Christmas cliche: Bah Humbug

Don Jackson, Staff Writer

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On the cold, airy Friday morning over holiday break, I was at home taking out the trash, which consisted mostly of remnants of Thursday’s feast.

I had awakened with a headache (perhaps from the way I’d slept) and was feeling generally annoyed.

I mentally tried to calculate just how much food we must have eaten to create that much waste, but lost concentration and gave up as I dragged the two heavy loads from the side of the house to leave them for the collector.

As I rounded the corner and stepped into the yard, I was met by an odd-looking stranger, a rather portly older man pushing an empty orange shopping cart.

The first thing I noticed was that he’d apparently forgotten to shave, and then it occurred to me that he might have been homeless, judging by his tattered red flannel jacket and dirty jeans.

He wore thick glasses that made it difficult to tell if he was looking at me or behind me.

I noticed that his hands were snugly protected from the cold by a pair of immaculate white gloves. I recall wondering who he mugged to get them.

He made no attempt to approach me, but stood still on the sidewalk and stared at me a moment. I stared back a second, swallowing the urge to leave my loads of leftovers in his cart and send him on his way. Instead, not wanting to seem antisocial, I tossed him a mechanical, empty “hey, how ya doin’?” as I went about my business of setting the garbage near the street.

He then continued down the sidewalk toward me, slowly, rambling something about the Christmas season being a time for giving or something like that. I tensed a little, ready to fight him if he came too close.

But the stranger passed on by, glaring at me unblinking through his funhouse lenses, carrying on a conversation I didn’t feel like being part of.

Some of his speech was unintelligible, and had he not been looking at me I would have sworn he was talking to himself.

He asked where is my Christmas spirit and what am I going to buy my kids for Christmas?

Stupidly I informed him that I didn’t have children. His reaction was something along the lines of oh too bad, Christmas is great for children, and don’t I realize how many kids grow up not believing in Santa Claus?

At his last statement I felt the laughter roll from my throat, but choked it under swollen cheeks (which didn’t seem to do a whole lot of good for my headache). I was faced with a grown man, a stranger, talking with a straight face about believing in SANTA CLAUS! Part of me wanted to burst his bubble by telling him it’s a greater shame realizing how many kids grow up not believing in the real “reason for the season.”

I haven’t done much in the way of witnessing lately, so perhaps I should have, in retrospect. But the thought of entering into serious debate with this…”loon” was just not very appealing at the time.

Presents? Santa Claus? Christmas?

Bah. Humbug.

The stranger offered to buy me a Playstation 2. I started to say that I already had one, but thought better of it and just decided to politely accept the gesture and end the conversation by starting to walk off.

He wished me a Merry Christmas as he shuffled down the sidewalk.

As I turned I remembered the white gloves. An image pieced together a brief thought. Could it be…the stranger was really the jolly old elf in disguise, checking to see if I was naughty or nice?

Bah. Humbug.

I kicked myself for allowing such a silly thought to ever allow itself to surface. I went back into the house, shaking my head, to find some Advil.