Seeing every American person on my Instagram feed post filtered pictures of their delicious Thanksgiving dinners last week reminded me of two things. Firstly, I’m hungry and secondly: ‘Crap! It’s nearly December’.
December means something different for everyone. For kids, it spells the start of a 25 day period where they can rationalise eating the chocolate from their advent calendar for breakfast. For most of us though, it means we can’t justify lying to ourselves any more that it’s going to be week ten forever.
However, as well as the chocolate for breakfast and exam stress, I get loaded with Christmas prep duties. Supposedly I’m too old now to just reap the benefits of Christmas and not partake in its organisation.
That means, developing my present buying skills beyond seeking out the cheapest scented candle in Avoca, adding my own token dish to the all-you-can-eat Christmas day dinner, and doubling as a makeshift climbing frame on Christmas day for my cousins to hang out of until RTÉ pluck out a random Harry Potter movie from their family film pile.
Before all that stress though, there are much more important things to deal with. Such as writing out the same essay question 20 times before I have to regurgitate it on a piece of paper in the RDS Industries Hall and perfecting the secret recipe for my festive banana bread, topped off with a piece of plastic holly.
Yet without a doubt, the most stressful job I get landed in December with is heading up the Christmas tree committee because supposedly I have “a good rapport” with the Polish man who monopolises the Christmas tree industry in my hometown.
Since 2006, this man has been the Don of Christmas trees and his sale techniques are deeply unnerving. It is like he pilfered his merchant methods from a dummy’s guide to sales authored by Monsieur Thenardier.
Save for the fact you are surrounded by Christmas trees in a church car park, you could be forgiven for assuming that this burly Polish man was trying to pimp out his smelly, fat, tall sister to you for 15 minutes around the back of his van.
Every year he welcomes me with the same carbon copy broken English greeting: “Ah my handsome friend, you have gotten even more taller than last year? I have perfect Christmas tree for you.”
He has a whole spiel prepared for me, and it rarely changes. “Me and my brother Roman were cutting down trees last night and as I banged my axe into it I knew this was tree I would sell to the handsome man who comes back every year for his tree.”
I’ll try to interject and convey to him that I’d prefer to size up my own tree and pick it out, but any part of my dialogue is always drowned out by him yelling across the car park in Polish what I understand to translate as “ROMAN! Generic Irish guy wearing a scarf. Get a random tree to show him”.
“No, no, no. This is best tree,” he continues, “I save this tree for nice family guy like you. She is big fat tall tree. Smelly, fat, tall tree. Just how you like them. To the truck, come, you see her”.
I’ll reluctantly follow him and as always my technique is to buy the second tree he pulls out of the van. The first one is always a scrawny tree that he’s trying to pawn off on any loser. This overgrown weed wouldn’t be strong enough to hold a single strand of tinsel, let alone my vast collection of flickering lights.
“Ah ha, I joke,” he’ll quickly say when he sees me put on my ‘Do I look like an idiot?’ face. He’ll wheel out another tree and say: “This is smelly, fat, tall tree; 25 years. You buy this one!”
After an inspection for a few seconds where I pretend I know what I’m looking for, I’ll hastily agree, hoping I can pay him enough to leave me alone and also get a Christmas tree out of the deal.
However, just before he seals the sale, he’ll feed me the same line that he always does. “I saved this smelly, fat tree especially for you. Favourite customer!” And instead of arguing with him that surely his favourite and longest existing customer should in fact get a discount, I’ll be stupidly guilt tripped into paying a bit extra.
Once my money graces his palm, his inner salesman instincts switch off immediately and I’m left there struggling to carry this huge tree which he removed from its compact packaging just to show me what it looks like.
This year, however, I’m going to be prepared. I’m not going to go to the back of his van. I’m not going to buy the second tree he shows me. And I’m definitely not going to get ripped off.
I’m going to make my Mum do it.