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Working alongside Santa

When I was a young flight attendant for American Airlines, I actually enjoyed working Christmas Day. Passenger loads were always light, and it was fun having time to really talk to people.

In most service industries, employees with seniority don’t usually have to work Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. They’ve been there, done that.

There is, however, one senior employee who always works Christmas Eve.

The chubby guy in the red suit and cap can always be counted on to work the biggest holiday eve of the year. No overtime. No time and a half. And he never complains. In fact, he’s downright giddy about it.

I wonder why he doesn’t balk against the impossible demands of his job description. This should really be a younger man’s job. The extended workdays and crushing deadline are written right there in his contract. And the grand finale described in the Santa Claus Employee Manual – the final nighttime ride around the world – defies imagination. I bet the first year he had to do that, he washed his cookies down with double-roast espresso and 5-hour energy drinks. Not even Paul Revere would have signed up for that ride.

But hey, there’s one more reason he doesn’t gripe. Comp time! He gets the whole next day off. And then some.

After a seemingly endless night of avoiding satellite traffic and squeezing up and down chimneys, he undoubtedly crashes hard on Christmas morning. The jolly geezer probably sleeps it off until he’s summoned by the Missus with a cuppa Joe and a Christmas brunch casserole.

Now that I think about it, I imagine the old girl is pretty busy overnight herself. She has to prepare everything just right for his cozy welcome home. He’s never been cranky after his demanding night, but she’s noticed more yawning and longer naps as the years fly by.

Being an old softie, she probably asks “Alexa” to crank up Mel Torme?, roasting chestnuts on his open fire. That old standard always boosts her holiday mood as she bustles around the kitchen, preparing home and hearth for her favorite old guy’s arrival. There’s that, and then there is feeding all those pesky little elves.

She’s been cooking for those pointy-eared rascals three squares a day for months now. After years and years of meeting their demands, I’m sure it’s crossed her mind to make it simpler. Rather than ordering in the beef roasts and pork chops, maybe she should consider a source near at hand… and whip up a venison dinner or two.

With the months of workshop production occupying everyone else, SOMEBODY has to tend those stupid reindeer year-round. Sure, they have adorable names, but they’re not as warm and fuzzy as they look … especially that diva Rudolph.

After Mrs. Claus has provided her guy with brunch, naptime, and Christmas dinner, the big boy can wash it down with eggnog laced with rum … or brandy… or Scotch … or whatever arrived in the final FedEx delivery. Then feet up, a few drags on the old corncob pipe, and probably an NBA game on the tube.

Truth be known, from Christmas Day on, he has a lot more in common with a grizzly bear than with any elves or other seasonal workers – he gets to hibernate for a few months.

That privilege isn’t extended to real people who have to work the holiday. Our front-line workers, especially this year, could certainly use a feet-up, cocktail, hibernation kind of homecoming.

Back in the era when I worked on Christmas, we were not burdened with a pandemic or politically divided passengers. Our burdens were few and came mostly in the form of mechanical delays or weather. We were actually encouraged to have fun – and make it memorable. Even catering got into the act (Yes, we had real food!) They added candy canes and Santa Claus cut-out cookies to every meal tray.

Each airport station was staffed, as usual, with all the agents, techs, and ground crews, including often, the guys that ran the de-icing equipment. Crazy hats, trombones, sleigh bells – everybody had their own idea of festive, but the prevalent noise was laughter.

Even the pilots got involved. On Christmas Eve, the Captains accompanied in-flight announcements with sleigh updates from NORAD tracking, and even occasional sightings. It was fun.

Today, I’m truly grateful not to work on Christmas. And it’s easy for most of us to plan a peaceful holiday. But our military around the world, our local police, firefighters, emergency responders, hospital and nursing home staffs – all of them, have our backs through this most wonderful time of the year … as always.

Maybe we should each make sure they get thanked. Cookies might help, maybe even some egg nog. Anything but venison sandwiches.

Marcy O’Brien lives in Warren, PA with her husband Richard and Finian, their languid Maine Coon cat. She can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.

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