This time was different though. It was Christmas time. That would usually mean the elusive holiday bonus was sniffing around nearby. That shadowy ghost only few people catch a glimpse of in their lives. Given that this job was online retail and our profits had sure tripled everyday since Thanksgiving, I was rightfully curious as to whether or not I'd see this delightful beast, The Christmas Bonus.
By the way, I'm not calling it the holiday bonus. It's not because I'm self righteous, I just don't care. Christmas bonus sounds better. Sounds fatter. Like Scrooge himself delivering a turkey to your door.
My boss hands me the usual paycheck envelope of shame...and with it...and additional envelope! The unmistakable boxy Christmas card shape and carefully scribbled "Josh" on the front was a dead giveaway - this was it, the Christmas bonus! I mumbled my thanks yous, clocked out and shuffled down the hallway. I didn't want to open it in front of anyone, that's generally bad form. Especially in a work place. I crashed through the giant glass doors of the faceless industrial complex building I call 'work' and rushed to my car. There, alone in the dark and surely out of the sight of any coworkers, I opened the envelope.
Typical Christmas card, red...green...gold....ambiguous greeting, whatever. I cracked it open to find a little handwritten message. Ever so slightly personalized in that it starts with "Josh..." which I thought was a nice touch. That wasn't the point though. Tucked inside of the card was the real treasure, the real city of El Dorado, the sure deliverance of the past few weeks of shitty holiday hassle that comes with working online retail. My eyes began to widen.
The first thing I noticed was that it wasn't a gift card. A good sign in most cases. It wasn't a check either. It was just money. Grandmother style. Now I was concerned. The bill looking up at me was none other than crazy-eyed Andrew Jackson. A $20 bill. I hesitantly reached for the cash and noticed there another 2 bills under it. $100s, perhaps? I peeled them apart in the dark, quiet of my car - which I still hadn't started. A $20, and then another $20, and then...a $10. That was it. Fifty dollars. "Nice work helping the company make a couple extra hundred thousand dollars this year, Josh, here's 50 bucks, happy holidays!"
I wasn't sure if I should be happy or mad, pissed or grateful. As I mentioned before, I was too tired to really occupy an emotional state. I just tucked the money away in my backpack and stared out through my car window, still waiting to start it. It's those minutes of silence I always have in my car that I really cherish. When you have the unlimited capabilities of 4 wheels, an engine and a tank of gas right under your foot. And you think about your 65 hour work week and the crumpled $50 in your backpack that's sitting next to you in the passenger seat. It all makes sense in that minute. Where it's quite obvious you'll never win and the clank of champagne glasses at a holiday party is something you'll only get to hear in a movie.
I started my car, turned on talk radio and tried to block those thoughts out. At least I'd gotten something for a Christmas bonus, most people get nothing, right? That's what I imagined friends would say if I told them about it. I guess I should just stay tight lipped and be grateful. At the same time though, in the deep, dark scarlet red of my blood, was a different opinion. One that required no voice or argument. It bubbled and popped as I pulled my car out onto the highway to sit in the usual cascade of brake lights on the 101 Freeway.