I was laid off more than two years ago. My unemployment compensation ran out, and things started getting pretty bad. Oftentimes, I went without eating. Desperate for a job, because no one was hiring me, I interviewed with Dan the Christmas Tree Man.
"So, why would you want to work for me, young man?" Dan narrowed his dark brown eyes and carefully watched my reaction.
"Well, Mr. Dan, sir: I was hoping I would get to work on the tree lot, and get to meet a lot of people and sell a ton of trees for you."
"Good attitude, boy. I like you. I want to hire you."
"When can I start working?"
"Right now, if you want to. I need you to put on that costume." Dan pointed to some gnarly Christmas tree garb propped up in the corner of the office. "My last three guys quit."
"Oh… kay… What do you want me to do?"
"It's simple. Stand out on the corner, just outside of the tree lot. Then, dance around and shout and bring those customers in!"
I stepped into the costume, and then hobbled out to the street corner as instructed. It wasn't long and cars started honking at me. Some of them shouted obscenities at me. Even pedestrians made rude comments as they walked by. What is that all about? I thought. I’m just trying to pay my bills.
I decided to fight back. When the next wave of cars stopped at the red light, I started barking as they waited.
"Forget those FAKE plastic trees! Get a real tree today, get a free wreath! Forget those FAKE plastic trees! Get a real tree today, get a free wreath!"
It worked. Cars, minivans, crossovers, SUVs and trucks all stopped. Dozens of customers flooded the tree lot.
Dan the Christmas Tree Man was ecstatic.
"Keep it up, boy an' there'll be a bonus for ya!"
Out of curiosity, people flocked to the tree lot from nearby homes. Several brought their dogs. The smaller dogs barked incessantly, attacking my feet, chewing on the roots on the costume that covered my shoes. Finally, I got so sick of the barking dogs, I started barking back at them.
In every case, the owner would reply with the old cliché, "His bark is worse than his bite."
After the fourth person said that bark/bite response to me, I said to the lady, "He's got teeth, doesn't he?"
The lady just harrumphed and scampered away.
I shouted a few more times at the latest group of potential customers in cars. Then, something very strange happened. A young mother, along with her six-year-old son stopped. The child stood there, pointing at my face.
"Mommy, lookit the man in the tree! Lookit, mommy!"
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Tree."
"Mommy, trees can't talk. Why does this tree talk, Mommy? Why, Mommy? Why?!?!"
I wanted to scare away this annoying kid, in a nice way. "Go away! Leave this place. Grrrrr."
"Don't growl at me, Mr. Tree! Take this. Take that."
The little monster starting kicking me.
"That's enough!" I reached down to grab the little brat.
He snagged the branches on my costume as I stood up, but then he slipped down the rugged trunk portion. The poor kid started screaming. Finally—almost mercifully—the mother stopped chatting with her friend long enough to come to the child’s rescue.
"Oh, my goodness. What happened here?"
"That mean old tree man tried to bite me, Mommy. He yelled at me, and then he tried to bite me."
Now, let’s slow down for just a minute."
"I said, settle down!"
"Please do not climb on the tree man."
I interjected, "I promise, ma'am, I did not try to bite your son."
"I believe you, sir. Now, son, I want you to apologize to the tree man."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Tree Man."
"Let this be a lesson for you."
"Mr. Tree Man's bark is worse than his bite."
"I know, I know, Mommy: you are about to say: And Mommy's bite is worse than her bark. What does that mean, anyway?"
"It means I will yell at you to correct you, but if you don't listen, I will punish you. The Bible says Foolishness is tangled up in the heart of a youth; the rod of discipline will drive it away from him." Proverbs 22:15 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
"All right, Mommy. I love you."
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