Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Night I Fa-La-La-Lost It

Perhaps I overdid it. Just a little bit. Or maybe not.

Christmas time isn’t my favorite season, to put it mildly. Since I wrote about it at length roughly a year ago, I won’t go into it here. Let’s just say that Brother John is a proud Grinch, for many good reasons. Christmas music is at the top of the list.

On an average day, if you enter the Spendorama Department Store I toil in, your ears will be assaulted by the greatest hits of the 70’s and 80’s. Yes, on the hit parade of retail P.A. systems, Fleetwood Mac and Taylor Dane are still in heavy rotation. That is, until early November, when they switch to an all-Christmas music format. Now, I’m a pretty discriminating rock fan. Taylor Dane’s music is the audio equivalent to Wonder Bread. But take it from me: after eight consecutive hours of “rumpa-pum-pumming”, Taylor Dane sounds like the voice of an angel.

Why oh why do they do this? Do they think there’s a customer somewhere who wouldn’t know it’s Christmas unless he or she heard “Joy to the World” rendered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Jackson Five? Do they think that playing every iota of life out of passably tolerable holiday songs, like Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, will somehow prompt customers to buy yet another sweater or pair of socks? Don’t they realize how maddening such an a-wassailing blitz can be? For me, Christmas music is like the thick, gooey icing found on most Christmas cookies. A little bit tastes delicious. Too much can induce vomiting.

Listening to so much holiday music, so often, is like being beaten upside the head with the brightly-garnished branch of a Christmas tree. Your mind starts to travel to some bleak and bizarre places. After hearing “White Christmas” for the 999th time, you start wishing that Bob Hope would’ve done the “paddy cake” routine from “Road to Morocco” on Der Bingle, knocking his ass out so he couldn’t have waxed the damned song. After listening to “Silver Bells” just as often, you wish the two little Asian kids Bob encounters while crooning the tune in “The Lemon Drop Kid” (“O Ling! O Ling! O Ling!”) would’ve kicked him in the nuts in mid-ling. This is what audio torture does to you.

Home provided no solace. Just up the street from us live two neighbors I’ll call “Brad” and “Trish”. Two more prototypical yuppies have never walked this Earth. When not busy selling insurance and real estate, respectively, Brad and Trish unwind by being “community boosters”. Grandma Left would’ve called them “pot-stirrers”. When it turns Decemberish, Brad and Trish gather up their three whining, preteen brats and go up and down the block resurrecting a “tradition” that, like the stockade and tarring and feathering, was best forgotten: Christmas caroling.

You got it. Brad, Trish and the kids—inevitably decked out in Santa hats and mittens—stand outside your front door and wail, like a poor man’s Partridge Family, the season’s greatest hits. You’re supposed to rush to the door, listen appreciably and then reward these tone-deaf troubadours with “cash, cookies or cups of hot cocoa.” Why, you might ask, have I placed quotation marks around that last phrase? Because, Kindred Souls, I am only quoting from the photocopied note Trish sends ‘round each year, in advance of their “visit”. Other neighbors are invited to join the caroling party; of course, since this is 21st Century America, nobody ever does.

No big deal, you might say, just act like you’re not home. Good idea, but no soap. If you don’t respond to “Jingle Bells”, Brad, Trish and the kids will follow it up with “Silent Night”. If that doesn’t do it, they’ll encore with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman” and so on, until you cough up a buck or a gingersnap. Last year, they subjected poor old Mrs. Fischer across the street to all “Twelve Days of Christmas” before she was able to drive them off with half a bag of Oreos.

The last night, it was our turn. At around 7p.m, Mom and Dad were downstairs, wrapping presents and arguing over how to load batteries into the remote-controlled racecar they bought for my 8-year old nephew. Having just completed an 8-hour shift in retail hell, I was sitting listlessly at the kitchen table, in my usual shell-shocked state. From the front porch came wafting the strangled sounds of “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly”. After an entire day of such crap, something in me just snapped. Like a jungle cat, I sprang into action.

Without thinking, I went to the refrigerator and opened it. Instinctively, my hands reached toward the back and pulled out the half-eaten pecan and untouched pumpkin pies leftover from Thanksgiving. Leftover, because these pies were baked by my sister. My sister is a wonderful woman, but baking is not one of her many talents. Mechanically, I carried the pies to the front door. I stood and listened for the climactic “la”. At last, the final notes faded into the chilly night air.

Honestly, I only meant to offer them some pie. Glutinous, musky pumpkin and rocklike caramelized pecan, but holiday treats nevertheless. At the last minute, as I opened the door, I thought I’d simply toss the pies out to them. I mean, why make hard-working Christmas carolers walk all the way up to the door to get their rewards? Wasn’t one of the kids in peewee football? Sure. He’d get it. Just like a forward pass. Yeah.

As God as my witness, it wasn’t intentional. Who knew pumpkins and pecans could fly so well? Or splat so beautifully? This is what audio torture can drive you to.

I may get coal in my stocking for the rest of my life, but at least I know that, from now on, there’s one Christmas song that will always make me smile.


Blogger Happy Villain said...

You are, officially, my favorite blogger! Yay, John!

I'm noticing a trend, whereby you piss off each of your stepford-y neighbors one house at a time. Excellent work! Can you spend some time in my neighborhood?

The only thing worse than the Christmas music in the stores is a gleeful, over-medicated, middle-aged woman who can't carry a note to save her life, singing and dancing her white, beatless ass to the awful music. That's my mother. She doesn't drive. I have to take her Christmas shopping and follow her around stores for weeks, watching and hearing this disgusting display. If a pumpkin pie comes flying at her, I'll know we wandered into your store. :)

12:34 AM  
Blogger Crimson Crusader said...

That is the funniest christmas story I have heard in a long time! Luckily caroling has never caught on here in Australia (although "Carols by Candlelight" *is* becoming a big deal) - instead, we just spray fake snowflakes on our windows and pretend it's *not* 40 degrees (celsius) outside and that there's raging bushfires elsewhere in the state!

3:10 PM  

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