It’s finally Christmas morning, and another hectic holiday season is almost over.
Santa has come and gone, and most of the colorful wrappings are torn from packages that were under the brightly decorated tree. The stockings that were hung by the chimney with care lie discarded on the floor.
Preparations for Christmas dinner are under way, and the smell of roasting turkey wafts from many a kitchen. Thoughts turn to family and friends who will gather later.
All but forgotten are the crowded parking lots, the long lines and the rest of the nerve-racking hustle-bustle that goes with the season.
Also far from most of our minds are the people who helped bring us Christmas--the store clerk who painstakingly helped select that special tie or cologne, the delivery man who banged on your door each time a package arrived, the nice woman who hand-packed a box of candy and waited patiently as you made your selections.
Most who provide services to people during the holidays have worked long hours and have had little time for Christmas preparations for themselves.
“I have one day off before Christmas, and I haven’t even bought one gift,” said a harried clerk in a women’s clothing store last week.
“We’ve been open until 11 every night. I didn’t want to work this much.”
Following are a few examples of people who made Christmas a little brighter for others this year. Their stories were compiled by Times staff writers.
The tree seller: A landscaper braves cold and tedium to help his patrons find the perfect holiday conifer.
For most of the year, J.R. Wallworth does landscaping jobs at residences from Thousand Oaks to Beverly Hills. But during the holiday season, he camps out at the corner of Sepulveda Boulevard and Valerio Street in Van Nuys as manager of a Christmas tree lot.
“It’s kind of like a little vacation,” said Wallworth, who has been working at the lot owned by his employer, Oliver Holt & Sons, for 10 years. “It’s nice to sit out at night in front of a campfire. I never thought I’d be sitting out on Sepulveda Boulevard in front of a fire.”
The greatest problem each year, Wallworth said, is fighting the boredom that comes in the inevitable lull between waves of customers.
“There’s not too much to amuse yourself,” he said. He and his co-workers pass the time by playing baseball and Frisbee.
Over the years, bonds have formed between them, and many workers return to sell trees at this lot. Five of Wallworth’s employees are with him for the eighth Christmas season.
Wallworth has sold more than 1,000 trees since he opened the lot Dec. 1, and he expected to sell at least 500 more by today.
The work has been hard this year, and signs of strain were beginning to show last week. Wallworth said he has been putting in 14- to 15-hour days, and much of it has been spent working outside in unusually cold temperatures.
As Christmas got closer, many customers were impatient, and others were hoping for a last-minute bargain.
“Even though they’re buying Christmas trees, they’re not necessarily in the Christmas spirit, and they don’t like to be kept waiting,” he said. “By the end of the season, it’s hard to keep the Christmas spirit. When you’re dealing with customers who are just trying to get a cheap tree, it’s tough.”
And sometimes, customers don’t plan ahead. For example, they don’t come prepared to transport that especially large tree home. “They buy like two seven-foot trees, and they’ve got a VW outside. That’s the worst,” he said.
But the pleasures of the job far outweigh the irritations, Wallworth said. One of his favorite things about working at the Christmas tree lot is seeing families with excited children coming to look for the perfect tree.
“We don’t have any of the major things, like reindeer or Santa Claus,” he said. “But they seem to have just as much fun.”