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Christmas with chaos, but no jelly

My husband narrowly avoided a “Jelly of the Month Club” situation at work over the holidays.

A couple of weeks before Christmas mail delivery to his Hillyard-area business came to a standstill. A disaster at any time when you depend on getting paid by your customers, so you can pay your employees, but especially concerning over Christmas.

Derek worried that instead of bonuses, he’d have to give his employees memberships to a Jelly of the Month Club just like Clark Griswold received in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Movie fans know that didn’t end up well for Griswold’s boss.

Equally troubling was the absence of our sons’ Christmas gifts. I’m not an online shopper, so Derek buys gifts the kids put on their Amazon wish lists, while I purchase presents at local stores. He always has the packages delivered to his business because his locked mailbox is more secure than our home curbside box. No mail delivery from USPS meant no packages, either.

When a week passed with nary an envelope in his box, Derek sent an employee to the neighborhood post office to find out what the problem was.

After waiting in a long line of unhappy postal customers, he was able to get a stack of mail, but no packages.

“They’ll come tomorrow,” the harried worker told him.

It seems like many area post offices, the Hillyard branch was critically understaffed and completely overwhelmed.

The packages didn’t arrive the next day. Nor did any mail. Another week went by and Derek went to the post office and picked up a huge stack of mail. The packages?

“They’ll be delivered by Christmas Eve,” the employee assured him.

On Dec. 23, our sons’ gifts arrived (but no mail).

I thought Derek would be relieved, instead, he was sad.

“Your gifts didn’t come,” he said.

I hugged him.

“My birthday’s in February. I bet they’ll be here just in time.”

But the meltdown of mail delivery is no laughing matter. I’m glad Derek was able to pay his bills and his employees, but another customer at the post office was missing needed medication. For those who live on slim margins, the lack of a check can mean no money for rent, utilities or groceries.

As USPS still struggles, another catastrophe loomed. Our son was scheduled to return to Texas via Southwest Airlines on Dec. 29.

On Dec. 27, he woke us with the news that Southwest had canceled his flight and said they couldn’t rebook him until Jan. 13!

His was just one of more than 2,500 flights the airline canceled within four hours that morning. Sam has classes to prepare for and was due back in his office on Thursday. He and Derek found a flight on American Airlines that would get him home on Tuesday.

I couldn’t complain about an extra five days with our youngest, but my heart ached for friends stranded far from home.

Stressful situations like these serve as reminders to check our attitudes. Are we being kind to the airline workers and postal service employees who are on the front line of customer frustration? Are we finding things to be thankful for amid the chaos?

And honestly, a one-year subscription to a Jelly of the Month Club isn’t the worst thing in the world – especially if you’ve stocked up on peanut butter.

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