In the early mornings I race through a strip mall by my house on the way to the bus stop, my mind on 4,000 things all at once. I am intent on getting to the bus stop on time, and oblivious to everything else. And this time of year it’s the Christmas season that has my brain in overdrive, and I know I have more than 4,000 things yet to do.
One morning as I passed by the 24-hour grocery store in the mall, I was almost around the corner when I smelled it; pine trees.
It was overpowering, but in a good way. The smell suited the season just right, and it immediately lightened my broodish mood. No, I wasn’t in a bad mood, but the smell evoked the excitement of the Christmas season and all that comes along with it, pushing all those “I have to do...” thoughts away.
On the outside of the store is an outdoor garden display, and with the seasons the plants for sale change. I knew there were live wreaths made from all-things pine tree, but their smell couldn’t be that potent, could they?
And just as I started crossing the parking lot heading toward my bus stop, I heard the deep grumbling diesel engine of a truck – and from the sounds it, it was big.
But it wasn’t one of the countless delivery trucks toting bread or milk.
It was the Christmas Tree truck!
With Christmas Trees stacked 6 deep, 14 wide on the flat bed, the truck sat idling beside the fenced-off Christmas tree area where shoppers can wade through the pine needles and branches to find just the right one. The driver was inside the truck, his cab light on, obviously finalizing some all-important Christmas Tree paper work.
I was so thrilled to be witness to the whole thing I knew I had to get a picture. But at 6:00 in the morning, I knew doing so was not normal, or maybe even legal. I figured it best to get the driver’s permission first, as I didn’t have time to risk being mauled for illegal Christmas Tree picture taking - I had a bus to catch. But a quick peek at my watch told me I had a few extra minutes before my sleepy driver pulled up at my stop. So willing the truck driver to hurry up with his paper work, I stood there like an idiot in the middle of the parking lot, waiting and sniffing the air like a dog in heat (yes, the smell of the Christmas trees was THAT intoxicating).
Finally the driver emerged, and walked up to me.
“Hi.” I said, waiting for him to say the police were on their way for me. “Cool truck.” I nodded to his still idling truck.
“Yup.” He admired his tree toting truck, and shoved his hands in his pockets. He never once looked at me like I was nuts (a look from many I have grown accustomed to).
We stood for a moment admiring the trees stacked high, then I said, “So you’re the Christmas Tree guy, huh?”
He paused a moment, realizing how cool of a title that was, grinned, then with a slight puff of his chest said “Yup.”
I had a bus to catch, so I cut to the chase. “So, um, can I take a picture of your truck?”
He never once looked at me like I was a weirdo. “Sure!” He cheerfully answered.
My camera was already in my hand, so hopeful I was.
As he moved to the side, either allowing me to do my ‘photographer’ thing or to ensure he wasn’t in the picture (and actually, I think he thought/hoped he would be), I snapped my picture.
I realized later that in my hurried excitement I didn’t use a flash, but at the time, time was of the essence. But at least I got a picture, and at least I didn’t get arrested.
As I hollered thanks before running to my bus stop, the driver turned and waved as he climbed up to the truck’s cab. Happy guy for so early in the morning.
I know this sounds cliché, trite, and beyond overdone, and I know many turn up their nose at this time of year at those of us who find joy in the cooking and eating, the music, the gift buying, and the over-the-top decorations, but in the end, Christmas is not only just not a day, it’s not just a season, but it’s a way of being that should be practiced year round.
We are all cogs in the wheel of life and everyone, even a sometimes grumpy bus driver, helps make our lives go round. The Christmas Tree guy plays a part in this yearly season, bringing joy to many. To him it might just be a job, but without him, folks might not have their Christmas Trees. Like so many of us, he is another cog in the wheel, and everyone plays a part it making it a happy time for everyone.
Yes, I happened to be there at the right time, but seeing and smelling the truck that early in the morning, witnessing a part of the magic of this time of year, and seeing him so proud of the title I gave him, made my race to the bus stop so worth it.
So as you rush through parking lots with your mind on 4,000 things, be sure to thank folks for even the smallest gestures, take time to sniff the air, and remember that we all play a part in each other’s lives – even the Christmas Tree guy.