For two holiday seasons in a row, I worked at a mall.
The first year, I worked December and January selling jewelry at a major area shopping mall. I got the job through Craigslist, 1 and kept it until I finished the final round of interviews with a real job in Seattle.
It wasn’t that bad of a job. That is, until we switched to our holiday hours: 6am to 11pm. More than once, I was asked to work open-to-close shifts. Back-to-back. It was a lot of hours as an hourly yet exempt-from-overtime employee. I learned quite a deal about selling and diamonds and credit checks and subtly signaling security to deal with disgruntled customers.
I also learned to despise the smell of Cinnabon (our next door neighbor), the smell of over-roasted Starbucks coffee (across the hall), and the sound of Michael Jackson singing “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus.”
That winter, I learned just how limited our creativity was when it came to seasonal music. Once, just for fun, I kept a list all day of which songs were played and how frequently. It turned out the mall only played the same 25 songs on a loop. Of the 25, all but 5 of them were recorded before I was even born. It made for a wonderfully frustrating Christmastime for me.
The next year, I worked at a clothing store in a strip mall. It was a much better job with more regulated hours – plus I didn’t have to wear a suit and tie every day. As Christmas drew near, though, it became very similar to the previous year. Shifts became longer – again, without overtime. Holiday decorations cluttered the store.
And the same music played overhead. This time, they’d added a few newer songs – well, covers by newer bands of the same songs written and recorded decades past. I learned quickly that there are only so many different ways to sing “I’ll be home for Christmas” before everything sounds like a copy.
Nowadays, I’m usually in complete control of the music around me, so you won’t often find Christmas music in my car. It’s not that I dislike Christmas, or even Christmas music, it’s that I want some originality in our celebrations.
The radio stations I listen to play a mix of old and new. Older scores sung by contemporary artists help refresh the feel of music written in the 40s and 50s. Even better, many of the groups performing today are writing completely original Christmas songs! I have no problem with the newer music; much of it is even better than the time-honored pieces playing at the mall.
Unfortunately, most people see me silence the radio or change the channel around Christmas and automatically label me a Scrooge. They think my distaste of a 10-yr old Michael Jackson singing about Santa is tied to a distaste for everything Christmas. That not wanting to listen to the same songs over and over and over and over and … means I want nothing to do with the holiday season.
If anyone stopped to ask me, though, they’d learn I both love and look forward to the Christmas holiday – this coming week the most. Too bad for snap judgments, right?
- That I was hired without a background check, references, or identity verification is another story entirely. ↩