Archive for December, 2005

All is Bright

The chair is comfortable and the house is warm and cozy as I warm myself with the glass of smooth in my left hand.  Small white lights sparkle out from the safety of evergreen branches.  The radio softly wishes peace on earth and goodwill toward men.  It is Christmas night.  All is calm.  In the days and weeks leading up to this point, however:

Lists have been written.  Santa’s ear has been bent.  Hints have been dropped.  Pleas have been made.  Hopes have been raised.  Names have been chosen. 

Parking spaces have been found.  Numbers of potential gifts have been apprised; those deemed worthy have been purchased.  Lines have been waited in.  Massage chairs have been tested.  Store clerks have been harried.  Crowds have been weaved through.  The same 12 carols have been played over and over again.  Children have been begged to say cheese, yet have insisted upon crying.  Small, robotic Santa Clauses have done the booty dance. 

Office holiday parties have been dutifully attended.  Karaoke has been sung.  Sweaters, both ugly and scratchy, have been donned.  Bosses have been drunkenly confronted.  Co-workers have flirted.  Gifts have been re-gifted.  Secret Santas have been revealed.  Yankees have been swapped. 

Rudolph has been cute.  Ebenezer has been enlightened.  Frosty has celebrated a birthday.  Ralphie has shot his eye out.  Linus has explained the true meaning of Christmas.  The Grinch has carved the roast beast.  The Burgermeister has Meisterburgered.  Heat Miser and Snow Miser have been too much.  Bumbles has bounced. 

Trees have been chopped down.  Trees have been tied to roofs.  Trees have been taken out of boxes.  Miniature lights have been wrapped.  Some lights have winked, while others still have steadily gazed.  One has gone out and they all have gone out.  Ornaments have been placed.  Ornaments have been knocked off of branches by wayward tails.  Ornaments have been re-placed.  Tinsel and garland have been draped.  Color wheels have turned.  Cats have hidden in branches.  Stars have been affixed. 

Stockings have been hung with care.  Window candles have been lit.  Mistletoe has been kissed under.  Lights have been strung through bushes.  Lawn Santas have waved at traffic.  Illuminated reindeer have dipped their heads to graze at the snow.  Colorful snowmen have been inflated.  Glowing plastic icicles have been draped from gutters.  Neighbors have gone overboard.  Cars have slowed to admire the effort. 

Figgy pudding has been demanded.  Glog has been glugged.  Sugar plums have danced.  Fruitcakes have been mocked.  Punch has been spiked.  Candy has been ribboned and caned.  Popcorn has been strung.  Cider has been mulled.  Eggs have been nogged.  Someone’s Christmas goose has been cooked.  Turkeys have been stuffed.  Desserts have been indulged.  Santa’s cookies have been eaten.  Santa’s milk has been drunk.  The reindeer’s carrots have been gnawed. 

Gifts have been wrapped.  Tape has folded back onto itself.  More wrapping paper has been purchased.  Empty paper rolls have been used for fencing.  Paper cuts have stung.  Bare spots on gifts have been covered with differently colored paper. 

Children have looked with wonder at a pile of gifts; they have then woken their tired parents.  Families have gathered.  Old grudges have been set aside.  Paper has been torn and tossed.  Shrieks of delight have filled the air.  Santa has been praised.  Hugs have been shared.  Everyone has smiled.  Soldiers have been missed.  It will be a blue Christmas without them. 

Chestnuts have roasted over an open fire.  Jack Frost has nipped at your nose.  Bells have jingled.  Two front teeth have been requested.  Ten lords have leaped.  I’ve dreamt about a white Christmas.  We have pretended that the snowman is Parson Brown.  We have had a little Christmas, right this very minute.  Santa Claus has come to town. 

Services have been attended.  Choirs have sung praise.  There hasn’t been room in the inn.  Children have dressed like shepherds.  Babies have been nervously handed over to this year’s Mary.  Wise men have brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Hark, the herald angels have sung.  He is born.  

It has truly been a holly jolly Christmas.  Joy to the world. 

The Day to Day Grind Tim 30 Dec 2005 No Comments

Bosses

How you feel about your job probably has quite a bit to do with how you feel about your boss. Being a good boss is an art. In the many jobs that are now in my rearview mirror, I have been bossed by a wide variety of people; some good, some not so good. There are two bosses, however, that stand out in my memory.

I worked for Bill when I was a cashier at a local supermarket during high school in the late 1980’s. I was a clean cut, awkward kid who didn’t have a social life in high school. Bill was the total opposite. He had long hair and wore motorcycle boots, and he was oozing with street smarts and confidence.

I know that Bill had many conversations with the straight-laced store manager during which the manager tried to convince him that grocery store supervisors just didn’t HAVE long hair, but Bill resisted. He was too valuable to fire over long hair, not that the manager would ever threaten that, and he knew it.

Bill was also a great boss. He took the time to know what was going on with each of his employees, and he rewarded them when they did a good job. If they didn’t do such a great job, they would most likely be on the receiving end of a good-natured barb. If the mistake was more serious, Bill would talk to the person in private, away from the bustle of the store front end.

He treated us like people, and as a result, we enjoyed our jobs and did our best for him. It could have been because I was young, but Bill’s approval was very important to me, and I think that most of the cashiers felt the same way. I thrived under his leadership. With the exception of my current job, Bill was the best boss I have ever had.

The worst boss I’ve endured was a man who I will call Alfred. His name wasn’t Alfred, and in my opinion he doesn’t deserve the protection of an alias, but it’s probably for the best that we agree to just call him Alfred.

Alfred wasn’t always in the office. He would often travel between different offices and generally wouldn’t show up at my location until the afternoons. It got so that I would dread the afternoons.

If anyone dared to make a mistake, and sometimes even when they hadn’t, Alfred would berate the person in front of everyone, which hardly made for a comfortable atmosphere. Any time Alfred was feeling the least bit stressed, he would begin shouting.

After basic training, I could definitely deal with people shouting at me, but it didn’t mean that I wanted to be shouted at every single day. I began to hate the job. I would wake up in the morning and just absolutely dread going into the office and seeing Alfred. To be fair, I’m sure that, since I didn’t like the job, I wasn’t the ideal employee.

There were four of us in Alfred’s office who were healthy men in our 20’s. Within a year and a half of working there, all of us experienced some form of stress-related health issue. The job itself wasn’t that stressful – it’s not like we were air-traffic controllers – but Alfred made it unbearable.

I put up with the job for a couple of years, until I just couldn’t stand it any more, and I quit. So did the other 3 guys who worked with me. I don’t know about them, but for years I would sometimes have nightmares that I still worked for Alfred. I haven’t had those nightmares in a while, but it was always such a relief to wake up and realize that those days had passed.

If I had it to do over again, I would have been less afraid of losing my job. I would have spoken to Alfred about how I felt, and when he didn’t treat me better, I would have immediately quit. Life is too short to spend years working for someone like that, and I have to imagine that he has gone through quite a number of employees since I left.

Being a boss is a tricky business. Whenever I have been in charge of other people, I have tried to think about how I might want to be treated, and I have treated the people that way. Alfred apparently feels differently.

Back in the Day Tim 22 Dec 2005 No Comments

FAT!

The word is out on the street:  Fat is the new thin.  It’s become so popular that even stick-bug models are dressing up in fat suits on television, just to see what it’s like to spend a day as a fat person.  Instead of going to all that trouble, Rebecca Mader, Vanessa Minillo, and Tyra Banks could have just talked to me.  I’m a fat guy.  Ask anybody. 

I haven’t always been fat.  I used to run 6 miles a day.  In college, I was the Intramural Athlete of the Year two years in a row.  When I was in the Air National Guard, I would regularly be the fastest person in my squadron in the annual fitness runs (outrunning a bunch of Air Force types probably wouldn’t mean much to a Marine, but I felt good about it). 

Since about 2000, however, I have gone through what doctors have described as an “eating frenzy”, which led me to be the fat guy that I am today.  Having been on both sides of the weight spectrum, I think it’s funny how people react to me now. 

For example, I recently organized a little get-together of some college friends at a bar in Lowell.  When I first got to the bar, I walked up to my friend Tyler, who I haven’t seen in about ten years, and slapped him on the back as a greeting.  He turned to say hello, but then stopped in mid-turn and just stared at me, his face registering total shock. 

Me:  “Hi Tyler, good to see you.” 

Tyler (still in shock):  “Wow…” 

Me (wondering what he was so shocked about):  “How are the kids doing?” 

Tyler (looking me up and down):  “Damn…” 

Me (starting to figure out what he’s talking about):  “Yeah, I’ve gained some weight since college.” 

Tyler:  “Wow…” 

Me:  “Wow.” 

Tyler:  “Geez, you got big, huh?” 

Me (with my usual sparkling wit):  “Yeah.” 

Tyler:  “The last time I saw you, you were pretty thin.” 

Me:  “Yep.  In the words of Dewey Oxberger: ‘The doctor says I swallowed a lot of aggression, along with a lot of pizzas.’” 

Tyler:  “Gosh.” 

Another example of this happened recently, when I was selling Christmas trees for my local Lions Club.  A woman came to buy a tree, and as I was carrying it to her car, she stopped and appraised me for a second. 

“Are you McCaffrey?” she asked. 

“Yes, I am Tim McCaffrey.  It’s nice to meet you,” I answered. 

“I like your columns.  Keep writing good stuff.” 

I was totally flattered.  “Thank you very much, I will try.  It’s funny that you recognized me from my picture in the paper.  No one ever recognizes me from that picture.” 

At this point the woman looked me up and down for a second and said with complete honesty, “Well, you are thinner in that picture.” 

She was right, but the problem is that, as you can see, my picture in the paper is hardly a “thin” picture.  I used to think that no one recognized me from it because it’s kind of blurry and I’m wearing a baseball hat.  I figured that it wasn’t the best picture when I submitted it to the newspaper and my editor looked at it, then looked back at me and said, “Are you sure that this is the picture you want to use?” 

Anyway, Tyler and the woman from the tree stand were just being honest, and their honesty didn’t offend me in the least (Note:  This does not mean that I want everyone in my life to make cracks about my weight every day because this would definitely lead to violence).  Not everyone is nice to fat people, but then again, not everyone is nice to people with incredibly large noses, either.  I try not to get my jockeys in a twist about it. 

No matter how much fun they had in their fat suits, something tells me that Rebecca, Vanessa, and Tyra aren’t going to suddenly start spending extra time in the buffet line.  But wouldn’t it be great if they could get together and talk Nicole Richie into eating a sandwich once in a while?  That girl is just way too skinny.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 09 Dec 2005 No Comments