It was not quite as bad as expected on Monday morning, going back to a five day week, after enjoying the previous one of three working days.
Although we were reasonably busy, there was not the urgency that had been thrust upon us over the past few weeks, and everyone appeared to be 'mellowing out' in to the up and coming 'Yuletide' season. Despite December easing its way in at the end of the week, we were now within the 'six week' countdown, which appears to be the start of the official 'panic' season.
Lunchtime saw me take my usual walk, and it was rather warm. I was dehydrating as we returned to the office, and felt a little woozy. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, I reveled in the fact that it was so hot, and that I had walked in shorts and a t-shirt at the end of November. It does not get old! However, I knew the warm, and dry weather would not last.
The 'highs' and 'lows' that were experienced after the recent election, appeared to have simmered down, for the most part, to a 'okay, it's over, let's get on with it', medium and, for the most part, the 'goodwill to all men' attitude was surging ahead. Carols and popular seasonal songs were being played over the public address system, and larger than average elves were asking if they could be of assistance in the shops.
"Hot chocolate", whispered Samantha, as we wandered through the supermarket. The temperature on Monday, as I mentioned, was rather high, but we were now in 'panic season', and 'cozy' was on the menu. We watched as the elf, who looked like he was a former Dallas Cowboy defender, put his cups full of steaming liquid on to a silver platter, and gave him a 'head start', as he left the confines of the makeshift kitchen in the middle of the store. As he left the galley, he realised that he had forgotten something, and turned to go back. We split, like the red sea parting, a wave each side, and looked at the particular jars that were stacked upon the shelves, so as not to look like we were stalking Santa's oversized helper. He picked up the missing ingredient, and started along the path once again. We waited, again, and then joined the route. Half way down the aisle, he stopped again. We took up our 'jar staring' stance again, and tried to look inconspicuous, which was not too difficult when comparing ourselves to a six foot plus elf! He continued to stomp down the aisle, as did we, keeping a safe, and reasonably polite distance behind him. He stopped by the freezer section, and settled into position, just in time for us to nonchalantly walk around the corner, and stare at the cups that were standing on a silver tray. "Ladies! Would you like to try some hot chocolate?" Why yes, we would! It was rather nice. In fact, we both looked twice at the product, with the prospect of a purchase, rather than just enjoy the offer of a free 'pick me up' during the middle of the day.
By Wednesday, the cooler weather had returned, and we were expecting some rain. Hot chocolate would have been a welcome start to the day! I headed over the river first thing in the morning. Christmas songs were on most of the radio stations that I have my car stereo turned into, and although we were still in November, it was the last day, and so I succumbed for the sake of twenty four hours! For me, the season is not allowed to be underway, until the month starts with a 'D'. Joe's crew were having a meeting, and I stayed in the front part of the roasterie, out of the way! Another customer entered, also an 'immigrant' to Austin, although his roots were 'uprooted' from New England, and we discussed the way the city had changed over the last decade. Finally, one of Joe's staff emerged, and joined in the conversation. "I lived near London for a year", he said, quite out of the blue. "Near a place called Harrow". The excitement within me was hard to contain. Normally when people say they have lived near London, it is south of the river, or somewhere that is not really near London at all, but to a Texan, the word 'near' is relative to the size of the state! "Where, because I lived in a small town, in between Harrow and Wembley, that most of England, let alone the world, has not heard of", I said, still extremely animated. I continued, and we both said, at the same time, "Kenton". I almost danced at that point. He did the same. "Blink and you miss it", he laughed. I tried not to get too upset, as to me, although Kenton was not the centre of the universe, it was not that small. However, to a Texan, I suppose it really is! We laughed as we mentioned a few landmarks, knowing that no one, baring those who know, or lived in Kenton, could really understand how unusual was this coincidence! My day was complete!
Feeling the urgency to return to the office, and call my mother to let her know that I had met a Texan who had lived in our former home town, I bid farewell to all at the coffee shop, and headed towards the radio station. The Christmas music filled the reception area, and a large tree was standing by the window. The nice lady at the counter could not match my name to the prize. She checked my email, and phone number, but it was not to be found. I showed her a copy of the message I had received, and she called for help. I was asked to take a seat. Still smiling, I sat, contemplating calling my mum from my cell phone, but the battery was rather low and I did not have one of the wonderful mobile chargers, of which I constantly extol the virtues, and claim I would never be without! Finally, after fifteen minutes, all through which time I assured her that it was not a problem, and if they did not have the prize, it was not such a big deal, after all, it was a prize, and I had not paid for anything, and her assuring me that I had won a prize, so a prize I would receive, they came up with a solution. I could have the gift cards that had been set aside for another winner, and when the other winner came to claim their gift, they would 'sort something out'. They handed me the envelope. It was as if the morning was set up to make me ponder, and gawp! Upon the silver cover was written the name of my daughter! It was very odd. Samantha had once won a prize from this station, but it was under a different email, and phone number.
A little while after lunch, which included another hot chocolate sample, and while I was still very much in a festive mood, the office maintenance guy opened our door and popped his head around the corner. "Are you having difficulty with the dumpster?" he asked. I asked him to what he was referring, as the dumpster does not normally give me any problem. I ignore it, and it ignores me. He smiled, that smile that says, "I have no idea what she is talking about, but I think a smile will suffice". It appeared that someone was having difficulty in unlocking the padlock, which has been placed on the dumpster, to stop people from 'fly tipping'. I laughed, and explained that I had, a couple of weeks ago, tried to open the padlock, failed, then realised that the number sequence was to be read along the top line, where the blue line indicated, rather than the middle, like the old one, but it was not really rocket science and anyone with half a brain could probably work it out, after all, I worked it out, (spontaneous laughter from both of us,) and I really couldn't fathom anyone having a problem, if they spent a second or two to actually look at the padlock. He agreed. Then he said, "Only someone from this office put in a work order!" I bit my top lip, turned around, called through the glass partition to my husband, "Dana, did you say there was a problem with the dumpster padlock". The snickering from the maintenance man was rather loud, and I told him that I would give the instructions to the person whom I had insulted with my previous remark. He said he would leave me to it, and did! "Half a brain, huh", was the first comment my husband made, as I offered to give him 'on-site' training. Fortunately, he did not take offence!
Rain poured on Friday, just as Samantha and I started on our walk, and we took the recently stowed plastic ponchos from the back sack. We splashed our way round to the store and went inside just to dry off. Lunch was being prepared in the galley, but we did not wait to sample the delicious entree, but instead headed back out into the storm!
The rain did not stop. Saturday morning Samantha, and her neighbour Sandra, arrived at my house, with the dog in tow. We left for our Saturday shopping spree, without the dog. It was now officially 'the season', and I was able to sing along to the tunes on the radio without feeling overwhelmed. We ate more than our fair share of what were supposedly 'musts' for the Christmas lunch table, and picked up our weekly supplies. We arrived at Walmart damp, but still in high spirits.
"Why can they do it?" one little boy asked his mother, as she had forbade him from touching the toys on the shelves. Like naughty pre-schoolers, we were squeezing all the tabs that had written upon them, 'press here', and causing rows and rows of animals, Santa Claus', toys and objects of all description, to dance, sway, and sing a variety of songs. Setting a very bad example to many a child, who had been told not to touch, we embraced the fact that we were not only old enough to know better, but old enough not to be told by our mum's 'don't touch'! It was rather decadent!
I passed a television playing a musical advertisement, and started to dance. One of the shelf stacker's giggled as I walked past. She commented that it was good to be 'wild' sometimes, and I nodded in agreement. "And to embarrass the kids", I added, as Samantha and
Sandra watched me, half smiling and shaking their heads. "We don't let her out very often", said my daughter to the amused staff member.
All three of us danced in the aisles at the Dollar Tree, where we bought ornaments for our next adventure. As it was raining, it was not viable to take part in an Austin tradition that has, to date, eluded us. Tree decorating is not limited to those purposely erected at the beginning of 'the season'. Apparently, the rules dictate, that as long as you 'clear away' at the beginning of January, any tree along the highway is 'fair game' for decoration, and we had planned to be one of the many that enjoy this annual event. It will be something to look forward to next week, along with making plans to head home, and spend some 'seasonal' time with family and friends. It will be good to have something 'traditional', yet new for me in .......... another story!