Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Ghost of Lego Past: an Ode

From whence did you come,
you warrior’s badge of youth?

From which ubiquitous movie tie-in
were you lost?

Star Wars, or Indiana Jones, or Harry Potter
or no… the list will only sadden us.

Let us roll your sharp corners
in our wearied hands,

and remember your usefulness,
and your former glory.

The hours in former times, in which
your simple symmetry kept children,

engaged, quiet, entertained, head-down
and building for hours.

The many, many, many (oh Lego masters,
hear our prayer) hours,

in which we followed your careful instructions:
numbers 1-17, numbers 18-32,

numbers 33-77, numbers 78-130,
sizes and shapes and colours,

to test our failing vision and dexterity,
in your simple creation

(except that 1,000 piece Star Wars cruiser,
which nearly tore us all apart).

Your parts bible which we followed so religiously,
well past the time to turn the turkey,

or mash the potatoes, or set the table,
or make eye contact with other adults,

forgoing that, instead we built with you,
oh Christmas morning parental right-of-passage.

On our aging knees, after a thorough cleaning,
behind the couch in the basement,

I find you, red rectangular reminder of boyhood
birthdays and sleepovers,

and loud,  endless Lego parties,
from which this pointed, six-holed

piece was thrown, or kicked, or left
somehow, idle in the dark,

separated and not even a second thought
would bring you to mind,

for you were once so common as to be laughable.
How many times did I just vacuum you up?

I admit! The rattle of your brothers and sisters
up the hose was a release, a small act of defiance!

Why would I stoop to collect something
as small and insignificant as you!

Your kind was a curse! A scourge! To be
carefully avoided when barefoot in the dark!

And yet now, after the great Lego purge
of many years gone,

I feel an immediate kinship.
I honour your place in my past,

I feel your heft and your perfection,
remember your snap and trusty grip,

and return you to your dark corner,
beneath the basement couch.

One day I will find you again, decades hence,
and remember the joy there was in your making:

for now, as long as you lie in wait,
my boy is not completely grown.

PD/Nov. 26/2011

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Tale of the Christmas Bonus


Gather 'round my friends, and let me tell you a tale from my corporate life long ago: the Tale of the Christmas bonus.

The year was 1987, and I was a production manager at the Financial Post in downtown Toronto. I was 24 years old.

Every year, the Christmas party took place the Friday payday before December 25th. I had only been in the job a few months, so I had no idea what to expect, or why everyone was so excited. I was soon to discover why.

Throughout the day, employees were asked to leave their desks, department by department, and gather in the corporate boardroom. All morning giddy people from marketing and editorial filed past our office, giggling and quite uncharacteristically jovial. Then it was my turn to walk down the deeply carpeted halls.

My co-workers and I were met at the boardroom door by well-paid carol singers (from the local opera company) and two elves (from accounting), who handed us crystal goblets of very rum-laden eggnog. We sipped away as we lined up with our co-workers in an orderly but increasingly chatty and rosy-cheeked rhumba line that criss-crossed the boardroom and spilled out into the hall. I peeked into the room over everyone's heads, and who did I see off in the distance, sitting at the head of the boardroom table? Santa of course (the CEO), and on either side of him were two more elves (Toronto police officers).

On the table in front of them were our gifts, in two large cloth sacks! But there weren't any bows or ribbons to be seen. No. Our gifts were in orderly, crisp white envelopes labelled with each of our names. And what was inside each of those envelopes, my friends? Our Christmas bonuses: one week's pay, in cash. You heard me. In cash.

Legend has it that there was over $250,000 cash in those bags that day, which I guess would explain the need for the Christmas Police Officer Elves.

I approached Santa, my rum-soaked voice managed a "thank you, Merry Christmas" as I staggered back to my desk with my bonus. Did I mention that it was in cash? I sipped my eggnog and got nothing done for the rest of the afternoon, like everyone else. In fact, I think most of us left work early that day, slightly hungover by mid-afternoon.

And that my friends, is the Tale of the Christmas Bonus, which I experienced only once and at the age of 24, since the next year they were cut. But they had been a long-standing tradition up until then, a holiday tradition at the company since the 1950s. I know it's hard to imagine in these meager times, where jobs are hard to find and the idea of a Christmas bonus of any kind may seem like the stuff of legend, but I assure you, it was real. It's hard to imagine that kind of corporate generosity now, but it meant a lot to the staff, to morale, to loyalty. It certainly meant a great deal to me and is one of the reasons that I'll always look back fondly at my days working for the Financial Post.

It was 1987, not so very long ago, and a tradition sadly lost to the mists of time. Luckily the tradition of eggnog survives. I think I'll make one now!