Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably noticed (starting about Halloween) that Christmas is coming. For lots of us, that means travel and spending time with family. And, love them as we do, getting along with people we see only once a year isn’t always easy (and believe me, it’s not any easier for them).
Science is amazing; it’s done things for us that people living 500 years ago couldn’t even imagine. It’s put a man on the moon. It’s cured diseases that once decimated entire continents. It’s even given us blankets with sleeves.
One thing science can’t do, though, is find a man who has never watched porn.
Like many people, I traveled over the holidays. And while getting to see family and friends is great, getting to where they are can be a trial.
Every year, we drive to Arkansas to see my wife’s family, and to Oklahoma to see mine. We don’t fly – mainly because I’m a cheap bastard. And the three worst things about driving are owning a tiny car, contending with other motorists who drive worse than I, and road food.
Driving would be OK if we had a grown-up car and not what is basically a go-kart with an mp3 player. Here’s how small our car is: for a couple of weeks after we bought it, we’d park it on the street. And every morning I’d get in and find it was full of bills and junk mail. Turns out the postman had mistaken our new car for the mailbox.
And the traffic! Our route takes us up Interstate 35. Under the best conditions, I-35 is a parking lot. Around Christmas, it’s a parking lot full of cranky, harried, and sleep-deprived people who would rather be just about anywhere else besides stuck in traffic. In other words, people just like me.
Crowded highways are one thing, and DWS (driving while stupid) only makes things worse. For instance, I was driving through Dallas and I noticed that the woman in the lane next to me was texting. As you know, texting while driving is extremely dangerous. I rolled down my window to chastise her and in doing so I spilled my Scrabble tiles all over the floor. And I was just about to nail a triple-word score with “irresponsibility.”
Another drawback to road trips is the food issue. My wife and I are ostensibly vegetarians during the rest of the year. But since most road food joints are heavy on the processed animal products and light on the tofu, being a non-carnivore on the road is not easy. And contrary to what you might think, Red Bull and Rice Krispy Treats do not make a balanced meal. In fact, in sufficient quantities they will induce visions of sugarplums. Great if you’re going to a Phish concert; not so great when visiting the fams.
Road food is also terrible if you’re trying to keep your weight under control. For 51 weeks of the year I try to eat well, plus I work out like a fiend. But I come home after a week away and I’m a lot less Daniel Craig and a lot more Jenny Craig.
The next time I go home for the holidays, instead of driving maybe I should jog.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I could not be happier. This is without a doubt my favorite holiday. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to be with my favorite people, to reflect on my great good fortune, and to start drinking before noon. Of course, I kid — no way I’m getting out of bed that early on a day off.
For those of you who are new to these shores, please allow me: Thanksgiving is our annual celebration by which we give thanks (duh) for our blessings, and also for the grace of the indigenous people of this continent who saved our ill-prepared forebears from starving. Over the next couple of centuries we showed our gratitude by killing most of them, and giving the survivors smallpox, alcoholism, and the reservation. Small wonder the holiday was originally known to Native Americans as “I Really Don’t Like The Looks of These Dudes Day.”
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to be with family and loved ones (I nearly said family or loved ones — paging Dr. Freud!) In years past my wife and I would hit the road and head to Oklahoma to see family.
On a good day this trip takes about eight hours; this time of year, though, you can count on 12. Add bumper-to-bumper morons and a steady diet of talk radio, and it seems like 24 hours of automotive waterboarding. On the other hand, at the end of a trip like that, you’re thankful just to sit anywhere that doesn’t have a steering wheel in front of it.
No more of that for us, thank you. This Thanksgiving we will spend part of the morning selflessly preparing and distributing meals for the less fortunate, pausing only occasionally to wipe pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce from our haloes. After that it’s back to business as usual — we’ll spend the rest of they day eating like pigs, watching TV and snoring.
The eating-like-a-pig-at-Thanksgiving thing is a time-honored tradition in my family, and I was inducted at an early age. When I was a kid, my relatives would all fix a Thanksgiving meal but each would serve at a different time.
My dad’s brother’s family sat down at noon. My dad and I would be there (mom, of course, had work to do and so could not join us), napkins tucked into shirt collars, knives and forks at the ready, salivating for my Aunt Mora’s justifiably famous roast turkey.
After putting away as much food as we could, and burping our thanks and goodbyes, we’d drive to my dad’s sister’s house, where my Aunt Bert would be serving her Thanksgiving dinner mid-afternoon. Before she could say, “Grab yourself a plate,” I’d be tucking my knees under her table and clamoring for more mashed potatoes and gravy, and maybe just a sliver of pumpkin pie.
By the time we’d waddle home, I’d be swearing off food entirely. I would honor that vow – sometimes for hours — until my mom got our meal on the table around 6. At that time, the gluttony would begin afresh and we would gorge until the tryptophan hallucinations kicked in. And then we’d go back for seconds.
Time has a way of changing everything, and it’s especially rough on the stuff we cherished as kids. Birthdays are no longer the big deal they once were, and I’m starting to have serious reservations about the whole Santa deal. But Thanksgiving never changes. Actually, I take that back – every year I have a little more to be thankful for, and enough sense to realize that fact. Combine that with a second (OK, third) slice of pumpkin pie, and it’s small surprise that it’s my favorite holiday.
Have you ever really paid attention to how many holidays we celebrate in this country? We celebrate a ton of them. To begin with, you got your Big Three – Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day and Christmas (and I don’t care if you’re Jewish, Muslim, Zoroastrian, whatever; if you take the day off, that totally counts).
After those you got your lesser holidays, like 4th of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day. These are cool because you get the day off, the weather’s still nice and you don’t have to drive out of state. Big bonus points: you also don’t have to rack your brain trying to think of a present for your jerk-face brother-in-law (that cheap bastard).
Lots of holidays I understand and totally agree with – like those holidays that celebrate truly important people or characters or events. Mother’s Day? No problem — everybody loves their mother, right? (Very funny, Oedipus; now sit down and shut up). Nurses Day? A day in their honor is small recompense for a life of changing bed pans and giving sponge baths. Teachers’ Day? In my book, you can’t do enough for teachers; giving them a “day” is nothing. Most of them need a raise and a sidearm.
There are a few others but that’s pretty much the holiday “A” list. After them, you start getting into some innocuous but frankly pretty questionable holidays, like Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day. Past that, you kind of trail off into stuff that’s just … well … bogus.
I bring this up because last Friday was Bosses Day. Of all the bogus “holidays” we mark in this country, this has got to be just about the most bogus one ever.
First of all, Bosses Day? I don’t know about where you work, but everywhere I’ve ever worked every day is bosses day. A boss is someone who gets to tell you what to do and when to do it. A boss is someone who can fire you on a whim. A boss is someone you didn’t vote for, but has way too much influence over 40 hours of every week of your life (or more than that, if you count the psychotherapy and the heavy drinking).
And these people need their own day set aside for us working stiffs to honor them? To my mind, that’s kinda like having King Day; I mean, how much better can it get?
Maybe you’ve heard the axiom that your job is only as good as your boss. I’ve had a lot of jobs and I speak from experience when I say that, unless your boss is Tommy Chong, this is not the case. Or maybe you’ve seen those bumper stickers that say, “My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter” If that makes you happy, great; but in my book, working for some dude whose dad founded the business is no day at the beach, either.
And did you ever wonder exactly who came up with Bosses Day? I bet you a dollar it was someone at Hallmark Cards. And I bet you two dollars it was a boss.