I started the day channelling my inner Grinch, due in large part to a phenomenon that can be counted on to happen in my workplace immediately before any holiday period. It’s very noticeable just before school breaks for the summer and vacation season starts in earnest. It happens in a small way before long weekends. And, since we’re gearing up to be closed for 2.5 days over Christmas, and since a lot of people are taking additional holidays between Christmas and New Year’s day, the phenomenon was in full force today.
I have dubbed this phenomenon “To-do List Hot Potato.”
Here’s how you play. You decide that, regardless of how far behind you have been for
weeks months, it is absolutely imperative that you clear everything off your desk and do SOMETHING about every single item on your to-do list before you walk out the door. And so you send a flurry of hasty emails, leave a cluster of phone messages, and stack up the days immediately after the break with all the meetings you didn’t have time for beforehand. The objective is to relocate all the items onto other people’s to-do lists, and then head for the exit before you have to deal with their responses. By mid afternoon I had caught more than my share of To-do List Hot Potatoes, and had given up and relocated most of my own catch-up list to another spot on my calendar.
The weather has been unseasonably mild, so I was able to shake off some of my grinchiness by walking part of the way home. But the day’s real redemption came with a kiss.
No, not that kind of kiss.
I sat down on the bus next to a small boy. Across from us, his smaller sister in a pink snowsuit played peek-a-boo from her stroller. The boy clutched a green cloth shopping bag in his lap. Before I realized what was happening, he had reached into the bag and pulled out a single chocolate kiss, which he thrust in my direction in his chubby hand. “This is for you.”
“Oh!” I said. “That’s very generous, but you should keep it.”
“It’s for you.”
“But I haven’t had my supper.”
“You can save it and eat if after supper!” He was very persistent. Wouldn’t take no for an answer, in fact. And finally it dawned on me that you have to be willing to receive a gift so that another may give, so I accepted.
“How old are you?” I felt that, having established a relationship, some effort at conversation was in order. My benefactor held up three fingers. “And what’s your name?”
Another woman got on the bus, and sat across the aisle from us. In the blink of an eye, Cade reached into his bag a second time, fished out a second kiss, and once again reached his hand out to me. His mother grinned from over the little sister’s stroller.
“Could you pass this on to that lady?” “You can put it in your purse,” Cade suggested to her when she gently protested.
“It seems to be very important to him,” I whispered.
In the end, she was just as incapable of saying no as I had been.
The bus’s automated voice signalled my stop approaching. I exchanged a final smile with my new friend.
“You’ve certainly got wonderful Christmas spirit, Cade.”
And by the time I got off the bus, so did I.