How to Ruin Christmas
LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION
I have said this before, and I’ll say it again. The trouble with Christmas is people. Not regular people – organized people. People who are so organized they start Christmas shopping in August, the minute the Walmart puts out the fake trees alongside of the Halloween witches and the Thanksgiving turkeys.
People like my sister-in-law Gloriosa. They are the canaries in the coal mine.
From August on they’re shopping and planning and wrapping; and they’ll have everything finished by the time the rest of us, the slothful 99 percent, are just starting to slap up decorations and max out our credit cards.
So they invent more stuff to do, just to be part of the general pandemonium. (And to show up the rest of us.) Which is why Gloriosa is on top of a ladder with her sponge mop and bucket the first week in December.
She has decided to create an entire manger scene on her front porch. But first, this porch got to be washed. Now, in Gloriosa’s world, this don’t mean just squirting off the bugs and slop with a hose; it means scrubbing the ceiling and the wall and the railings.
Now, Gloriosa is the Gunch family beauty who married rich and lives in a big house Uptown. She tries hard to fit in with people Uptown, which turns out to be harder than fitting in with people in Chalmette where she was born and bred.
I try to help her out. I am a professional tour guide, and whenever I take a bus tour Uptown, I make the driver stop in front of her house. Inside the bus, I tell the tour that in the early 1900s a prominent socialite ran out on that porch right there, naked as a plucked chicken and swinging a meat cleaver at the ice man, who was also her unfaithful lover. There wasn’t no cell phone cameras then, but a streetcar full of people was going by while he was trying to scramble over the fence, and that’s how word got out. Now, not only is this true, but it makes the tourists gawk. If Gloriosa happens to be out front, she assumes I’m describing the magnificent architecture, and waves like the queen of Rex.
Anyway, she’s scrubbing this ceiling, when a spider drops down in front of her eyes and she flails around and the ladder tips over.
She grabs for something to hold onto, but what she grabs is the bucket and she actually flings the water in her own face as she goes down. Thank God she lands in a porch chair, which plunks over backward, and she winds up on her back, soaking wet with her feet in the air, when my tour bus lumbers along.
I don’t even have to rehash that old scandal to get the tourists to gawk. She scrambles up and sloshes inside without waving, but I think she’s OK.
Little do I know, her troubles are just beginning. Her kids tell her the TV blinked off right in the middle of “Rugrats.” Gloriosa remembers it’s connected through a plug on the porch. She goes out and looks at it. Finally she unscrews the connection. Water runs out the hole. The bucket water must’ve splashed in there.
So she calls the TV company, gets a phone menu, clicks on a bunch of menu choices, gets put on hold once and disconnected twice, and 45 minutes later talks to a actual person named Sanji, who says this call may be recorded for quality purposes. Gloriosa says she needs her plug repaired. Sanji says, “Are you the holder of the account?” Actually, her husband, Proteus, was the one who signed them up. So Gloriosa lowers her voice real deep and says she’s Proteus. Sanji asks for his secret password. Gloriosa thinks fast. A lot of men probably use “Budweiser,” but Proteus is what you call elite.
“Sorry. It’s ‘absinthe,” says Sanji.
“Yes, as in ‘Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder,’” says Sanji. Obviously, Sanji ain’t from New Orleans.
Gloriosa says a few things that will shock the quality recording and slams down the phone. Then and there she decides to order TV through the same company that handles their house phone and Internet. So she calls them and only has to click a few times before an actual person named Ahmed comes on and is happy to take her order: TV, house phone, Internet – all bundled together. He says he’ll send someone out tomorrow morning to hook them up. But they’re leaving for Disney World tomorrow, so she makes the appointment for next week.
After she hangs up, she notices that she lost a fake fingernail with all that clicking. She picks up the house phone to call her nail salon. The phone is dead.
She grabs her cell phone and calls Ahmed right back, but this time she has to click a lot of numbers and lose another nail and get put on hold. She goes to the bathroom while she’s waiting and right then a person answers. But it ain’t Ahmed. This person’s name is Astrid. Astrid says of course they disconnected the phone when she requested an order change. That is their policy. No, it can’t be changed. Can she help Gloriosa with anything else today? Gloriosa slams down the cell phone, which is a mistake because she’s still in the bathroom and, naturally, it lands in the toilet.
When I notice that neither of Gloriosa’s phones answers and that she stopped updating Facebook, I start to worry. Then I get five postcards from Disney World. They are numbered from one to five, they’re written in capital letters and they got triple exclamation point behind every sentence. Quite a story.
And all because she was organized. That is how you ruin Christmas. Like I said.