Here's Hoping the Holidays Catch Up With You Too

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It was suddenly time to get ready for the office holiday party. Nothing was ready and the mood on the streets was bleak. Smack in the middle of all that, Rita Henley Jensen stumbled into the holiday spirit. Here's how it happened.

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Rita Henley Jensen(WOMENSENEWS)--I'm in a rush.

The holiday party for the staff and freelancers is about to begin in three hours. No food is ready; no decorations hung. After such a difficult year for so many in so many ways, it is a bit harder to build enthusiasm for the holidays and like most women, my to-do list grows exponentially.

The canvas carry-all I hurriedly stuffed with holiday decorations at home the day before and brought to the office sits untouched. I can see that a string of lights is bulging out of its top, so I know we will have at least one set.

I realize we need a tree; most offices in the United Sates have holiday trees. We should have one too. How can we have a party without a tree? Maybe I can get a tree at the local drugstore, a not-too-horrible artificial tree, one that takes only two minutes to set up.

I stand up at my desk and ask in a loud cheery holiday tone: "Should we have a real or a fake tree?"

Every single staff member, even the ones who ignore the fire alarm tests, shouts out: "real!"

"But where will you get one now?" asks the resident tactician.

"I am sure that if I just go out to the street I can find someone selling Christmas trees," I say in the manner one uses when about to begin whistling past a graveyard.

It is cold. No one on the street looks particularly happy about it being cold. No ho ho hos. No Santas by red buckets, ringing bells and asking for donations. No shoppers with big bags and bigger smiles. Just glum folks who look like they are on their way back to their offices.

Not a Fir in Sight

Down one block. No tree sellers. Over two blocks. No tree sellers. Through the shopping plaza. Not a fir in sight. Quick glance up and down Broadway. Nada.

Panic. Quit? Settle for a fake? Where would I even get a fake? One more block east. Where was that store again? Maybe up one more block.

Victory! Evergreens outside a gourmet grocery! And they don't look half bad. No one waiting on customers, though. No clearly marked prices. Not even a sign indicating what the prices ranges are. Now what? Move on?

A man, dressed in layers of drab work clothes, appears. He looks to be in his 40s, about my height, with soft brown hair and eyes.

"Do you want a tree?" he asks.

"Yes," I say. "How much is that one?"

"Sixty-five," he says.

"And that one?"

"Seventy-five. It's taller."

"Do you take credit cards?"

"No, cash."

No Time to Haggle

No time to haggle, no time to ask the prices of the other trees.

"Okay, I'll take the 65. Do you deliver?"

"How far?"

"It's near. I'll show you."

Another customer grabs his attention. She has a cab waiting. She takes the one for $75 and she buys a stand too. She doesn't argue about the price either.

He turns to me: "I am so sorry to keep you waiting," he says. "I will deliver your tree as soon as I finish with her."

I pace. I realize I better buy a stand.

He turns to me. "OK, this is the tree you want?"

"How much is a stand?"


"OK. Yes. I'll show you the way. I'll carry the stand."

I walk away, fast. He carrying the tree in one hand and keeps the pace. Then he laughs.

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