It was more
than a stroke of fate that landed me this highly coveted spot on this highly coveted of days. It
was a stroke of luck - bad luck to be exact. See, a few weeks ago in a fever-induced stupor, I
sold my soul to the devil for a week's reprieve from writing. I was having trouble remembering my
name, let alone writing it, so in a desperate attempt to save myself, I bargained with my
co-worker. In a Nyquil-induced haze, I offered up my firstborn. He counteroffered: Keep the kid,
just promise to write the Christmas Day editorial.
It seemed like a reasonable proposition at the time, and
the Robitussin cocktail I had just downed was kicking in, so I accepted. After all, it was early
December, and Christmas seemed like eons away. Surely, over the next few weeks, I would be able to
conceive something warm, fuzzy, inspiring and appropriate to write about. You know, peace on
earth; joy to the world; kumbaya; and all that.
But as the days ticked off, the tension mounted. See,
although it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas, it just wasn't feeling like it.
This is partially my fault. Knowing full well we were
going out of town for the holidays and that this would likely be our last Elmo-free Christmas for
the rest of our lives, I was struck with a mild case of grinchitis. Of course, I prefer to think
of it as the minimalist approach: no tree, no stockings, no giant blow up Santa to scare the
neighbors, no Las Vegas light display, no nothing.
However, as Christmas drew nigh, it became apparent I was
not the only one bitten by the humbug.
Case in point: a recent weekend getaway to one of our
state's esteemed mega resorts. You'd think that after forking over enough money to comfortably
feed a family of four for a month, a hotel guest could expect a little hot water to accompany her
early-morning shower. But, the water that flowed from my $100-a-night faucet was a few degrees shy
of hypothermic. I called down to the front desk to report the problem and was advised to let the
water run because "sometimes it takes a while." Of course, I had been shivering in my skivvies
doing so for the last 30 minutes. When I responded that at the rate things were going, I would be
checked out and halfway to Durango by the time my shower was ready, I was met with more chill:
"Good. That will be one less person to call and complain about the hot water."
I was tempted to point out that it did not behoove a
customer service representative to insult a guest. But it was obvious that after a night working
the graveyard shift in that stiff, corporate uniform, he was neither concerned with customer
service nor the holiday spirit. And I, without the benefit of a shower, was too tired to
A few days later and half a state away, I found more of
the same. In Bayfield, n'er-do-wells besieged outdoor holiday displays, smashing lights,
brutalizing Mrs. Claus and doing God knows what else. A few days later in Durango, a shopkeeper
told me of his run-in with a teen, who ran off with a healthy amount of free merchandise before
the owner could catch him. In fact, it seemed everywhere I went, I saw people butting in line,
snaking parking spaces, cutting each other off, elbowing, jostling, pushing and generally behaving
Somehow the giving spirit of the holidays had turned into
a battle of every man for himself. Screw politeness, there's only three shopping days left.
My disillusionment reached a peak last weekend. Suffering
from a slight brain glitch that causes me to recklessly transpose numbers, I misdialed a phone
number. As soon as the voice on the other end picked up, I knew I had goofed. My first instinct
was to hang up, but I decided to do the adult thing and apologize.
Apparently, I had called at a really bad time.
There was an awkward pause, and then the voice on the
other end grew surly and I heard the long, guttural drawl of the first consonant of an all-too
familiar but entirely inappropriate phrase (the use of which would merit an "R" rating in this
Horrified that I had been verbally accosted by a complete
stranger, I quickly hung up.
I was stunned. Could it be possible that I had called
Satan himself? Was evil overtaking the world, causing supposedly civilized people to lash out at
their neighbors? Had people become so desensitized by their own self-imposed holiday madness that
it was now perfectly acceptable to indiscriminately attack others with the mother of all swear
Was nothing sacred?
It was then that I realized, that despite our efforts to
economize, minimize and consumerize, there were still a few sacred things - things worth
preserving and doing right, no matter what the effort.
No, I didn't run out and get a tree, string up lights or
go into a holiday baking frenzy. But I did take some time to send off some well-overdue Christmas
cards, with handwritten messages. And no longer did I hurry past the bell ringer, averting my eyes
as if I didn't see them. I now stopped, sometimes twice at the same kettle, to cheerfully fish
change from my pockets. I even found myself spontaneously breaking into Christmas tunes (in the
safety of my own home with an audience of two: my dog and small child, neither of whom can
So I guess, in a roundabout way, this editorial is about
peace and goodwill and joy after all. See, grinchitis may be catchy and, when left unchecked,
could even become chronic - but it is seldom fatal. And, like many afflictions of the heart, often
all it takes to overcome it is a stiff dose of one's own medicine.