Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

I read a book by Charles Schewe about cohort marketing a few years ago. He's a marketing genius. His theory, if I recall it correctly, is that what happens in the world between the ages of 17 and 23 for a particular person informs the way that that person reacts to basically everything else, including marketing materials. So if you're marketing to octogenarians, you need to look at what was happening 60 years ago in order to trick them into buying whatever it is you're schilling.

That's a way-over simplification. And if you have any interest in marketing (I'm fascinated by it), I highly recommend his books.

All this to get around to my point, which is I started working at Gus and Paul's Bakery in Springfield when I was 17 and I left when I was 23. And - no joke - that experience has absolutely informed the rest of my life. I don't exactly miss working there - food service has little to recommend it - but I carry it with me always, especially at Christmastime.

Working in a bakery at Christmastime...I have no idea what I can compare it to. All I can say is it's insane. People have certain things they like to eat at certain times of the year and if they arrive at a bakery and the baked good they want isn't currently available, they completely lose their shit. Or if the item comes out of the oven looking a little different than it used to look, Christmas is ruined. People just come completely unhinged.

Working behind the counter dealing with these people is really hard, and made harder because there are so many people behind the counter at once to deal with the crowds. Just trying to put a cake in a box you could accidentally manhandle any number of your colleagues.

But on Christmas Eve there was a glorious moment after we locked the doors and cleaned up the store and right before everyone left to go home to their families that all of us in our food-covered uniforms would stand in the back room and hug each other, and wish each other a Merry Christmas - even the people who didn't like each other very much in the everyday - and we would mean it. It was a beautiful moment of peace and love in a place that every other moment of the year was exactly the opposite (seriously, the bakery is where I developed my sailor-mouth).

That is the part I miss. That's the part I'm carrying with me today.

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