I could see her grimace in the mirror. For a second, her hands stopped moving, brush in mid-air above my head.
“No, not in the afternoon… I can fit her in, no later than 12.”
Yes, they were closed on the 25th, she mentioned just before that.
“On the 24th around 5 or 6 would be more acceptable… mom needs to finish all the preparations before getting her hair done. It’s the day before Christmas, after all.”
Seriously? I couldn’t help turning my head and throwing a mean, disgruntled look to the rude woman. Not that she minded… So she does know it’s the day before Christmas. My eyes moved from her to the elderly lady standing quietly next to her. She had no problem letting her daughter do her dirty bidding.
“I’m sorry. 12 is the best I can do. But if she’d rather come another time…”
There was a small glimmer of hope in her eyes.
“Oh fine… It’ll have to do,” the woman growled before leaving the salon, closely followed by her mother.
It’s a small place and the woman colouring my hair is the owner. She’s very good at what she does, but that’s no longer enough. We’re not exactly friends, but we know each other for years, so there is a certain familiarity and trust. I know she’s a traditionalist when it comes to holiday celebration; I also know she loves to cook and her children probably expect her to spend some time with them too. All her clients know that. I also know that she needs to go above and beyond, her family’s livelihood depending on her.
But above all, I know she’s a human being… just like those of us who are her clients.
‘Tis the season… ‘tis the season to forget that there are people behind all those services we require to cater to our every need (and more) during these December days. It’s funny to notice genuine outrage when some see employers demanding their employees work extra hours during the holidays; yet the same people throw a tantrum if they see the “closed” sign anywhere during the same days. After all, we’re all excessively busy and under a lot of pressure this time of year, “they” should be there to make our lives easier…
Don’t get me wrong, I understand how the economy works and why things happen this way. But perhaps we could make a small effort as well for those who have no choice but to work at a time when we’re resting, relaxing, celebrating.
“You’ve come prepared, I see,” and she smiles at me, eying the canvas totes I had just pulled out of my hobo bag.
I really don’t feel like making small talk with the girl who starts scanning my groceries; but I smile back, because she’s so cheerful and friendly at a time when her colleagues are generally tired, bitter, snarky and rude.
“One more trip and you’re done with your Christmas shopping.”
I know, there’s almost a week to go until Christmas.
“I’m not stepping in this place until after Christmas,” the words escape my lips involuntarily as I’m arranging the bags.
She tilts her head, a puzzled look on her face, this time not quite managing to smile convincingly. I’m about to become the main character in an anecdote, the crazy lady who’s bought half the ingredients for a Christmas meal, which cannot possible be combined in any festive dish.
“I already got the rest, I want to avoid the madness of last-minute shopping.”
I’m not lying to her. Everything that could be purchased in advance is already in my fridge/freezer or in the cupboard. Sure, my small kitchen is busier than usual, but I like it that way; to me, that kind of stocking up means Christmas is near, and I’m looking forward to cooking and baking.
“That was wise,” and she gives me another wide smile, wishing me a good day and happy holidays.
I keep hearing all sorts of “recipes” for a stress-free Christmas. I agree with some, I find others purely extreme. I suppose we do what we need to do, to not only survive, but even enjoy the season. One of the things I do my very best to avoid is last-minute shopping… or last week shopping, to be more specific. I like to see the hustle and bustle before the holidays, but I no longer leave anything relevant or absolutely necessary to be purchased in those final days. I have done that many moons ago, I blame it on youthful naiveté. “Final” is exactly how it all feels, it’s a “buy or die” scenario and I hate to fight over the last one of this or that item. I hate the monsters we become in such instances.
So no more of that. Not for me, at least. I like to think that in some small way, my absence from a crowded, crazed line helps somebody, offers them a couple of minutes to breathe. That’s all I can do. Somehow, it’s becoming more and more difficult to tear ourselves from that vicious circle, from that exponentially increasing madness. But should it really be this difficult? Perhaps it’s because I like to plan in advance, so Christmas doesn’t sneak up on me. Perhaps it’s the fact that I still remember my childhood days, when almost everything was closed for the holidays, but somehow everybody survived just fine, purchasing everything they needed in advance. I don’t know… What I do know is that it shouldn’t be so hard to remember that there are real people behind the shelves, bars, screens, phone lines and all those other services we feel we are entitled to consume.
So to those of you who make our holidays better and safer, a heartfelt “thank you”!