If you ever had the opportunity to be in Manhattan and attempt to navigate across 34th Street, especially during this time of year, you know it would take a miracle to accomplish in a reasonable amount of time. Normally, it is a very congested area, but during this time of year, it becomes a parking lot. With shoppers and tourists in and around Herald Square, Macy's and Pennsylvania Station on the west side, along with the Empire State Building and the shops of Fifth Ave. on the east side, walking is usually the fastest way to get around. Bus schedules are impossible to adhere to. Bus operators do the best they can, and supervision is challenged to provide an acceptable headway — the time interval between two successive buses moving in the same direction on the same route.
Today, with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other events that (depending on your age) our parents never had to deal with, pressure is on early to begin shopping for so-called 'best deals.' It appears with the 24-hour availability of news being pumped through our cable TV; we become part of the experience even before the actual shopping begins. Watching the frenzy and fighting that sometimes occurs between shoppers seems to contradict the feelings that I remember having as December rolled around. Shopping seemed to be less stressful for those loved ones responsible for gift-giving. No Black Friday or Cyber Monday for them, and November was not the start of shopping but a dedicated time to prepare and fully enjoy a distraction-free Thanksgiving.
Department stores like Sears, EJ Korvettes, and local toy stores seemed to satisfy all or most of the gifts that were going to be part of that special morning. A Lionel train set or Mickey Mantle baseball card were easily attainable, and those few who held on to them now claim it was a wise investment. Really? Were they thinking that when they received them? Today, it's more like 'I'm glad Mom never threw these out in the trash.' The family car, buses and/or subways were the mode of transportation. Shopping was done in an orderly way, and there always seemed to be an abundant supply of popular items. Finding a suitable Christmas tree was always exciting, although decorating it could be a chore. A little Egg Nog never hurt either. The smell of pine needles remained long after the tree was taken down and joined the pile of trees discarded by neighbors. Living in a 20-family apartment building in the South Bronx made for quite a pile!
Confirming the fact that Christmas was no ordinary day, businesses were closed. Some opened for just a few hours in the morning to allow for last-minute food items, etc... It felt like a day different from any other. I don't have that same feeling today, as most Holidays have become just another shopping day. I remember the fellowship with family, entertaining or visiting relatives, and of course, immersing oneself in the newly acquired toys that you were told were transported down a chimney that apartment buildings did not have. You never questioned it.
Well, during this Season, whether you are a bus operator threading the needle across New York's 34th Street or any other street across the country, or the shopper using mass transit rather than the Internet to accomplish your shopping, wish someone a time they will never forget. If you are one of those who can relate to some of the things I said, take a moment and think of loved ones who may no longer be with you but created that special time in your life that will hopefully hold a special place in your heart. If I may, 'Hey Mom and Dad thanks for the memories of Christmas!'
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