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Ah, the joys of the holidays; they almost bring tears to the eyes.
Before I slide into my Grinch mode, I have to admit there are
many positive aspects to the holidays, such as giving to others. It could be in
the form of donations to Toys for Tots, or contributing to a holiday basket for
a needy family, or even just putting in some volunteer time with a
But it seems like there are always those particular, memorable
events that cast a pall on the whole proceedings. Shoot,
some of them even involve giving.
For example, a member of our staff has their phone
service through the world famous GTE. In the spirit of
giving, the corporation has decided to donate
umpteen gazillions to charitable programs this year. How are
they raising the money, you ask? Not out of pocket; oh no, that would annoy
They're raising the funds through a $1 surcharge tacked onto the
customers' phone bills. According to our staff member, there is a
declaration elsewhere on the billing statement _ in small print, natch _ saying that
if the customer would prefer not to make this mandatory donation, they can
call the company. Such a deal.
Enforced philanthropy notwithstanding, there are other aspects
of getting in the holiday mood that stand out, such as putting together the
logistics package required of a family holiday visit. In my case that meant
a 14 hour pre-Thanksgiving drive to the Oregon Coast and back to retrieve
my three young `uns.
If you want to get direct, personal information on the condition of
our traffic and road infrastructure, there are few better methods than trying
to drive long distances in and around a holiday. You see it all on the
freeways and backroads, heavy traffic mixed with heavy rain and poor
visibility, and, gee, I wonder why that car in
front of me is weaving back and forth.
One area that stands out is the incredible volume of traffic on
Oregon State Highway 18, a.k.a. "The Million Dollar Highway," which
connects Portland/Tigard/Newberg/McMinnville with the Oregon
Coast and two _ count `em, two _ huge casinos. I guess some people's idea
of holiday tradition is to jump in the car and not head over the river and
through the woods to grandmother's house, but instead to the nearest slot machine.
Then there's the weather, which adds to the driving times but also
contributes to large doses of cabin fever once you're safely home with
your loved ones. After spending a hectic four days entertaining your kids
and giving them quality time with their grandparents, the younger
daughter never fails to appropriately sum it up by saying, "I'm bored." Guaranteed
to put a smile on the most seriously holiday-hardened face, don't you know.
Other holiday joys come to mind, such as attempting to shop the day
after Thanksgiving. Or, venturing out the weekend after Thanksgiving to
find the perfect family Christmas tree, and finding out that six individuals
related by blood and/or marriage don't necessarily constitute a quorum.
It could be worse, I guess; I didn't have to venture into Seattle or
worse yet, SeaTac. And even though the counties of Lincoln and Tillamook
in Oregon had major flood problems, closing several roads to the coast
for the return trip _ the casino parking lots were still full, though, for
some strange reason - I managed to get the three junior Morgans back to
their mother, who was undoubtedly thrilled. Then came the long drive back,
which is suitable for reflection such as why are people driving in
zero-zero conditions on a freeway with kids loose in the back seat and a cell
phone jammed under one ear.
As an aside, I saw what was probably the ultimate in holiday
driving bad habits a couple of weeks ago at a local supermarket parking lot.
Imagine if you will a late-model Taurus, two youngish mothers in the front -
probably in their mid- or early-20s _ with three kids loose in the back seat
bouncing off the doors pulling out of a handicapped spot. And no, they
didn't have the appropriate handicapped parking placard.
It boggles the mind.
Still, all of this is undoubtedly forgotten when everyone gathers
around the TV for that big game, or the entire family musters at the table for
heaping amounts of turkey with all the side dishes and trimmings (or, tofu,
for those of that particular persuasion), or _ a few weeks hence _ gathers
around the tree to open presents.
So, I guess this is still a truly magical time of year. From all of us here
at the Valley Record, here's hoping your holidays have been and will
continue to be warm, enjoyable and particularly blessed.