It happens every Christmas. A cheap, insensitive curmudgeon named Ebenezer Scrooge gets spooked by a dead business partner named Jacob Marley and three ghosts. He becomes nice. Then at some point down the road he gets mean again. Until the following Christmas when he gets nice – again.
How soon after Christmas does Scrooge fall off the nice wagon? Consumer analysts believe that Mr. Scrooge reverts to his old ways in January when the bills come in. Recent audio supports this argument:
Two crowns for a turkey! Who the (expletive) authorized this? CRATCHIT!
You did, sir. On Christmas day, remember? You came to my house with a turkey and…and…you had a lovely time with my family and…and…you just adored Tiny Tim.
Bah! HumBug! Get down on your knees you (expletive) (expletive)!
No, Mr. Scrooge, don’t hit me! Please, sir. You’re hurting me!
Scrooge’s reaction to the invoice is not an isolated one. Many consumers undergo mood swings when the bills start rolling in. But they get over it. They don’t hit people. Ironically, Cratchit does not blame Scrooge for taking his frustration out on him.
“Yeah, he can get pretty mean. People ask me why I work here. The pay sucks. I never get promoted. And that office is so damn cold! I can’t feel my fingers when I work. I know he watches me because he docks my pay when I throw a lump of coal on the fire. But aside from his hostility, Mr. Scrooge is a decent man. You need to blame the board of directors for his behavior. There is a culture of evil that runs rampant at Scrooge & Marley.”
Many townspeople wonder why Marley and the ghosts wait until Christmas to pay Scrooge a visit. Whatever they do to Scrooge obviously works well enough to allot everyone at least one day of peace. Are visits from Marley and the ghosts throughout the entire year necessary for Scrooge’s change of heart to fully take?
Jacob Marley says hell no to frequent visits.
“Leaving the afterlife and making the trek to his majesty’s drafty apartment with these chains weighing me down every Christmas is enough. This metal is cutting into my flesh!”
In all fairness, Marley does lug around heavy chains when he pays Scrooge his annual visit. But people who remember Marley say it is his own fault, for being too consumed with making money and not being nice to people when he was alive. Each link represents one time in his life on earth that he failed to perform a kind act. But all is not bleak. He warns Scrooge not to make the same mistakes. “Look at what a mess I am you fool…and listen to the three ghosts!” he tells Scrooge.
It is evident that Marley is unwilling to pay Scrooge multiple visits throughout the year. But even if he was, would Scrooge’s company have deep enough pockets to sustain Scrooge’s sudden generosity?
“Yes…and no,” according to Cratchit. “Like I alluded to, Scrooge does not call all of the shots around here.”
Clyde Pierce, chairman of Scrooge & Marley’s board of directors, agrees that the company may be a little unorthodox, “but, no, we cannot afford to send Marley and the three ghosts to Scrooge’s house more than once a year at this time.”
Pierce agreed to talk with me off the record.
“Just between you and me, we like to have a little fun with the old man during Christmas. We know how much he hates the holiday. You can probably blame that on us, too. You see, our firm has been around for 50 years. Despite our experience, we face stiff competition from E.L. Schwartz. Schwartz lures potential employees away from us because of their generous compensation and benefits package. Employees at E.L. Schwartz enjoy flexible work schedules that allow them to work from home. There are also company-wide incentives like weekly kickball games, a world-class fitness trail, and a tuition reimbursement program. Not to mention the publicity they get by sponsoring an annual 5K that donates money to local workhouses. As you can see, we have our work cut out for us.”
But why terrorize an old man? Why give hope and happiness to an entire community only to take it away?
“Those are valid questions. Unfortunately, I don’t have legitimate answers for them at this time. It’s like this. When you are born into wealth, it is your God-given right to play cruel and unusual jokes on less fortunate people. We pay good money to orchestrate an operation of this magnitude every Christmas. Scrooge nearly shits his pants, but in doing so he experiences a change, and it results in some people having reverse fortunes for a little while. Scrooge & Marley makes the news. And we get a lot of new business!”
Are you telling me that this is just a charade?
“Well, when you put it that way.”
Who else knows about this?
“Marley, of course.”
What about the ghosts?
What about Cratchit’s wife and his children?
“Actors. All actors!”
What about Cratchit?
“No, he’s real.”
So he’s married to an actor?
And his children? Are they even his?
“Yes, they’re his. It took us a while to break them. That Tiny Tim is very loyal. But you’d be surprised how far someone is willing to go if you take away their crutch.”
You’re a sick man!
“Not really. But I will take that up with the board and get back to you.”
Pierce was being coy with me. So I asked Cratchit why he has stuck around all these years. Why would someone willingly work at a place where the pay is substandard and the office tops out at a temperature of 28 degrees?
“I never left because I have a family to support and because my son Tim can’t get around so easily. I can’t afford to lose this job. Sure my wife has to donate blood twice a week so we can make ends meet, but things will pick up!”
Cratchit has read a lot of books on social mobility but he admits that he’s not about to unionize.
“I’ve read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States a million times, but who’s going to join my union? I’m the only one here. Besides, I kind of like being shit on all year. Getting that Christmas turkey gives me something to look forward to!”
I need to ask you something, and don’t take this the wrong way. Do you ever walk into a room, shut the door, and start throwing things?
“I’m a patient man. My time will come. I could’ve taken a torch to this place years ago. But violence is not the answer. Killing people softly with love is.”
Okay, I had to admit, Cratchit’s pacifism was freaking me out. I wasn’t sure who to believe. He seems like a nice man. But he is spineless and out of touch with reality. Then you have the board of directors, which appears to be nothing more than a gentleman’s club with too much time on their hand. And then there’s Scrooge who has a business to run. It’s only human to question where one is going with their life, especially after undergoing an experience like Scrooge does. But that’s just it. Why does he change colors more often than a chameleon? I would think that after being scared once, he would have made some changes and stuck with them. That’s what life altering experiences are all about.
As it turns out, Cratchit is aware that the board of directors puts up the money for his family’s turkey dinner every Christmas. He is also aware that his wife is in on the whole thing. But he admits that this brings a whole new level of excitement into their marriage.
“I’m disappointed with the kids. But I have to tell you, my wife and I like playing this game. We’re never going to be rich. Why not have some fun!”
All fun aside, it may take years to solve the cycle of abuse that exists at Scrooge & Marley. Someday 60 Minutes is going to blow the lid off on what goes on there. When that happens, a lot of people will be going away for a long time.