The Village Idiot

Merry Christmas, Inc.

I put the Christmas card from my bank on the mantel with all the other Christmas cards we’ve gotten. The ones from our credit card companies, the one from my auto manufacturer, the one from my mortgage company, the ones from the charities I stopped giving money to 15 years ago, the one from my senator, the one from my congressman, the one from a hotel chain we stayed at once, the one from Recliner City and the one from our cellphone provider.

And here I thought no one cared.

I thought my mortgage company was a cold, hard-hearted, bottom-line conglomerate, when out of the blue came this bright red and gold Christmas card that said, “From your friends at Drive-By Financial.” How I had misjudged them! It turns out I have many dear, close friends there. Why, there’s What’s-her-face and What’s-his-name, to name just two. I don’t know why we’ve never had them over for dinner. Maybe it’s because we’ve had no contact with them whatsoever in the six years since closing on our house?

And I spotted the touching, personalized seasonal message they put on the bulk-rate meter stamp: “Can You Save Money by Refinancing this Season?” Nice touch. So sweet. Every time a corporation tries to make money off of Christmas, a CEO gets their wings.

Our auto dealer’s card had a picture of all their sales reps wearing Santa hats gathered around a shiny, fire engine-red 2018 model SUV. “’Tis the season to drop in and test-drive the brand new Labrador! It’s big and friendly and loves attention. Buy one today! From Santa’s Helpers at the New and Used Auto Warehouse.” It was addressed to “Resident.” It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know they’re full of the Christmas spirit.

I guess we have to send them a card now. We got one from Tire Barn, too. Better add them to the list.

Our stockbroker sent us two cards, one for my 401(k) and one for my regular account. That’s so thoughtful. How does he remember? He must have a brain like a computer. And such expensive-looking cards. Five dollars apiece, I would think. I wonder where he gets all the money? The broker’s card covers all the holiday bases: It says “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Joyeux Noel,” “Kwanzaa Yenu Iwe Na Heri,” and “Gajan Kristnaskon.” His pagan customers must be miffed that there’s no “Have a Festive Saturnalia,” but you can’t please everyone.

I get a lot of digital Christmas cards from companies who have my credit card number and my email address. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out I’m paying for them. Some of them even sing and dance. Don’t you love it when you’re supposed to be hard at work and you open an email and suddenly, at double the volume of anything else going on in the office, a bunch of dogs start barking “Jingle Bells”? My boss had the bonus envelopes in his hand when that happened to me. Now, I’ll never know what mine would have been.

I do get a lot of cards from old buddies and far-flung family members, but unlike the ones from my corporate friends, they rarely contain any coupons or an offer for a free three-day stay at a timeshare. I want to call up my cheap relatives and say, “Hey, what’s the matter with you? Don’t you know the true meaning of Christmas?”

But then I calm down and ask myself, “What would my local big box store do?” They would never call me and say, “Hey, jerk, you aren’t spending enough here. Get out.” They’ll just make sure my credit card is always on the “Your credit information may have been accidentally compromised” list.

It’s funny, but the one place that never sends me a Christmas card is my church. It almost as if they think Christmas isn’t about making a sale.

(Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.)

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