Friday was the slowest day yet and the first day we didn’t sell any trees. We did sell the remaining 18 feet of garland which was nice, and brought us to a grand total sold of 356 feet and $70 earned in commission on garland. We also had a family come in just to look at the trees (this has happened several times) and they explained to Lee that although they want a new tree they like to setup prior to Thanksgiving and in the past the trees they bought died before Christmas Day. Since they could clearly see our trees were still healthy maybe they will rethink that for next year. It was a super slow day though, with only those two customers, although the owner did stop by our tent first thing in the morning after we opened. This was the first time the owner has been to our location and I was glad that our tent was neat and tidy. We have moved all remaining trees to the front, kept litter off the ground, and finished most of the pre-close activities per their emailed instructions. I am not sure why he waited until the very end to visit, but at least things looked nice. He gave me a little bit of feedback and I showed him my concerns regarding lot access (folks have to drive through a busy gas station parking lot to get to us) and then he left to visit another lot.
We also for the very first time watched TV together during working hours. We have made sure at least one of us was in the tent this whole time (Lee has read a ton of Louis L’Amour books), but since it was so very slow we decided to go ahead and give it a try. Our one employee Mitch couldn’t have cared less, so we watched Independence Day Resurgence (seriously what were they thinking?). I felt a little guilty about it, but since we had zero customers during the movie and of course would have stopped if any had come in, it turned out OK. I’ve also removed those four hours from our hourly analysis just to be fair. Speaking of which, as of the end of Christmas Eve we will have worked a total of 851 hours and have made (pre-bonus) $5.75 an hour. On the plus side, we did get to try out our new fryer that my brother-in-law Josh sent to Lee. He had read in the blog about how much we missed having a fryer and found a very small Presto fryer which is just perfect for the camper. It gets very hot (unlike many of the smaller ones) and is the perfect size to fry for two. It was incredibly sweet of you Josh… and Lee loved it.
What I wasn’t counting on was having to work 9am -9pm on Christmas Eve. That’s just bad luck, as Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday which is our one long day, but for some reason that really stings. I actually woke up for the first time really angry. I’m self aware enough to realize that my anger isn’t really about the extra two hours, but it took me some time (and a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich) to get those feelings under control enough to write this. I’m angry because this is how we are spending our Christmas, and on this count I have no one to blame but myself. It’s not so much working on the holiday (I’ve done that a time or two in my past jobs) it’s being away from family, which has nothing to do with this specific job. Several customers have been curious about why we would choose to do something like this and my common story is that we have three kids in three states and someone is always upset when we choose a place for Christmas so this year we decided to sell Christmas trees instead. That always elicits a smile, and it’s a cute story, but it’s not very factual. The reality is we were already in Montana and headed for Arizona for the winter and traveling back east for the holiday and then turning around to come back west for the winter didn’t make a ton of sense. We discussed it. My sister and oldest daughter are both in South Carolina and that was super tempting, but with the Alaska expenses we didn’t think it was a good financial choice for us this year.
We also could have made plans with friends or done something special with just the two of us, but when the Christmas Tree job came to us decided to do that instead. I knew it would be a stretch for me. Being away from family is tough, but throwing work on top of that doubly so and Lee had real concerns about how I would handle it. I just thought it would be a great way to set a new tradition for the holidays which is something we have been trying to do while on the road. I had visions of wearing a Santa Hat and selling trees to happy families, which I thought would help with missing my own family. It probably would have if the picture in my head was the reality, but instead we are probably going to spend 12 hours sitting in a tent in the rain getting on each other’s nerves and it made me angry. I have to own my choice though, and get a grip. Yes,I think this is the least Christmasy Christmas I have ever had (odd considering we are sitting on a Christmas Tree lot) but there’s nothing to do but make the best of it and see how it plays out.
Lee actually sold a tree within the first hour of opening the lot. It was a little 5 foot Noble, but hey, it was a tree. Then nothing, I mean not one person, and around 3:00pm I sent Cori a somewhat plaintive text asking what she was doing. She’s a good friend and she and Greg stopped by on the way to her mom’s which really cheered us up, and they invited us to dinner. They knew we probably couldn’t come, but it was super nice to be invited, and the menu of ham, green beans, potato salad, and deviled eggs made me drool a little. That’s my kind of family dinner. They were also going to play games afterward, which also sounded very fun, and again it was super nice to know we would have been wanted. We did have time to make some of our Christmas calls though, since we knew we would be at the work “party” the next day. Lee had a very nice long chat with Kay (who is making dinner for 8 of her friends in the military who aren’t traveling for the holidays) and we just waited for 9pm to roll around.
Then at 4:45pm I got a text stating we could close at 5pm. A Christmas miracle…seriously. I never in a million years thought that would happen. Texted Cori who said dinner was at 6pm and not to bring anything, and we closed up real quick and over we went. We ate an amazing dinner of ham, green beans, potato salad , and deviled eggs and then participated in the Whitacre family tradition of playing bingo. It was a lot of fun, although I am not sure Greg as the caller was the best choice (just kidding Greg), and I asked Jan’s permission for a family photo since they have been so good to us by taking us in Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve. I told her my mom and Lee’s mom would want to see who had been so nice to us (I know, shameless) and she graciously agreed. Being with them did me a world of good, and I am super grateful.
We cam home around 9pm and for the first time ever I had the AC on during Christmas Eve. The rain held off, but it was muggy and I actually slept really good. The next day we got up and talked to Kyrston then left at 10am for the 11am meeting. The meeting was at the Budget Inn in San Antonio and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The business part of the meeting was OK, but afterwards we had a buffet and the food was really good. Then we sat and talked to Scott and Stasia another working RVer couple (and first time Christmas tree workers) and afterwards we felt a lot better. It was good to hear the learning curve can be steep in year one for everyone and we exchanged funny stories with them and Brad and Monica (the veterans) about things we had seen. I also picked us presents in the gift exchange and Lee got a super nice Dewalt drill bit set. He was pretty excited about that. I got a makeup bag set, which I am sure I will find some use for other than makeup which I rarely wear and it really was tons of fun. One of the tough parts of the this job has been the isolation and getting to know other managers better was a good thing!!
Afterwards Lee and I came back to the camper and I talked to my Dad, Lee’s parents, and our middle daughter Kat. We had discussed going down to the Riverwalk but decided it might be super crowded and instead made some tentative plans to go Monday night with Cori and Greg. We aren’t getting our trailer tomorrow, so we can work at our own pace during the day to tear things down. Lee is pretty excited about knocking over all the remaining trees, and since a group of young guys (who are trying to set a Guinness Record for the largest bonfire) are coming to pick the trees up we have a little time.
After talking to Kat we decided to try for Chinese and luckily the Garden Buffet was open. It was reasonably priced ($11.99 and really good crab legs on the buffet) and we got a free Christmas present which was a bamboo calendar for the year with a peacock on it. I’m going to give that to the person who recommended it to us. Then we came back and watched the Magnificent Seven remake which was also really good. All in all it was a nice Christmas and we both feel pretty good that we have a little free time prior to tear down.
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