EDITORIAL: A Christmas Letter from the Cratchits of Chicago

SHARE EDITORIAL: A Christmas Letter from the Cratchits of Chicago
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Scrooge (Larry Yando) and Bob Cratchit (Ron Rains) in a Goodman Theatre production of Charles Dickens'’ A Christmas Carol. | Sun-Times file

What wonders, dear friends! Such a happy year! One hardly knows where to begin.

If all tales must have a beginning — and of course they must — our family’s great turn of fortune surely began on a cold Chicago morning in January last.

A federal inspector who looks at workplace safety made a surprise visit to Scrooge & Marley’s, where my Bob, the faithful husband, had worked for years. The fellow was aghast.

“A space heater?” said the inspector. “Your only heat comes from a Walmart space heater?”

“It’s not so bad, sir,” said Bob, always the one for loyalty, even to a Mr. Scrooge. “I bundle up and wear the muffler and the gloves, you know, and me top hat. Mr. Scrooge can explain it all to your satisfaction, sir, when he returns. He’s down on 43rd Street, turning out a tenant.”

But as it was, as our Bob told it to me later, Mr. Scrooge could explain nothing!

“We’re living in 21st Century Chicago, Mr. Scrooge, not Victorian England,” the inspector told Scrooge. And then he made a phone call.

A city building inspector was knocking at Scrooge & Marley’s door before the Angelus could ring, and this time it wasn’t Mr. Marley’s brother-in-law. She shut the whole place down until Mr. Scrooge puts in central heating, rewires the electricity, installs fire sprinklers and calls in an exterminator.

Well, Mr. Scrooge was mad as hops. “Bah humbug!” he said. “This is how you treat job creators?”

Our Bob, always one to make a go of a bad spot, proposed to work from home if only Mr. Scrooge would buy him a laptop. But, alas, this too quickly proved impossible.

Bob had been feeling poorly, and his constitution took a turn for the worse. His back gave out from carrying all the heavy ledgers Mr. Scrooge would not replace with a computer. His breathing grew frightful from asbestos falling from the office ceiling. His right arm went numb from electric shock when he plugged in a lamp as old as Mr. Scrooge himself.

Happily, Bob is left-handed!

The very next day, Bob and I rode the Blue Line to Stroger Hospital. The doctors all wanted to try on Bob’s battered old top hat. They asked an awful lot of questions.

“Sixty hours a week?” asked one doctor. “And no overtime pay?”

“You work, you say, in a ‘sort of little tank?'” asked another.

“No paid vacation?” asked a third. “No pension? No health insurance?”

“Tell us again what this boss of yours, this Mr. Scrooge, had to say about Christmas,” said a fourth. “A ‘poor excuse every 25th of December to pick a man’s pocket?'”

They called in a social worker.

That very week, Bob filed a workers’ compensation claim. And he sued Scrooge & Marley for never paying him a farthing of overtime.

“Make that ‘a dime,’ not ‘a farthing,'” said a legal aid lawyer who helped him fill out the paperwork.

Well, friends, you can guess what happened next. Mr. Scrooge gave our Bob the boot!

Fortunately for the Cratchits, Bob was able to collect unemployment insurance, and he made out fine in the workers’ comp suit. The judge had choice words for Mr. Scrooge’s barristers.

And now, lest you have not heard, I should also tell you this: We signed up for Obamacare! And Tiny Tim has a regular doctor! The dear child hardly has need for a crutch anymore, says the doctor, and he’ll be playing for the White Sox in no time.

“How about the Cubs?” asked our Tim. Ha, ha, ha!

“No!” said the doctor. Ha, ha, ha!

Bob is feeling a far sight better, as well, and we all are feeling blessed.

Bob has taken a new position in the West Loop. The salary is better and there’s a 401k match. Our eldest boy, Peter, is a union electrician now, working at McCormick Place. And Belinda is at NIU. Thank the stars for public universities!

Belinda says she can’t believe how “clueless” her father was all these years, but she says it kindly.

As for me, I’m back at university, too, studying English literature.

But as I was walking home from class one evening, whom should I see?

Why, it was Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge himself, shambling down Halsted Street, looking like he’d seen a ghost.

The old geezer was shouting up a riot, going on to perfect strangers about the horrors of corporate taxes and workers’ comp laws and labor unions and workplace safety rules and Obamacare and death taxes and “government giveaways” like unemployment insurance and Medicaid.

Poor Mr. Scrooge, will he never grow a heart? Not that I care. The whole Cratchit family has had its fill of “trickle-down” nonsense.

So much for now, dear friends. Except to remind you that we’ll be taking a cottage in Michigan this summer and hope to see you all. We’ll play blind man’s bluff!

Until then, as Tiny Tim would say, “God bless us, everyone!”

And that includes, Bob insists, Mr. Scrooge.

Happy holidays!

From Bob and Mrs. Cratchit and the children

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