As we are on the cusp of another Thanksgiving, I’m given to think of all the holiday cluster f*ck’s I’ve endured over the years. As a professional pet-sitter I must state the obvious: I hate holidays. Simply loathe them. While everyone is celebrating with family and enjoying time off from their jobs I am working through the busiest time of my year. Thanksgiving and Christmas have long been a source of malaise for me.
Why? you might ask. Certainly I make more money, and that is when a pet-sitter expects to work. Yes, true on both counts. Yet over the years I’ve soured, burned out as it may be. I can’t help but be jealous of all those holiday meals I’ve missed, those mellow occasions spent before a raging fire, sipping cocktails and talking about football and Black Friday and the promise of a new year.
Some years are worse than others, and as I write this I am about to embark on my busiest Thanksgiving ever. I’ll be up at 3:30 a.m. this Thursday through Sunday, and won’t be finished until nine in the evening. Four seventeen-hour days await me. Yay! But if everything goes smoothly it will be all right. I can only hope.
Christmas of 2010 I had a similar schedule, the peak being on Christmas day. All I needed, I reasoned to myself, was for everything to go as planned and it would be fine. It was going well up till the 25th, until my fifth house at 10:00 a.m. When I rang the bell there was no answer from the owner. After waiting five minutes I called her home phone. She answered, said she would be right down to let me in. This was an elderly woman in her nineties so I was patient. As I awaited her arrival I heard a loud crash from inside the house, followed by a dreadful silence. I waited another five minutes then tried her on the phone again. No answer. My mind whirled, wondering what happened, and who I would call if something did. While I was pondering this, the door abruptly opened and the woman stood there, looking dazed, bleeding profusely from a large gash on her chin. And when I say bleeding I mean gushing; she was in immediate need of a trip to the emergency room. I’ll admit this here (even though I feel like an insensitive jerk) but my first thought was how far behind this was going to put me. She was one of the only houses where an owner was home; all the other houses were empty save for the pets. These poor souls really needed me. But, presently, she needed me even more.
Owing to the fact that she was severely concussed (she’d fallen on a marble floor), she was unable to provide me with the name or number of a friend or relative. I searched a desk in vain for a Rolodex but came up empty handed. Before doing that, of course, I bandaged her wound to attempt to stop the bleeding, but I knew it was only temporary; she was going to need stitches.
After a fruitless forty-five minutes I finally called another client of mine to help (my business is a one-man show, operating in a city where I have no family and, increasingly over the years because of an erratic schedule, almost no friends). Seriously, I had no one else to call but another elderly client who lived two doors down, unless I was to call an ambulance, and this woman was adamant that I do no such thing. She was a proud lady; the last thing she wanted was for her neighbors to see her carted off on a stretcher. Luck was on my side in that the other woman came to my aid and took over. Helping the injured woman into the other’s car, I bade them farewell and then took her dog for a walk, feeding him when we returned and rushing off to the next house on my list. I’m going to sound like an asshole, but I was grateful that the situation only put me an hour and a half behind schedule. As it turned out she spent five hours in the emergency room, receiving six stitches. I could only imagine what would have happened had I been the one to have taken her; all those houses of dogs and cats needing to be walked and fed and medicated and me not there. I could have dropped her off at the emergency room and left, but man would I have felt like a bastard.
So, you see, holidays suck. I have other holiday stories (hopefully none I’m going to write after this coming week) but I’m sure that will suffice. I could tell you about the dog that was vomiting and defecating blood during Christmas of 2011, simultaneously with the constipated cat at another house sneezing blood, meanwhile my back had gone out and I had a cold and one morning my car wouldn’t start and I had to call triple A (I’m not making this up), but I’ve made my point. In the end everybody survived, and that in itself was a holiday miracle I am truly grateful for.
So please buy my novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World so that I may retire from this madness and write for a living. Please! I’m begging you! You don’t want to see a grown man cry like a little girl, do you? You do? Fine…