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Christmas 'just another day' for some workers

December 26, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS and ANDREW SCHOTZ

wandaw@herald-mail.com
andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The world doesn't stop on Christmas Day, which is why Harry Showe was up and out of bed while most people were still sleeping.

"I got up at 5:30 a.m. to come in at 6 a.m. to relieve the midnight to 8 a.m. dispatcher, so he could go home and spend the morning with his kids," said Showe, a taxi driver for Miller Transportation.

Showe, 32, said he's no stranger to working on the Christmas holiday - it's a family tradition.

His father spent 25 years behind the wheel of a taxi as a driver with Hagerstown's Turner Taxi service, until his death in 1997, Showe said.

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When you work in a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week business, you come to expect to work on Christmas, he said.

"My first pickup today was a lady and her young daughter going to the store," he said.

To make the holiday work schedules more enjoyable, Miller Transportation owner Rick Miller prepared a schedule that allows drivers a chance to enjoy some of the holiday with their family and friends.

"We asked drivers to volunteer to work and everyone works a four-hour shift," Showe said.

Showe, who doesn't have children, volunteered for the early shift, which he said allows drivers with young children an opportunity to spend Christmas morning with their families.

"Then they can come to work after presents have been opened and everybody is happy and content," he said.

Showe said about 14 to 24 of the company's taxi drivers will work four-hour shifts. They'll also get a chance to enjoy a delicious home-cooked Christmas dinner at the shop.

"The owner's wife is cooking dinner. If we want to go up and have a bite to eat we do that, and then we get right back to work," he said.

Like any other day of the year, people throughout the Tri-State area will accidentally lock themselves out of their cars, homes or businesses on Christmas, said Sue Leavelle, a dispatcher with R. J. Lock and Security in Hagerstown.

"Working on Christmas isn't so bad when you're helping someone in a crisis," said Leavelle, who formerly worked as a local and long distance operator for a phone company.

"When you work for the phone company, you were told that for the first five years you will work holidays and emergencies. It was a given," she said.

Leavelle said dispatchers volunteer to work on Christmas, and the company also has worked out a schedule of four-hour work shifts.

"It makes it a lot better so you don't have to work the whole day," she said.

She said the close-knit group works as a team, and staff with less seniority don't always get stuck working major holidays.

"It's also better for girls who have children. They can be there in the morning with their kids," Leavelle said.

The world also needs last-minute food and drink, judging by two other shops open in Hagerstown on Christmas.

Nadia Convenience Store at North Prospect and West Franklin streets was open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. - which is the shift Mudassir Bhutto worked.

He said he didn't mind working the day at the store his family owns, especially since he was getting overtime pay.

Bhutto said the store was busy until about 2 p.m., then it slowed down.

Saturday afternoon, Charles Burkholder was awaiting the deadline shoppers at Central City Liquors on West Washington Street.

They probably would arrive around 5 p.m., an hour before the store closes, he said.

"Everybody eats, then they don't have anything to drink," Burkholder said.

The same thing happens at about 10 or 11 p.m. on New Year's Eve, just as the store is about to close, he said.

Burkholder, the night manager, said the store opens on Christmas Day if enough employees volunteer to work. Last year, that didn't happen, but this year it did.

He said he's accustomed to Christmas as a workday. He was on duty that day while serving in the Navy and he managed the former McBare's Pub on South Potomac Street on Christmas nights.

"Holidays are just another day for me," he said.

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