A carol that keeps the holidays in perspective

‘IT’S THE MOST Wonderful Time of the Year,” sang Andy Williams on the radio as I pulled into my parking space at work. Actually it was my second choice space because some guy in a SUV had squirted right in front of me, into my first choice.

Never mind that I had my blinker on, or that I actually had politely stopped for him to drive by first, before I pulled in. He just jumped in front of me. No good deed goes unpunished, the skeptics say. Such are the holidays.

I marched past the valet in his foul weather gear and thanked my lucky stars for the blessings I do have, namely, no foul weather gear, just a few neurotic drink orders and not having to deal with the most expensive moveable item that most people own.

The valet held up his hand as he circled the car.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I tell the people we have security cameras,” he said, circling the car again. “You’d be surprised at how many complaints it nullifies.”

I chuckled at the thought, and a nodded in silent acknowledgement of the valet’s diction. Opening the door of the restaurant, I whistled Williams’ second line, something about “kids” and “jingle belling” almost at the same moment two 8-year-olds ran smack into me.

Somewhere two parents were enjoying their Christmas cheer, while loading their children up on sugar and caffeine and letting them run wild in a busy restaurant. Good parenting at its best.

Don’t people know sodas contain almost a teaspoon of sugar an ounce? Add in some grenadine, which used to be made from pomegranates but is virtually nothing more than artificially colored sugar water, and a few maraschino cherries (again nothing more than candy) and watch them go. Sit still. Really? Not so bad if you have the energy to watch them, but factor in a before-dinner martini and you and your kids are on a crash course with diametrically opposed destiny.

“Have a good night,” the day bartender said to me with a note of irony as he hurried out the door.

While standing there with his cash register drawer in his hand, two people, overlooking the obvious — that he was leaving — asked him for drinks. In the holiday restaurant business, people don’t care who you are or what you are doing they just want what they want, and they want it right now.

“This is for Pump 5,” some guy at a gas station said to me after handing me $20 the other day, before he walked away. I guess he thought anyone in a white shirt and black pants must work in the service industry. Gas station, service industry — what’s the difference, right?

“Everyone telling you ‘Be of good cheer,’ it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” goes that Williams song.

With that thought I turned to face my first customer.

“I’ll have a house merlot,” he said holding out a $100 bill, the least-expensive item with the largest bill in circulation. Great.

“Sir, all I have are fives and ones, do you have anything else?”

After some protracted discourse, he finally decided that he didn’t want to look like a strip club charter member and paid for the wine with a credit card.

An hour and half later of ratcheted-up holiday neediness, Mr. $100 returned.

“You never gave me my $100 back,” he barked.

“You are right, sir, because you never actually gave it to me.”

“Yes, I did.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Well, I don’t have it,” he said, as if that somehow made me culpable.

“Let me get the manager.”

She arrived and in an instant the conversation ended. Later, I asked her what she had said to him.

“I told him I was going to check the security cameras.”

And like a Christmas miracle, he instantly found his $100.

After which I had three thoughts.

• That valet is one smart guy.

• I hate Andy Williams.

• Perhaps we should actually get some security cameras.

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