Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas and Schadenfreude

Because a friend wanted to spend Christmas Eve with his wife, I took the overnight shift at United Press International in Boston. This shift ran from 12 AM to 8 AM on Christmas morning. This shift promised to have nothing serious happen in the way of news. However someone has to be at work in the large bureaus across the country in case Elvis is not really dead.

The guy who I was subbing for and his wife stopped by to give me a Christmas drink. That was pretty nice of them because there were a lot of places I'm sure they'd rather be. After they left though I began to monitor some of the national news stories that that were running on the A (national) wire.

You would not believe what kind of stories, describing every different kind of tragedy, were running on teletypes no one was reading. They were almost uniformly depressing. The one-story I will never forget started with "Christmas came early for John Jones of Boulder Colorado who lost his hands in a tractor accident." The stories went downhill from there.

I did not understand if it was "schadenfreude" (taking joy in other's misfortune) or an attempt to remind us of how lucky we were on this Christmas. But this shift has to be accompanied by a major antidepressant.

All I know is that I finished my shift and walked out in the cold New England air happy I wasn't John Jones (name changed). I say a prayer for him every Christmas Eve.

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