A difficult time of year

   Every business has its ups and downs during the year. You can be riding high in March, shot down in May, then rise from the dead in September.
   For some businesses, every year is a new adventure, with highs and lows appearing unexpectedly. Others are more consistent.
   Like mine. Nothing changes, year after year after year. I cannot only chart the good and bad months, but I can chart the good and bad weeks.
   The last two have been, and will always be, the worst two weeks of the year. December 1st through December 14th; I donít even like looking at those dates.
   In my business, everything seems to come to a screeching halt during those weeks. The phone stops ringing, the streets are deserted, rain is falling, the days are shorter and shorter. All in all, itís an ugly, depressing time, and thereís nothing I can do about it.
   Except leave. Without a doubt, the most beloved advantage of being your own boss is the freedom to just pack up and head out of town when you feel the need.
   "Hallelujah!" cried my wife, Fidelity, when I suggested we be somewhere else for the majority of those two miserable weeks. "You mean I wonít have to listen to your whining and moaning this year?"
   "Nope. Iím the boss, right? What better time to leave than the slowest period of the year?" I danced a little jig. "Weíre out of here."
   To be safe, we left town on November 30th. And when December 1st rolled around, we were far from the bleak, dreary, depressing atmosphere surrounding the business.
  "What are you doing?" asked Fidelity as I picked up the phone in the room where we were staying.
  "What do you think?" I replied. ĎIím calling the office to see how sales are."
  "Why would you want to do that?" she asked. "You know sales are terrible. Itíll just upset you and ruin our vacation."
  She was shouting to be heard above the screaming of our 2-year old, who was being tormented by his 3-year old bother. Or vice-versa, depending on the moment.
  "Fidelity," I replied, nodding toward our sons, the proverbial baggage, bless their hearts. "This is not a vacation. It is a trip."
   Perhaps I was being a little hard. It just seemed in those first few days that the little ones were having trouble adjusting to new surroundings. Fidelity, who has had that problem herself in the past, was doing much better. She was adjusting as well as any 4-year old.
   How bad were the first few days? Well, here we were in a tropical paradise, and the overwhelming highlight was finding a Burger King with a really neat playground.
   So perhaps itís understandable that when I reached for the phone each of those first few mornings to call my business, I found myself faintly hoping that there would be an emergency that would require me to come home immediately.
   "Hello, Ms. Ferguson," I said to my loyal office manager when she picked up the phone. "Howís everything going?"
   "Weíre fine," she replied. "How is your vacation?"
   "Itís not a vacation. Itís a trip. Any messages?"
   "Nope. Oh, wait. Hereís one. Mr. Stone from the Motorcycle Police Officers Association, asking for a donation."
   "Great. How are sales going?"
   "You donít want to know."
   I grabbed my 2-year-old as he raced by, naked, screaming something about Happy Meals. "Tell me anyway."
   She told me and I visibly cringed. "So everything else is fine?"
  "Yep. No problems."
  Fidelity was handling the latest crisis because Daddy was busy on the phone doing work. Somehow, I had to prolong the conversation.
   "Anybody want to talk to me?" I asked Ms. Ferguson, a touch of pleading coming through.
   "No. Just enjoy yourself."
   We hung up. I turned to face my family. They were still screaming, and sales at the business were still horrible. I thought about my options. At least I could do something about the screaming.
   "All right," I said, forcing a smile, knowing I was assured an enthusiastic response.
   "Who wants to go to Burger King and play in the playground again?"


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