Telecommuter's Christmas Carol
to you and © copyright 1996 by
brought to you and © copyright 1996 by
The American Telecommuting Association
1220 L Street, NW, Suite 100
Washington, DC 20005
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A Telecommuter's Christmas Carol
© 1996 by The American Telecommuting Association
(All rights reserved. May not be used in any way, or any medium,without express written permission of the American Telecommuting Association.)
Stave 1: Marley's Ghost
Once upon a time — on Christmas Eve, it was — old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy, and he could hear the people outside, wheezing past, beating their hands and stamping their feet to keep warm. The city clocks had just struck three, and lights were burning in the windows of the neighboring offices.
The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye on his clerk, who in a dismal little cubicle beyond was working diligently. He had begged to work from home today, because of the weather and the inconvenience of travel, as well as the cost to Scrooge for heating and lighting his small office. But Scrooge was not in a mood — no he was never in a mood — to countenance slackers working, or more likely playing, at home while collecting a paycheck from him. So Bob Cratchit was here, as he was every week day, working as best he could but wishing he could be in more productive, more enjoyable surroundings without the prospect of a long trip through the bitter wintry wide at the end of the day.
"A merry Christmas, Uncle! God save you!" cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, coming in the door.
"Bah!" said Scrooge, "Humbug!"
"Christmas a humbug, Uncle!" said Scrooge's nephew. "You don't mean that, do you?"
"I do," said Scrooge. "What right or reason have you to be merry? You're poor, aren't you?."
"Well, Uncle," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be unhappy? You're rich, aren't you?"
"Bah! Humbug," returned the Uncle. "What a world of fools I live in. What's Christmas but a time for paying bills without money; and" with a look at old Bob Cratchit, "for making unwelcome demands on honest employers. "
"What do you mean, dear Uncle?"
"Old Cratchit has been after me again to let him begin telecommuting. Does he really expect me to let him out of my sight? To give him leave to work at his own time, at his own place? How will I know he's well and truly engaged? How will I know what he's doing? Along with Christmas, let me leave telecommuting alone, then," said Scrooge. "Much good has it ever done anyone!"
"There are many things from which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew. "But telecommuting is not among them. I have always found my telecommuting work days to be a good time; a useful, highly productive, pleasant time, a time when men and women seem to open their hearts and minds freely, and to put forward their best efforts on behalf of their employers, as well as all mankind. And therefore, Uncle, even if it had never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that telecommuting has done me good, and will continue to do me good; and I say, God bless it!"
At this outburst, Bob Cratchit involuntarily applauded. But becoming immediately aware of old Scrooge's sour reaction, he went back to his books at once.
"Let me hear another sound from you," said Scrooge, "and you'll begin telecommuting by losing your job right here! You're quite a powerful speaker, sir," he added, turning to his nephew. "I wonder you don't go into Parliament, or consulting."
"Don't be angry, Uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow."
Scrooge at once refused, but with a curl of his lip suggested, "Perhaps I can telecommute to your house for dinner. Would that suit you, nephew?"
"I am indeed sorry to find you so set in your ways. But if you change your mind, you'll be welcome any time!"
His nephew left the room and stopped for a moment to talk with Bob in the outer office.
At length the quitting hour arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge got up from his desk. Bob instantly turned off his desk light and put on his hat.
"You'll want all day off to-morrow, I suppose?" said Scrooge.
"It's not convenient," said Scrooge, "but go ahead."
Scrooge walked out with a growl, and Bob followed, locking up.
After a melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern, Scrooge went home to bed, where he tossed and turned fitfully, as though his dinner did not agree with his sour stomach.
Hours later, he began to hear a clanking noise, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain in the cellar. The noise grew louder, on the floors below; up the stairs; coming straight towards his door.
"Humbug!" said Scrooge. "I won't believe it."
His color changed though, when Marley came through the heavy door without a pause. A chain of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel was wrapped around his transparent body.
" What do you want with me?" asked Scrooge
"In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley."
" I don't believe in you!" said Scrooge.
"Why do you doubt your senses?"
"I've never seen a spirit before. Why should I see one now? You could easily be an undigested bit of beef, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato." Scrooge chuckled. "I warrant there's more of gravy than of grave about you!"
At this the spirit shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise that Scrooge fell upon his knees in fear.
" Dreadful apparition," he said, in fervent self-interest. "what do you want with me?"
"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and wore it of my own free will. It grew longer every day that I refused to allow our employees to enjoy the benefits of telecommuting...."
Scrooge trembled even more.
"Yours was as heavy and long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. And you have labored long and hard upon it, ever since."
"What can I do, Jacob?," Scrooge asked, imploringly.
"I cannot rest, I cannot linger anywhere. In life, my spirit never tried a new idea. Now I pay with endless repetition of my old habits!"
"But you were always a good businessman, Jacob," offered Scrooge.
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "I was short-sighted. I was too rigid. I was uncomfortable doing anything I hadn't grown up doing. Good management should have been my business. Environmental pollution should have been my business. Efficiency, new procedures, and giving employees more flexibility should all have been my business. Keeping people chained to their desks was but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"
The ghost held up its chain at arm's length, and flung it heavily upon the ground.
"Hear me!" cried the Ghost. "My time is nearly gone."
"I will," said Scrooge. "But don't be hard upon me!"
"I am here tonight to warn you," whispered the Ghost. "There is yet a chance of you escaping my fate. "
"You were always a good friend to me," said Scrooge.
"You will be haunted," resumed the Ghost, "by Three Spirits."
Scrooge's countenance sagged.
"Without their visits," said the Ghost, "you cannot hope to avoid the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the clock tolls one. You will see me no more; but for your own sake, remember what has passed between us!"
The apparition walked backward; and at every step it took, the window raised a little, until it was wide open, and the specter floated out upon the bleak, dark night.
Scrooge followed to the window and looked out. The air was filled with phantoms, wandering and moaning. Every one wore chains like Marley's. Scrooge knew many of them, including one old ghost, dressed in white, with a monstrous iron desk and filing cabinet chained to its ankle. He cried piteously at being unable to assist a working mother below, torn between staying at home with her baby and traveling to her employer's downtown office. The misery of these phantoms was, clearly, that now they yearned to interfere, for the better, in human matters, and now — having waited too long — had forever lost the power to do so.
Stave 2: The First of the Three Spirits
When Scrooge awoke, it was so dark that he could barely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque walls of his chamber.
Then the curtains of his bed were drawn aside by a hand; and Scrooge found himself face to face with a strange figure — like a child: yet also like an old man. Its hair was white with age; yet the face had not a wrinkle. The arms were muscular. It wore a tunic of the purest white, trimmed with summer flowers, and held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand. From the crown of its head sprung a bright clear light, by which all this was visible; and which could be darkened with a cap, which it now held under its arm.
"Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me." asked Scrooge.
"I am the Ghost of Telecommuting Past."
Shaking uncontrollably, Scrooge begged him to cover his head.
"What." exclaimed the Ghost," would you have me extinguish the light I only now am beginning to give? Is it not enough that you are among those who helped stitch together this cap, and forced me to wear it for so many years?"
Scrooge reverently disclaimed any intention to offend, or willfully darken the Spirit's light. and meekly inquired what brought him to this bedroom at such an hour.
"Your welfare." said the Ghost. "Rise. and walk with me." ...
* * *
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