism always irritate me.

But then on Chirstmas morning, walking the streets or driving my car across empty avenues past rows of closed stores, I feel peaceful. It's as if for one day, the world belongs to me.

New Years has the same effect, though I worry about being plowed down by a drunk driver. But opn Christmas day, everything is quiet and I imagine people all over the world opening trillions of dollars of merchadise, fueling the world economy and bringing down the price of everything that remains, well into January.

December 25, 2006 9:11 AM  
Blogger Just Shu said...

I got my first ever present from Santa this year

December 28, 2006 12:23 PM  
Blogger Air Time said...

what did you get?

December 28, 2006 1:57 PM  

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