As foz.editthispage.com no longer exists, I’m posting this to here so it doesn’t get lost.
No ho ho ho!
Author: John Foster
Posted: 12/24/1999; 5:23:07 PM
Topic: No ho ho ho!
Msg #: 4 (top msg in thread)
I’m sitting at the bar near the water. The place is nearly empty and this old dude walks in and sits next to me. I’ve never seen him before. He orders and asks the bartender “Is this the guy?” The bar guy nods his head yes.
“Why? Why do you hate the holiday,” asked the stranger.
It’s simple. Once a year everyone acts different. They change and become something they are not. They become ugly or nice or holy or whatever.
He glee’d, “But it’s Christmas! It’s a special time of year.”
“Dude you have no clue. People become ugly for no reason. Last year it was Furby’s and the before that it was Elmo’s and the year before it was something else. The retailers say that you have to have “that special whatever” and that it turns people into these things. Ick. That’s not what this holiday is about. That’s not what we were taught as kids… at least I wasn’t.”
“Like that time your fam went skiing for Christmas, didn’t set up a tree or had presents.”
“Have we met before?”
“How could you know about that?”
The old man shrugs.
“Oh. Anyway we learned as kids that it’s not about “the gift” but “the event.” You have the memory of skiing for your whole life. But that toy that you got gets broken or stolen or isn’t fun after a while. It can be really disappointing. It’d be better if they just packed up the whole season and hauled it away.”
“You sound like the Grinch…”
“Yea… the Grinch stole Christmas. He did it. Good bye forever. Packed it up and was going to shove it off the edge of the Mt. Crumpit. Get rid of the whole thing. Of course in books and movies you have to have a happy ending so he caves to some happy singing and gives it all back. But if he really had stolen Christmas from real people instead of Who’s they’d form a posse, track him and lynched him without a trial. Hell with that “doesn’t come in a package, box or bag” crap. We want our stuff! I’ve seen it in action. It’s been ten years since I’ve experienced it first hand but it leaves you with a cold feeling for the whole affair.”
“You can’t still be carrying around the computer retail day’s…”
“Actually I don’t but I get reminded about it once a year. What a fun part of my life. We were kids and we were running a million dollar a year business. But what sucked about it was the holidays. Everybody had this attitude. You don’t notice it at first and then after you’ve been exposed to it for more than one year it really gets to you. People become less willing to bend and want it their way because they think they’re entitled to it because it’s the holiday. After the 25th it almost goes away. Unless if you happen to be traveling during that time.”
“It’s been over 10 years since we had the store. But it’s left a mark. I don’t go shopping from November to December if I can possibly help it. The whole “buy, buy, buy, gimme, gimme, gimme, get, get, get” message that they turn on gives me the creeps.”
The old man drank deep and then said, “That doesn’t explain the argument with the manager at that restaurant.”
“You know about that?”
“Dude, I know everything. It’s all on the list.”
“Right. Makin’ a list and check’n in twice. I know the song. I know all the songs. They play them constantly where ever you go. You can’t escape them. I was having dinner with some people and this song was blazing away. Little Town of Bethleham or something. Doesn’t matter. Anyway I asked the waiter guy if they could change it or turn it down. I told him I was offended and I would leave and not pay if they didn’t. So the manager comes over to the table. And we get in this argument about what was and wasn’t appropriate for her place. I get up put my coat on and start to leave. I’m making a scene and people are staring. Food is on the table and my friends finally decide to go with me. Finally she decides I’m not worth it and goes to change the tunes. When the Xmas noise stops and Steely Dan comes on the place erupts with cheers. So I know I’m not alone in my hatred of the way those songs are used.”
“You’ve done this every place you’ve gone this year. It’s on the list.”
“Only way it will stop is to complain. Think about how offensive it is to people that don’t celebrate this holiday. This town we’re in represents all kinds of nationalities and religions. Over half, HALF, don’t share any of the beliefs that I was shown as a kid.”
“Besides, this music is very personal. It not supposed to be used as background music while I’m shopping. I have the same beef with the guys that are using songs that I grew up with as jingles. Those are memories. My memories. Not something that for some ad exec to drop in behind a burger or a long distance company. Yea consumers respond to them. Because they already know the song and they liked it at some point. It’s the hit song syndrome. If you make a cover of a hit you can’t not do well. This is proven again and again. Those guys that are doing marketing with my memories think they’re so clever. Well they’re not.”
“If it helps they’re on the naughty list…”
“I don’t think it does. They make so much money they’ll buy whatever they need…. Seriously, how many times can you hear Rodulf the Red Knows Rain Dear? Or Jingle Bells for that matter before you just explode. Dreaming of a White Christmas? I’m dreaming that I never hear it again!”
“I’ve heard them thousands of times. But you have to admit Christmas is good for business.”
“No it’s bad for business. Once a year there’s this spike in sales. Some retailers rely on that spike. Remember a few years back when holiday sales were flat. Stock prices got effected in a bad way and that sent another ripple through everything. When I did software as a business I didn’t see any sales from December 10 to sometime after January. That was bad. Basically I was shut down. And in my new business everyone wants things for the new year so I end up working through it. And if you ever try to get something created, like printing or some other kind of production then forget it. Everyone is turned off or gone home.”
“What exactly are you saying?”
“A lot of people have to work extra hard to make sure that Xmas doesn’t flop. All the shipping companies are swamped. If you needed to actually get something to someone for real business you have to plan around the deluge. I needed stuff from a computer store and parking was a nightmare. A normal 20 minute transaction turned into almost an hour because of the “extra people.” We needed office supplies and that store’s normally empty parking lot was packed with a guy directing traffic. We got what we needed but the ordeal was not needed.”
“I’m saying that if companies want to have good end of years they should work on them all year long and not make this push at the end. And most people don’t realize all the extra effort and money it takes to make that gift under the tree a reality. The toll that it takes on the infrastructure, the people, is bad.”
“You can’t change an economic engine. It’s already in place and people respond to it.”
“I’m not saying they don’t. I’m just saying that I think there are better ways to do business. I alone will not be able to change what’s in place. I can choose to not buy things so I don’t contribute to the spike. Don’t think that I wouldn’t take advantage of it if I had a product or service that revolved around this season. I’ve done it before. I know how it works. And that’s the root of my problem with the whole season.”
“I know how it works. And I can and have manipulated people to buy in the past. And because of that I don’t want to have it done to me.”
“Look at this poor sod.” He points to a picture of a homeless guy in the paper.
“They run that picture of that guy every year. The problem is that he doesn’t go away after the holidays. They won’t run that picture next week. He still needs help. I don’t understand the guilt trip attitude they lay on us.”
“Actually that guy is a model and he posed for that picture without taking a fee. Mighty large of him. Don’t you think?”
“I bet he got lunch during the shoot. No wonder he doesn’t look hungry.”
“What about friends and family? They want to take part in the holiday.”
“Yes they do. You’ve traveled in the holidays? You know how it is.”
“Sure. But I don’t travel commercial, I usually fly myself.”
“My point exactly. You bypass the event. But I can’t. Go to the airport and you’ve got screaming kids and unhappy people that have to wait in lines to get anything. Add in missed flights and over booking. Crammed carry on baggage. Late planes delayed by weather. No parking when you get there. The crush of people.”
“I’d rather spend time with them when I don’t have to deal with the traffic. Besides it’s usually cheaper. And I don’t have to explain for the zillion’th time about why I’m not giving gifts.”
“Okay some really quick questions.”
“Favorite Christmas song.”
“Father Christmas by the Kinks. It’s got a negative vibe to it so they don’t play it on the PA in the stores. And it’s got a good message. A close call is Bob and Doug McKenzie’s version of Twelve Days. Very funny. They definitely don’t play that anywhere.”
“That one does make me laugh. Beer in a tree. [laughs] And the part in the end about the donuts.”
“Speaking of beers. Hey Raul. Two more of the seasonals.”
“Good this year. But not like last year.”
“I remember those. One beer had you caroling all night. They’d only serve you one. Maybe two. After that you couldn’t stand.”
“Best Christmas movie.”
“Die Hard with Bruce Willis. Gun battles and explosions. What more could you want on the night before?”
“Personally I like the one about the trial of Santa. At the end the post office brings thousands of letters and they let me go.”
“That is a good one. Don’t watch it in color though.”
“Grinch as best cartoon?”
“You don’t really hate Christmas do you?”
“No. I really don’t. I just don’t like the hype. How it’s crammed down my throat whether I want it or not. Hell you wouldn’t have to do anything and it would happen. All by itself. But the retailers are too scared to leave it alone. They think that we’ll all forget.”
“That about wraps it up for me…” The old guy finishes his beer.
“I still believe in the spirit of the old man in the red suit. Wish he was really real. Then it wouldn’t be like this every year. He’d keep it in check.”
“Wish there was more guys like you. Might make my job easier. Oh one last thing. That idea of yours about the Christmas free zone…”
“How could you know about my logo program?!?”
“Don’t think about using any likeness or images of the reindeer or the sleigh. Stay away from candy cans and wrapped presents. Forgot about saying “No, ho, ho, ho. You can be more clever than that. Remember it still needs to be positive.”
“That’ll be a challenge. Okay. No problem. But you do agree that we do have to have a way for people to able to identify places that won’t xmas them to death. No music. No lights. Just a place like it was before.”
“Sure, just don’t piss off the wrong people.”
“Nice talking with you. See you some other time. Hey, I didn’t get your name.”
“It’s Chris, John.”
“How’d you know my name?”
“See you next year. And don’t be so hard on those restaurant managers they’re only doing they’re jobs you know.”
“I know. But how’d you know…”
The old guy walked out the door and into the fog. I looked where he’d been sitting and there was a box. It was wrapped in comics from a Sunday paper. I picked it up and ran after him. But he wasn’t in sight. I noticed a card on the outside. It was inscribed: To John – it’s exactly what you asked for. I go back inside and I opened the package. Inside is nothing. Which was exactly what I had asked Santa to bring me.
Suddenly, I knew how he knew my name! Cool.