Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tis the season

This is a particularly distracting time of the year. Even if we took the Christmas Holiday out of the month, many of us would still be feeling the end of the year pressures which have more importance for those whose fiscal year ends on December 31st. Many companies have shifted their fiscal year closing to coincide with the federal and state governments if they do business with those entities. But for many others, the end of the year is also the end of their fiscal year.

For them, trying to cope with all the pressures of the holiday season compounded by the need to close the company books on a positive note can prove to be a difficult one-two punch.

When I had a manufacturing company, we were always increasing employee’s overtime to get that one last shipment out the door so that the sales book looked as good as possible. I can recall resorting to all kinds of accounting magic to get shipments on the books even if it was to a local warehouse where the equipment was turned around on January 1st to be “modified” prior to shipment to the customer. The brief stay in the warehouse qualified it as shipped in the current year.

I thought about all these pressures the other night as I attended a performance of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. It must have been the umpteenth time I have sat through this classic, but for the first time I had some sympathy for the “villain” of the piece, Ebenezer Scrooge. Why did this rendering make me empathize with the poor put-upon business man - hounded by charity requests, beset by employee problems and so overwhelmed that he planned to work on Christmas day?

I think it was the intent of the show’s director to have Scrooge become less of an ogre and more of an addled businessman trying to cope with the end of the year and the holiday at the same time. Mind you I am not condoning his practices, but when those charity workers arrived and asked for a donation and Scrooge recited one of the classic speeches in Dickens’s work, a diatribe on the injustices faced by the poor business owner, I almost found myself nodding my head. Good directing and good acting made a sympathizer out of me, at least for that scene in the play.

Discussing this later with my guests, I decided, erroneously, that Scrooge was a candidate for the Tea Party, at least the smaller government part. At the close of the play when Scrooge relents and turns into a fuzzy darling, I almost called him a traitor to his cause. I’m not certain that, in those Victorian times, he would have had some public way to express his outrage, as we do with the Internet, but the poor man, I told my guests, may just have been looking for a forum to speak his piece.

One of my guests, my sister, opined that I had had too much wine before we went to the play and that my thinking was muddled. I chalked her reasoning up to holiday fever, where she along with others has “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.”

The next issue of ILS is ready for printing a week before Christmas. The publisher closes the third quarter a week later, but the end of the fiscal year is still three months away. So all I have to do is get the editorial finalized and I, too, can enjoy the December refrain, Happy Holidays to all.

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