Dear me how time flies and I think it was eight years ago. My daughter and I spent a couple of Christmas weeks by ourselves at our friend’s tony beach house near La Jolla.
Our first chore was a grocery stop for the holiday bare necessities. Popcorn. Cocoa. Pie. Whipped cream. Ingredients for pumpkin blueberry pancakes. Several hundred pounds of red meat. A Dr. Pepper to split. A small, leafy green vegetable that would be solemnly dumped directly into the trash at our vacation home to honor The Boston Holiday Tradition of No Damn Vegetables.
We paid for our groceries and as my daughter started to wheel the cart out, I turned to the checker and wished him, “Merry Christmas!” I’m not kidding. This guy snaps at me then loudly corrects that the birth of my Savior and the annual p.m. visit of the jolly old elf all dressed in red and his reindeer are the cause of untold death and suffering around the world and, say it with me, said it was “racist.” He added that the word, “Christmas,” was a trigger and now I had gone and done it: He felt threatened.
Mind you. This has nothing to do with politics. This donkey girl scout would be a varsity ass hat if he were a Republican, Democrat or Whig.
Not a good smile. Not a “May Baby-You-Know-Who enter the hearts of you and your family” smile. It was more of a Psycho Beth from “Yellowstone” smile that she dons before taking a beer bottle and indenting the skull of a fellow tavern tart.
The clerk’s outburst also brought up a big parenting dilemma. Like when I became a father I also signed up to be a good example.
My 12-year-old baby girl is bored, theatrically slumped over a shopping cart filled with $200 worth of holiday food with absolutely no nutritional value. Being an almost-teen, my girl was going through That Stage where she wants always to be elsewhere, somewhere magical where there are no parents, no authority figures, just cute, no-talent boys with castrato voices from famous metrosexual boy bands. Choking a socialist in front of your child may not set the best example.
The checker? Communist. No. Worse. Whiny communist. He’s 30-something, 6-2 and weighs 103, much of that skin rash. He’s wearing an Extra-Small Che Guevara T-shirt that conveniently forgot to advertise that Che was a mass murderer, psycho and hated Black people. Tattoos. Piercings. Which I’ll let slide. But, the guy’s wearing a foppish manbun which no matter what they sing at Catholic guitar mass I can never forgive. He’s wearing three long and international I’m Oppressed, Too, scarves. I’m guessing he was attempting to identify as a Sherpa, an undernourished Bhutanese stewardess and a second lieutenant in the Taliban. He makes the near-fatal mistake of putting his 2-inch shoulders back and announcing: “…you can’t make me say — ‘Merry Christmas.’”
Inwardly, the neener-neener side of my psyche, which takes up nearly 97% of my body, chimes, “Well gosh. I guess I just DID MAKE YOU say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ didn’t I?” followed by: “How about I drag you, Shaggy, over the cash register and beat you so badly that not even your wife, a tearful Scooby-Doo, will be able to identify your pimple-ravished body at the autopsy?”
The other checkers are all dry-vomiting and sobbing as the intercom crackles: “…corpse cleanup on Checkstand 6…”
I took the high road. I didn’t try to squeeze his head into that narrow slit where the checkstand belt disappears into the endless germ-rich abyss. I centered myself. Took a deep sigh. Smiled. Instead of slowly enunciating, “Merry Christmas,” I asked how he’d like to be addressed on this particular evening in December. Suspecting this was some sort of Christian psyche-ops, he sneered, swore and turned away.
There’s other consequences for choosing violence over the holidays. Your other-planet/mutant smart near-teen daughter can forever throw in your face the hypocrisy of shoving 240 individually foil-wrapped impulse-buy York mini Peppermint Patties chocolate mints down the throat of some snarky little Bolshevik/Retail Clerk who doesn’t want to be wished, “Merry Christmas.”
Of course, I could keep her off-balance and silent by reminding about our Christmas at the beach.
Checkers…? Daughters…? No one’s safe.
I did have another, practical reason for not going all Old Testament on the be-scarfed manboy. They used to have something called, “jails” only a scant few years ago. I would have hated to be locked up over Christmas for manslaughter.
I’d be sitting in my cell, tortured that my daughter would be sitting in that gorgeous beach house, alone, under blankets on the couch. She wouldn’t be watching our traditional “Miracle on 34th Street” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” say it with me — CHRISTMAS — movies. She’d be all alone, volume on 10, swigging whipped cream directly out of the canister and watching some cable special featuring devil-worshiping anemic rock stars who look exactly like the deceased checker croaking out ballads about hating Santa.
And Santa’s parents.
Sigh. It’s been eight years. My daughter’s away at college. The checker’s sneaking up on 40 now, has probably gone bald and his manbun is clogging a bathroom sink in his parents’ basement. I could round up a few dozen biker/Christmas carolers with homicide records. We’d drive the three hours down south to the La Jolla market and catch him coming out of work. We’d encircle him by his car with the biker/carolers would belt out 1,286 bars of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!”
And THEN we’d kill him…
John Boston is one of America’s most decorated humorists and the most prolific satirist in world history. If he smiles at you and wishes you a “Merry Christmas,” for all that’s holy, don’t give him some sort of flippant reply. The mood of the country is changing and a jury will likely acquit him. Speaking of Christmas and the holidays, go visit johnbostonbooks.com and buy a bunch of books as gifts.