Bag, Humbug! Oh, What the Hell…
by Desk Jockey
A New Yorker’s grouchy take on the annual rite popularly known as Christmas
With nearly 1,000 friends on Facebook, Desk Jockey marvels at the number of status updates people start posting about Christmas—in October.
“Today, Heather baked chocolate pumpkin surprise cakes!” crows one proud mom. “We got out the snow blower and made snow angels all morning!” boasts another.
Like Charlie Brown (his mentor whom he discovered over 40 years ago), Desk Jockey has found that Christmas is not really about anything as sacred as the birth of Jesus. It really is about puppies and cupcakes and children—three things that are as incomprehensible to Desk Jockey as Dari, the language spoken in Afghanistan.
Even more regrettable, in New York, Christmas isn’t just confined to a manger, or a blue spruce, or Rockefeller Center. It’s everywhere.
Lots of decoration. Lots of jingle.
If there were no such thing as the North Pole, New York would be declared the capital of Christmas.
Besides “the tree” at Rockefeller Center—whose delivery and lighting are treated second only in importance to the birth of the Christ child—there are Christmas tree stands on every corner beginning in late November, stocked with trees of every size, costing hundreds of dollars or more. Ka-CHING!
Special “farmer’s market” mini-malls are set up at strategic points around the city like Columbus Circle and Union Square. Besides young couples holding hands, they are filled with the most god-awful art and trinkets that you wouldn’t buy if they were reduced 90 percent and endorsed by Doctor Oz.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, as the entire country knows by now, isn’t really about Thanksgiving. It’s an excuse to sell tickets to Broadway musicals during the Christmas season—besides being an excuse to jack everyone up for door-busters on Black Friday, and three days later on Cyber Monday.
That question, again.
Worst of all, Christmas is the time of year when that most irritating question of all is used as a conversational ice-breaker, “So…what are you doing for the holidays?”
Most New Yorkers are smart enough to think of a stock response weeks ahead of time. “I’ll be in the country,” they say loftily, which could mean anything from Chappaqua to East Hampton to Wisconsin.
Some New Yorkers are really, really enterprising, in that they actually make plans to go away—as in several continents away—for Christmas. Not for them, the plumpish, badly dressed suburbanite hausfraus crowding their sidewalks, accompanied by squealing children wearing New York Giants jackets. No, the smart set are rubbing their well-toned elbows and flashing their heart-monitored pectorals with the hedge-fund crowd in Anguilla and Gustavia, Saint Barths.
Partying hearty, New York-style.
For most New Yorkers, the greatest reason to have a Christmas holiday at all is to have an unlicensed right to drink, drink, and drink some more.
Witness the parties that start soon after Thanksgiving. (Desk Jockey himself throws one, his major nod to the holidays.) Menus are devised as early as October, guest lists are composed, discussed ad infinitum, written, thrown out, then written again. Invites are emailed with the precision of a wedding planner—“first wave” responses, followed by “second waves” should the first waves bail, and even third-wave responses if you’re really afraid of no one showing. Cater waiters are engaged, and bartenders—only the best-looking of course!—are hired.
New Yorkers never tire of bragging about how many Christmas parties they’ve attended, or how tired they are, never for a moment connecting the dots. They are wont to brag about meeting Sean “Puffy” Combs at one party, or Apple’s ex-co-founder Steve Wozniak at another, and then mentioning it ever so casually on Facebook for their 980 friends to see (okay, Desk Jockey has done that, too.)
Doorman tips: give plenty of $$. Not food.
Christmas is also the time when those of us crammed into our 780-square-foot cubicles (a.k.a. apartments) are treated with a level of respect afforded only the Sultan of Brunei or the late Michael Jackson. Doormen are basically all over you, beginning right after Thanksgiving. They buzz the elevator door open when your hands are empty; laugh more heartily at your dumbest comments, and are especially quick to change the light fixture that’s been out for weeks.
Desk Jockey knows that these men and women are not masters of the universe; in fact, they typically earn a salary he earned 35 years ago. His sympathy for them, coupled with his bleeding-heart Manhattan liberalism, induces him to tip all eight members of his staff far more than he knows his rich banker neighbors are giving.
This does not go unnoticed by the staff. One summer, the superintendent asked Desk Jockey, “Why are you different from every one else here?” Feeling sure he was referring to his generosity at Christmas, Desk Jockey answered, “Because they’re richer than me.”
Time to take a break? Really?
As faithful readers may have gleaned by now, Desk Jockey, like many other blasé New Yorkers, regards Christmas as just another day. Gifts? Desk Jockey can buy anything he wants for himself (save an $11,000 bicycle) any day of the year. Kindness to others? Desk Jockey observes this policy every day of the year (admittedly, in New York City, it can be difficult.)
To Desk Jockey, Christmas is an opportunity for the higher-ups at his widget firm to relax and shut off their PDAs—but not before they email their junk to his desktop, tell him the due date is January 3, and turn on their automated “Out-of-Office” Response before he can ask any questions.
Desk Jockey cannot remember a single Christmas season that he did not work every day of the Christmas “break.” He does remember being buzzed on a cell phone as he walked into Midnight Mass one year, asking him to make a change to paragraph 3 on page 16. On the day after Christmas, he remembers driving his broken-down Honda through a blizzard, then digging a path through three-foot-high snowdrifts blocking the door of his Connecticut office, just to finish a project that was due January 2.
He also famously remembers daring to turn off his PDA on New Year’s Day one Christmas to go to the movies. On January 2, he turned it back on, only to get an all-caps, nasty-gram email which read, “WHERE WERE YOU YESTERDAY?”
The project’s decision date was January 5, and to this higher-up, our winning the work would save the entire empire from certain destruction.
Turns out, the decision wasn’t made until eight months later.
If you can’t beat ‘em, celebrate ‘em.
As the saying goes, laugh and the world laughs with you; cry, and you cry alone. Desk Jockey, who would positively perish if he did not have his 980 FB friends and their status updates, wants to assure his faithful Wild River Review readers that certain things about Christmas do make him very happy.
1. His annual holiday party. This always takes place the first Friday in December, so that Desk Jockey can have the rest of the month to pursue other activities, such riding his bicycle in the freezing cold.
2. The Christmas windows at Barney’s. Imaginative and witty, they are the brainchild of Simon Doonan, the decorator and columnist for the New York Observer, whose attitude toward life is as snarky and unforgiving as Desk Jockey’s.
3. His favorite new book about Christmas. It’s You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs, whose opening essay on a child confusing Santa Claus with Jesus Christ is classic.
4. The fact that Desk Jockey has over 10 extra vacation days he cannot carry over to 2010. He especially relishes telling his slave-driving boss this fact, and hopes she will not turn her oblivious ear to him, as usual, and give him a new assignment due January 2.
And finally, there are those Christmas “moments.”
When Desk Jockey thinks he cannot take another sidewalk Santa, or hellacious day at work, he will walk by some store window decorated for Christmas, and hear Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”
Hardened, seen-it-all, cynic that he is, Desk Jockey just melts.
Desk Jockey is a regular columnist for Wild River Review. He has worked for major advertising firms for more than 25 years. He is now an account executive for a widget manufacturer. Desk Jockey is an avid cyclist, logging hours in cities and countrysides around the world. To read his latest column, click here: Duathalon Man