Scrooge & Marley Air Conditioning Co. once had been the preeminent A/C service company in South Florida. But since Jacob Marley’s premature demise, the business had been in a steep decline. It wasn’t that the company’s techs—all ARPEC graduates—weren’t good, or that its prices (at least when Marley was alive) weren’t competitive. Both customers and competitors agreed it was Ebenezer Scrooge’s most unpleasant demeanor that had driven away much of the company’s business. Now Scrooge was even more ill-tempered than usual. It was Christmas Eve, and he couldn’t dispatch the technician he had on call because the tech’s service-truck GPS system was down, and Scrooge didn’t trust Bob Cratchit not to take time to shop for a last-minute gift while on the company’s clock. So, Scrooge was taking the service call—at a major mall in a Miami suburb—himself.
When Scrooge arrived at the mall, he was surprised by the number of last-minute shoppers scurrying in and out of the stores. Because he had never shopped for anyone and hadn’t celebrated Christmas since he was a child, the whole thing befuddled him. Of course, he ignored the bell-ringing Santa at the mall entrance (Scrooge didn’t believe in charitable giving any more than he believed in the Christmas spirit) and went directly to the management office. There, he was greeted with a “Merry Christmas” by the security officer on duty.
“Bah, humbug,” Scrooge replied. “Where’s the manager?”
The guard politely directed him to the back office, where Scrooge was astonished to see what looked like the spitting image of his late partner. Scrooge covered his obvious unease by explaining to the gentleman that he bore a remarkable resemblance to a certain Jacob Marley, now deceased.
“Yes, Ebenezer, I know,” the man said. “It is I, Jacob’s ghost, and there is much you need to hear this Christmas season. Go back to the office and wait for calls from three spirits.”
As Scrooge walked back to the service truck, the thought that what he really needed was three shots of strong spirits crossed his mind.
As Scrooge was merging onto I-595 from the Turnpike, his smartphone rang through the truck’s Bluetooth system, displaying a blocked number. Normally, he would not have answered, but, mindful of Marley’s admonition, he accepted the call.
“Ebenezer Scrooge?” a pleasant female voice asked.
“Yes,” Scrooge replied. “To whom am I speaking?”
“I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past,” the voice replied, and suddenly Scrooge no longer was behind the wheel of the truck, but observing his youthful self sitting in a community-college classroom. The instructor was discussing the need to be a “people person” regardless of the nature of one’s business or vocation, talking about empathy and caring and treating others with kindness and respect. The young Scrooge wasn’t paying attention, but, rather, looking through a JC Whitney catalog for parts for his car.
“Oh, my,” the present-day Scrooge exclaimed. “I can’t believe a Holley four-barrel carburetor was worth my missing that lecture.”
With that, Scrooge abruptly found himself in the parking lot in front of his office. Once again, his phone was ringing with an unknown number displayed. As he punched in the alarm code to disable the office security system, Scrooge answered the call with his wireless headset and was greeted by the Ghost of Christmas Present. Thinking he was walking into his office, Scrooge instead found himself staring through the dining-room window of Bob Cratchit’s condo, a remarkable feat, considering it was on the 15th floor! There was Bob and his family gathered around the table, giving thanks for their meal and thanking Scrooge for providing a steady—although somewhat meager, as Bob was paid at the minimum permissible rate under the current contract—paycheck. Bob’s son, Tim, had hoped to attend Virginia Tech the next year, but when Marley died, Scrooge killed the company scholarship fund. Tim was a diminutive young man, not very good at sports, and although he was a reasonably good student, it was unlikely he would qualify for an academic scholarship at such a prestigious university. He had never expected a full ride and was planning on student loans, but tuition at VT for a non-Virginia resident was higher than his parents could afford, even with financial aid. So, Tim had no choice but to attend Florida State.
“Oh, my,” Scrooge exclaimed. “I had no idea that not giving him a scholarship would so damage his life!”
Before Scrooge could reflect any longer on young Tim’s future, he found himself sitting in his office, his phone once again ringing.
“Hello. Scrooge here,” he said. “Who is this?”
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.”
Unfortunately, at that very moment, Scrooge’s phone ran out of charge, and he never learned whether his future included living in South Florida without air conditioning.
Regardless of your faith, Christmas is a great time to show special kindness and generosity to others. Merry Christmas from me and my family to you and yours.