By Audrey W.
John Gage glanced around as he and his partner Roy DeSoto headed for an exit at the Carson Mall. Roy had their biophone and drug box in his hands, Johnny carried the oxygen canister in one of his. The paramedics had been sent to the location for a reported ‘man down’. However it turned out the man was faking severe stomach cramps in an effort to get his wife to stop Christmas shopping so he could return home to watch a football game on TV. He hadn’t expected the mall management to call the fire department and was quite surprised when the two firemen walked in.
Something through the crowded corridor caught Gage’s attention and he nudged his partner in the arm. Roy looked at him, then gazed to where he was looking.
The two stopped walking.
“Roy, don’tcha see? What they’re doin’ over there.”
The senior paramedic searched for what might stand out. There was a long line of people leading up to a counter. And two ladies wearing red velvet granny caps with lace trim were behind the counter, wrapping gifts.
“Yeah? What about it.”
“ What about it? What about it?”
Roy nodded. “That’s what I asked. What about it?”
“Well, you’ve been sayin’ how you could use some extra money right now. And I know I can use some extra,” he said, his right hand splayed across his chest.
“Yeah. . .”
Roy had a feeling he knew where this was going, but waited to be sure.
“We could do a job like that on our days off!”
Roy again looked at the long line of people and the two busy ladies. “I don’t think so.”
“Ah, c’mon, sure we could!” Johnny’s voice was full of confidence and enthusiasm. “I mean. . .well, look. It’s a precision job, right? So is bein’ a paramedic. You’ve gotta be good with your hands for detail, but our job requires that too,” he shrugged. “And you’ve gotta deal with different kinds of people, but when have we not done that in a twenty-four hour period anyway?”
It all sounded logical enough. But somehow Roy got the feeling wrapping gifts for others would be a little more complicated than it appeared.
“C’mon,” Johnny said, as he started in the direction of the booth. “Let’s get the name of the company they work for and at least check it out.”
Roy gave it a few seconds of thought. What could it hurt to look? It wasn’t like he was agreeing to anything.
“That’ll be two dollars and fifty cents,” Johnny said as he handed the wrapped gift box back to a middle aged woman.
He and Roy had decided to give the gift wrapping business a try, Roy reluctantly at Johnny’s continued coaxing over the past few days. They’d been supplied with five pre-wrapped boxes to stick up on a wall behind them so customers could see the patterns of paper available as well as the typical size of packages the men would handle and what each size category cost. Also with plenty of rolls of paper, plus tape, scissors, ribbon and bows. The only thing they had to supply for themselves were the Santa hats each were required to wear while on the job.
After he gave the woman change for a ten dollar bill, Johnny grinned at his partner as he closed the lid on the tin box they kept their money in. Each week the wrappers were supposed to get paid fifty percent of what they brought in and already in just a half day’s work, the paramedics had done pretty good. . .mostly with women as customers. Some had even left a tip!
“Man, we shoulda done this sooner,” Johnny said.
Roy had to agree. It was going better than he’d expected. But of course, they really hadn’t known enough about it earlier to even give it thought.
The paramedics’ anxiously set up for their second day of wrapping. If every time went as well as the first, they’d have it made.
Johnny greeted his third customer of the day, a lady in her early fifties in a red sweater, a green felt Christmas tree sewn on to match her green slacks.
“I’d like that wrapping paper,” she said as she pointed to a silver shiny one on display. “For this box,” she added as she set a medium sized package on the counter.
“Good deal,” Johnny commented. He grabbed the paper, scissors and tape to begin. Once he almost had the job complete, the woman pointed to another display.
“You know, I think I changed my mind.”
He stopped in mid taping of one of the ends. “What?”
“I said I think I changed my mind.”
“But I’ve almost got this done.”
“Yes, but I don’t want that one anymore. There’s no sign here that says I can’t change my mind. I want that gold paper instead.”
“Ma’am. . .”
“I won’t pay for a paper I don’t want to use.”
He glanced at Roy, who was involved in his own trouble as well. His current customer claimed she didn’t want to pay because she could do just as well on her own.
“The why didn’t you?” DeSoto asked.
“I didn’t want to.”
“Then you should pay for what you wanted.”
Johnny sighed. Women!
But it wasn’t long before he found out it wasn’t just ladies who changed their minds. When a guy came up to the counter and said, “Just wrap it in anything” for a gift for his fiance’, Johnny had no sooner cut the paper to fit when the customer decided, “You know what?”
“You changed your mind?”
He nodded. “I’ll take that red paper instead.”
Johnny put the other paper aside in hopes it would fit a box later and grumbling to himself did as the man requested.
Roy got half his money from his problem lady, which was better than nothing. He hoped he never saw that woman again. But another customer a few people later wasn’t much better in helping his income.
His wife smiled. “I wanted to see how you were doing and bring you some business at the same time,” she explained.
How could he explain this was a bad idea without hurting her feelings or ending up on the couch that night? Sure, she would be paying him to wrap their son’s and daughter’s two gifts she just purchased. But in truth, she’d just be giving him his money. And since she’d be paying in full and he only earned half on a sale, her ‘help’ would end up costing him two jobs’ income.
Sometimes a guy had to let things slide to spare his wife’s feelings and Roy felt now was one of those. With a forced smile, he wrapped the gifts. At least his tip here would be a kiss.
Johnny’s face flushed when an eighty-year-old woman he’d just wrapped for saw Roy and Joanne do a quick smooch and asked, “Do I get one of those from you?”
He’d tried to stammer his way out of it, poorly at that, and ended up giving her a peck on the cheek. She’d left with a smile and nearly forgot her package.
All-in-all, day two wasn’t the worst.
The third day of wrapping gifts started out okay, but it wasn’t long before it became obvious people’s nerves were getting short the closer it got to Christmas.
“Can’t you wrap any faster?” a woman prodded Johnny, her husband standing behind her, his arms folded across his chest. “The kids’re supposed to be back here soon and they’re going to see what we bought them!”
“Well, why did you bring the kids along if you knew you were gonna be buyin’ for ‘um?”
“We didn’t want to pay a sitter.”
He couldn’t say it, but it seemed it would be worth an extra bit of money to keep the children home while out buying them presents they weren’t supposed to see.
“Can you wrap this?” a man asked Roy.
He and his wife had a toddler’s kitchen set, the box was huge.
“No, Sir. That’s the largest size we do,” he said as he pointed to a display box on the wall.
“That’s not fair!” His wife exclaimed. “Not everyone is shopping for small stuff!”
Johnny glanced over from his latest headache causer.
“Maybe you should just charge ‘um double. It’ll be nearly pure profit.”
Roy shook his head at both ideas. The paper wasn’t even big enough to cover it. He’d have to piece it together, and the way things had gone lately, he was sure the customer would just get mad.
In the meantime, Johnny’s customer continued to rush him.
By the end of the day, the men had dealt with endless demands. One customer was so hard to please, they ended up selling a roll of paper to her cheap just to get her to leave.
As they closed up shop and gathered their stuff together in a couple of large bags, Santa hats still on their heads, Johnny remarked, “You know, maybe we should quit while we’re ahead.”
“We’re ahead?” Roy questioned. “Somehow today felt more like we lost.”
Gage snorted a laugh.
“But I agree.”
“So should we call it a wrap?” Johnny asked with a grin at his own pun.
Roy nodded as they headed for an exit, their supplies and money box in hand. “It’s a wrap.”
Watching my husband and daughter wrap some presents the other day inspired this. My husband out does both of us with his wrapping ability (he's so neat with it!), and I got to thinking about Johnny and Roy. :o)
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