T’were Three Days Before Christmas

And I had just begun thinking it would be a good idea to do my shopping.

Well, actually I had just found the money to get things moving… to my credit, I knew what I wanted.

At the absolute top of the list was a Hess car.  You’ve probably seen the commercials… it’s a race car that opens up and holds a smaller race car, which you pull back and it takes off.  It has lights and bells and whistles.  It drew almost unanimous WOOOOs from the internal children.

I had just gotten home from the work holiday party, at which I performed in the work band.  I had almost nothing left after I took my gear into the house but this was for the kids, so I took Marshall the Cuckoo Cocker and went down the street to the local Hess station.

When I say local Hess station, I mean about a mile down the road.  When I say a mile down the road, I mean at least a half mile of solid traffic approaching Hess.  When I say Hess, I discovered this was a Hess Express (whatever that means), making me nervous that they didn’t even carry the cars.

Fortunately there was no reason to worry about Hess Express not carrying the cars because they were sold out of them.

For some reason, possibly a reaction to my escalating Hess Frustration<tm>, Marshall became a very whiny cocker.  He’s usually a pretty good passenger but this time he was obnoxious, between whining and barking at all the tasty pedestrians.  He likes white meat and dark meat, according to my wife.

After I somehow managed to escape the Hess parking lot, I rode right into the next traffic jam.  Oh well.. I knew where there was another Hess station and I was going to that one to snag the precious Car.  While in the traffic jam, it occurred to me that I should call the station to see if they had any Cars, lest my forty minute trek (that normally takes fifteen minutes) be in vain.

No problem, especially with my new Droid phone, which does.  Damn, I never played with the thing’s voice features, but I told it to find the Hess station.  It Googled gas stations.  I tried again, at which point it knew I was serious and Googled Hess stations.  Of course it looked for Hess stations in a different state, which was difficult to figure out because I was driving.  When I say driving, I mean inching forward in traffic.

This little farce went on for about fifteen traffic-filled minutes, at which point I realized it was five o’clock, I was zapped of all humanity, and perhaps it would be wiser to try after rush hour.  Marshall showed his assent by not whining.  Either that or he was terrified at having to listen to me screaming at the Droid, which at that point, didn’t.

I tried 411, which promptly informed me that there was no Hess station where I knew it was.  For my part, I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult to find a )(%$ing telephone number.  Even with my windows closed, everybody in the traffic jam understood intimately that I was having a difficult time.

In case you haven’t noticed it, white and yellow phone directories are extinct.  Imagine that…

Back to the internet, I finally located the phone number for the second Hess station.  It rang four times then disconnected me.  I dialed again and it just rang.  C’mon, all I need is to make a phone call.  An hour later someone finally answered and informed me that they too had sold out.  



Oh yeah, I was supposed to find some more Hess stations, wasn’t I?  Ok, so I did a little of what my coworkers do a lot of and surfed for Hess stations.  Or rather, tried surfing for Hess stations.  I found tons of them, mostly with no phone numbers.  It’s bizarre… the sites offer me maps of the area or turn-by-turn directions but finding a phone number is like trying to reach a congresscritter on a holiday.

I located Hess stations where I didn’t know there were Hess stations.  All without phone numbers.  So I made wide use of Firefox’s tabs and got into Serious Detective Mode<tm>.  Station 3: busy.  Station 4: no answer.  Station 5: no answer.  Station 6: no phone number.

And so it went.

I strongly suspect (yet another) conspiracy.  Hess apparently has a policy that states that under no circumstances should a phone be answered.

So I went back to work.   An hour later I tried again.  Station 3: busy.  Station 4: no answer.  Station 5: no answer.  Station 6: disconnected.  I located another link with only Hess stations.  I found new phone numbers to call and immediately called them.   Station 4: disconnected.  Station 5: disconnected.  Station 7: disconnected.

Hess apparently has a policy that states that not only under no circumstances should a phone be answered, all efforts should be made to not have correct phone listings for their stations.

This is sheer genius.

Imagine all the time saved by keeping your customers in a perpetual state of confusion!  Your employees don’t have to answer the phone because the customers cannot locate anything resembling a correct phone number.  I was starting to wonder if Hess stations had phones at all.  Perhaps it was all a Grand Joke at our expense…

I tried calling a few more times before I left.  The busy numbers were still busy, the ringing numbers kept ringing.  Not one single answer at one single Hess station.  You’ve got to hand it to Hess: if nothing else, they’re consistent.

My wife called, feeling that for some reason, she had to let me know that traffic was hell by the mall.  Perhaps I should share it with work, in case anyone was headed there.  Yes, Dear, I’ll let the folks with whom I toil know that the mall forty minutes away is virtually impassible and the drivers are spending more time gesticulating than driving.  Since I figured that the response would be somewhat less that caring, I declined to pass it on.


I was thinking it would be a really cool idea to leave work a bit early, as I’m off for the rest of the week.  There was a half-full workplace and no apparent emergencies, so all looked clear.   When I say clear, I mean that untraditional holiday grief conspired to keep me even later than normal.  Ironically, I noticed a ton and a half “Out of Office” messages set for next week.


I do a lot of wrapping.  I could say that it’s because I am the rare male who wraps decently but the truth is that I have a better tolerance for it (and for being on the floor on my knees) than my wife (bummer).   Because my need to wrap coincided somewhat with my wife’s need to decorate, there was precious little floor space in which to wrap.  Or rap.

I laid out the appropriate paper (black, like my holiday spirit) and set out my tools.   When I say tools, I mean scissors and tape.  When I say scissors and tape, I mean asking my wife where they are on this particular day.  She’s incredibly organized, in that she knows where things should be but can’t communicate this accurately to me.

Twenty long minutes later I had scissors and tape.

Once again I sat with paper rolled out, in the midst of Holiday Chaos (as opposed to Daily Chaos).  Precisely because there was no space and I unrolled wrapping paper, I became the most popular person on the planet.  Sensing my need for help, Satan the cat deposited himself right smack in the middle of the paper.  Since one cannot throw an eighteen pound cat, Feline Aviation was out.  I only managed two feet and a lot of screaming.

Taking the message, Satan walked right back onto the wrapping paper, making sure to personalize it by poking his claws through it repeatedly.  POOF – another two feet.

Satan was back in no time to further assist me, this time by leaping inside a huge shopping bag, squirming around, and poking holes through the bag.  Are you getting the idea how he came by his nickname yet?

Wife told me I had to distract him.  So I threw another bag.  He watched it go by then resumed his bag-destroying obstructional activities until Wife physically carried him away (perhaps to stop me from performing an exorcism on the house).

Taking his cue, Marshall walked right over and laid down on the wrapping paper.  My eyeballs were desperately trying to expand outside the confines of their sockets at this point.  Wife yelled at the dog to GO LAY DOWN.  I responded that he already was.   Marshall, fortunately, had the good sense to get up and make himself invisible.  This is why I’m a dog person.

Every three minutes thereafter, Satan or the wife walked over my paper on the way to somewhere else.  One cannot throw a 120+ pound wife (at least not very far).