It was a late night at the tree farm. It always is this time of year. I was disposing of the last of the day’s complimentary gingerbread cookies. My chosen method of disposal being to see how many I could fit into my mouth at one time. My co-worker, Scotty, was loading miles of garland into the shed. You can’t just leave garland out over night. Do you know what garland goes for? Theft is rampant. But, anyway, he’s taking down garland and wreaths by the armload and I’m closing out the register. Seventy-Three Douglas Firs in the books. Just another day at the office. I’m getting ready to kill the lights that illuminate our “pre-cut” selection when a car comes roaring up the drive. My stomach sinks at the thought of having to fire up the dang tree baler again. Maybe they need directions…
Nope, they’re dressed for tree gettin’, there’s no doubt about it. People always show up in their best plaid and thickest mittens to pick out a tree. And, earmuffs. You can go your whole life without seeing someone in earmuffs. At a tree lot? You’ll see 40 pair. And, an absolute volcanic eruption of scarves. I’m still hardly paying attention, trying to swallow the gingerbread ball I’ve got working in my face hole, when I realize this isn’t the typical yuppie couple. It’s frickin’ Jimmy Rollins, his wife and some seedy looking white-boy.
Rollins (wearing a leather jacket with fur lining, jeans with elaborate flame and dragon embroidery and a Miami Heat hat): You guys still open?
White Guy: They’re open. He’s standing there, isn’t he?
Me: Sure, yeah, what can I do for you? Care for a tasty treat?
(I hold up a plate filled with crumbs and stray gingerbread man body parts)
White Guy (Rushing past J-Roll and Wife): I’m gonna deal with this guy, J-Roll.
(I look behind me assuming there’s no way I could already be a “this guy” at this point in the conversation…no one is there)
White Guy: Hey, Dan Lozano.
(He sticks his paw out into the space between us, I leave it sitting there like a forlorn old man at a bus stop)
Dan Lozano: I’ve got Jimmy Rollins here.
(I do that double hand motion that means: “Annnnnnd….get to the point”)
Dan Lozano: We need to fit him with a 16-ft Douglas Fir.
Me: 16-ft? What do you think this is, the Canadian wilderness? We don’t have anything that big, and even if we did, it would never fit in the damn baler. Sorry, if you want like a 10-footer, or if you know if I’m ever in the Los Angeles area looking for an escort…maybe we can do business.
Dan Lozano (squinting hard at me): I find it hard to believe that in this whole place, there’s not one 16-ft tree. How many acres you got here?
Dan Lozano (getting animated): 30 acres! And, on not one of those 30 individual acres is a tree that stands 16-feet?
Me: I’d say take a look for yourself, but, you know, it’s dark.
Jimmy Rollins (walking over to us): What’s the problem?
Dan Lozano: He says there are no 16-ft trees.
(J-Roll looks in my direction, or I think he looked in my direction, he was hitting me right below the elbow)
Me: Nothing even close to that tall.
J-Roll: Dan, you said we could get a 16-ft tree. You said if we had to go smaller it’d be our decision. My option. That’s what you said.
Me: Ten feet is about the best we can do.
J-Roll: No! I did 10-ft last year. It’s embarrassing. I go to Chase’s place, he’s got a 15-ft tree. Ryan Howard’s got a 20-ft tree and he can’t even get off his ass to decorate this year. Hunter Pence just moved here and he’s talking about getting a 12-footer. And, don’t get me started on Cliff Lee. Johari show him the damn text.
(Johari takes an iPhone out of her Louis and holds it up to my face. There’s a picture of Cliff Lee standing in front of what looks like the gosh dang Rockefeller Center tree. The text reads, 25-ft this year…Lulz.)
Me: Well, they didn’t get those trees here, or if they did they struck much earlier in the season. It’s a little late in the process to be shopping for that kind of height, isn’t it?
Dan Lozano: We’ve got plenty of other options. Don’t worry about it. Christmas is still 2 weeks away, this isn’t the only tree farm in town.
Me: Eh, technically, we are the only tree farm in town.
(Rollins whispers something in Lozano’s ear)
Dan Lozano: What if we bought 5 trees this year. All 10 feet. Five years from now, that last tree would be 15 feet? Correct?
Me: Well, it’s not quite that simple, Lotta things can happen over 5-years. Drought. Beetles. Garland Thieves. Hard to say. Plus, I don’t know that we could commit that many trees to you. Right now you’re only like our 7th or 8th favorite customer, and who is to say someone doesn’t show up in the next year or two to bump you even further down the list?
(Lozano takes a step back, the three of them converge into a little huddle. It breaks)
Dan Lozano: What’s the best you can do for us tonight?
Me: I’ll give you a 10-ft tree tonight. I’ll let you reserve a 9-ft tree for next year and another for the year after, but if you piss us off–the 3rd tree is off the table.
(They huddle up again)
Dan Lozano: Fine. Deal.
(We shake hands)
Me: Old Scotty P. over there will show the 10-footers. SCOTTY!
(Scotty comes over)
Me: You want to help these nice folks find a 10-footer?
(Scotty eagerly agrees and heads off at a dead sprint toward the trees. Dan Lozano and Johari chase after him at full speed. J-Roll follows behind them at much more leisurely pace.)
18 Minutes Later….
(Scotty and I are standing by the baler, watching J-Roll and Company drive off)
Me: How was it?
Scotty: Not bad, no problems except Jimmy tweaked a calf muscle helping tie the thing to the roof of his car.
Me: Is that right?