About Christmas in the desert Ho Ho Ho
Christmas in the Arizona desert was predictably sunny. There was hardly a cloud in the blue sky and, while it wasn’t quite t-shirt and shorts weather, the temperature was somewhere in the high 50s.
Nobody was ‘walking in a winter wonderland’ or ‘dashing through the snow’. The Christmas music was blaring on the radio but it seemed a bit surreal in the Valley of the Sun.
The morning began with one of these ‘it could only happen in America’ encounters. We were leaving the house at around 7am to head to a family breakfast get-together only to discover the front left tyre on the car was flat.
I’m not into changing tyres when there are people out there who know what they are doing, so help was summoned. Five minutes later I received a voice mail message on my mobile from our Christmas knight in shining armour.
It went like this, “Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas, this is Mike at Jack Rabbit Roadside Assistance. Be with you in five to ten minutes. Once Again Ho Ho Ho.”
Now there’s customer service for you. Mike duly arrived, complete with white beard and Santa hat, gave me a huge hug when he discovered I was from Scotland, pumped up the tyre and had us follow him to a repair shop that was open 24/7, 365 days.
It turned out he had been in bed, he had to leave his family behind to help us out on Christmas morning – but he could not have been more unfailingly cheerful. It’s not difficult to imagine the mood being a little different elsewhere.
Americans go all out for Christmas – you can tell just by looking at their houses. Every street in every neighbourhood is illuminated by spectacular light displays. Homes and front gardens everywhere are awash with lights, shepherds, mangers, angels on the rooftop, you name it.
In Scotland, I remember there being half a dozen houses per city that were lit up so dramatically, several of them for charity. And in the papers we used to report on vandals damaging the lights, stealing the charity money, and the bah humbug brigade complaining that the lights were too bright and an “intrusion”. No-one complains here.
This week I spent half an hour at the Mormon Temple in Mesa. It is surrounded by 20 acres of land and it seemed that every square foot was lit up with Christmas lights. There was a massive life-size nativity scene, choirs, everything screamed ‘have an over the top Christmas”. But that’s America for you, things are bigger, and why not?
I didn’t miss the inevitable Scottish rain but there were aspects of Christmas in Scotland I did yearn for. Silly things like Black Friday in Glasgow – when there are so many people out for their boozy office parties that getting home means a two-hour wait at the taxi rank in the freezing cold. One year I remember (vaguely) walking for seven miles in the snow before a taxi came along.
I missed catching the subway into the city centre on a Sunday morning with my “shop route” planned for all the presents I had in mind; the shop assistants wearing red antlers; the German market on Princes Street in Edinburgh; the ever-present possibility that it will be a “White Christmas”.
And of course I missed my family, I’ve had 50-something happy Christmas Days with them. Christmas in America is great but, yes, I felt nostalgic for Scotland at this time of year. And, believe me, that feeling will multiply at New Year.