One of the less obvious downsides to Christmas is that, like a tinsel flotsam oozing through the gutters filled with eggnog despair, it chases the bored and restless retirees back to their previous employers like rats being herded out of their holes by a flood of sewage. These exact words are spoken to me by a friend who was trying to work today but a guy who retired five years ago, who sat in the same desk as my friend, returned like the Ghost of Christmas past, to reveal what this guy is going to be like if he retires.
I don’t have enough negative thoughts about Christmas so someone loans me some of their own, and even though I figure I have enough to share, now I have even more. Apparently the retired, and if you say the word correctly it sounds like they are tired again, has a very few conversations he repeats, much like my Christmas rants; if you’ve heard a half dozen of them you’ve heard them all, but Christmas keeps happening, and I find it hard to ignore.
One of the things this guy wants to do is go buy a bushel of oysters and eat them while drinking beer. He likes Mexican beer, and always forgets the name. He will pause, waiting for suggestions, then slowly walk through the aisles in his mind, Dos Equis, Corona… and then ten minutes later it will surface, but in the meantime, he will channel Forrest Gump and go through the different ways to cook oysters, but he likes them raw. Then comes the conversation of what to put on raw oysters, and by that time my friend realizes he’s trapped at his desk in a one-sided conversation from which there is no escape unless this man dies of old age.
Tecate. That’s the name of the beer that finally surfaces, and so the conversation drifts back to beer.
Some people retire into an endless sea of time where all they can do is go from point a to point z during the day, aimlessly watching the minutes tick away as they go through a slow motion routine of trying to make a day of it. Christmas gives them an excuse to go back to where they once were needed and perhaps even useful, and reminisce about the day when they yearned to retire, and do this?
Some people have to work this weekend, Friday and then Saturday, and the Final Frenzy of waste and stress pick off the pitiful Black Friday survivors who have recovered enough to go back into the breach again. People are being too aggressive in traffic, knowing that if they’re in a bad wreck it will get them out of all this, subconsciously praying for some hospital stay that will last at least until December the 28th. Perhaps they are secretly yearning for the sweet peace of Death herself, a darkness never-ending yet devoid in the void are the crammed shops of last minute buyers who are looking for something that might make it all worthwhile but cost less than fifty bucks.
There must be more. There must be something that glitters or speaks or pees or pukes or shines or computes or has hooves. Without this mythical object, at an appropriate price, life will be diminished and all of the frenetic activity and energy spent for the last month will be empty and wasted. There is no do over until next year and then if this Christmas goes bad there has to be something next year that will bring a commercial consumer redemption. The mall is full of temples dedicated to the act of redeeming coupons for Christmases Past and Lost Souls of Sales Missed.
“Ride, Boldly Ride, the Shade replied, if you would search for Eldorado!”
We’ve become intrepid explorers, in miniature form, like toy poodles descended from wild wolves. We no longer risk out lives for the newly discovered territories but some parking spot that’s in the same zip code as the Wal Mart we’re trying to invade. We no longer seek out new people to conquer but spend our time now looking for a sales associate to “go look in the back” to see if there is a chest of gold hidden away, no wait, a toy that is in style, yes, that is the mission now, go and see if there is one in the back, yes, why are you rolling your eyes at me?
Whereas once there were deaths of crewmembers and captains alike, killed by scurvy or natives or in storms or by sexually transmitted diseases found only in livestock, we now eat ourselves to death, consume too much fat and mythical glutens, and we will die by the score on the asphalt as we skid around as if tossed by tempest that killed sailors five hundred years ago.
I wonder, once there was blood spilled, and a small city laid to ash, put to the sword and torch, and what little valuables there were in gold or gems or slaves were taken, if the Conquistadors ever stopped and felt a sense of emptiness, a sense that perhaps what they were doing was not only wrong, but destructive in a manner that could not be undone or forgiven. And I wonder if the parents of kids, who are sitting in a pile of wrapping paper and cardboard boxes, with new toys and shiny devices, yet who still look a little disappointed, as if in all the ripped paper and pulled boxes, It wasn’t found, I wonder, if these parents will think about the near slave labor in China used to make these toys, and the trees felled to make the paper, and the petroleum pumped from the ground them spewed into the air to go back and forth between a dozen stores, and I wonder if they will wonder at the true cost of celebrating the birth of a Savior who if he is going to save us from anything, then Christmas most surely will be at the top of the list?