‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 12-14: Breakup and Crashdown
Noella is in the depths of despair following the I-believe-in-Santa breakup. Understandable, I suppose.
But remember, Noella has a terrific career that she loves. From Chapter 1:
Noella loved being in her office. She told herself she didn’t teach journalism, she taught students. The more hours she spent in her office, the more contact she enjoyed with them.
This love is so great that Noella sits in her office all day on the day after Thanksgiving, the only faculty member to do so.
That is how dedicated she is.
Noella has called in sick on the eighth and ninth [of December], sent a message to her classes on the tenth saying they could study independently that day, then gave them Friday, the eleventh, off as her Christmas gift. They left for the holidays.
Well, I’ll give it Jenkins: he did the research on the 1998 calendar. The 11th of December was indeed a Friday that year.
But, the rest.
Okay, I am not now and have never been a journalism student, undergraduate or grad, but do these students not have exams or final projects? Can Noella really just check out for the month of December? Is this the RTC view of “ivory-tower intellectuals”–that going to work is optional?
Apparently not, because Noella gets the following “nasty” phone message from Connie Ng, the department chair:
We don’t write our own schedules here. If you have an emergency, you’ll find me more than accomodating. I can’t help but wonder whether you simply sliced yourself a bigger piece of the holiday pie than your tenure warrants. Better save some days for your honeymoon.
Okay, I am really trying to see this as “nasty,” but I am hard-pressed to think of a message that is kinder or gentler, given Noella’s actions.
(Oh, and can I say that I dislike the fact that the only characters who are probably non-white, Connie Ng and LaShawna Jackson, are negative, the one being the “nasty” department chair and the other the poor, pitiful, poverty-stricken single mom?)
Noella gets some sympathy from her “feminist” pal, Sue:
“It was my decision, Sue. It wouldn’t have worked. I’m sanguine. He’s–”
“Oh, stop with that. You’re the best thing that ever happened to him, and if that didn’t make him a more positive person–”
“I tried to make him something he wasn’t.”
“A man with half a brain would change for you, Noella. One day he’ll realize–”
“Sue, I need you not to think ill of Tom.”
Yeah, real feminist, that Sue. Men should change for women. I’d say that this was Jenkins’ own little Straw Feminist, but turns out that Sue is right, and Tom will have to change for Noella, so…
Meanwhile, Tom is depressed and turns in a “mediocre” column. His editor, Walt, calls him into the office, but instead of dressing him down, says he needs to cure his depression by getting out of the city. He suggests that Tom use a trip to write his annual Christmas piece.
Tom seems to crawl out of his funk, at least a bit, as he researches Christmas traditions. He wants to go to the Black Forest in Germany and interview people about Kris Kringle. So the paper flies him to Germany. I have no idea if this is remotely plausible, but it does sound like an awesome paid vacation.
Is this gorgeous or what? Picture from Das Seegerhaus.
(This is not presented as important, but it appears that Tom speaks not a word of German. How he is going to get these interviews without an interpreter, I’m sure I don’t know. I have heard that many Germans speak excellent English, but is Tom really counting on that from every German person he wishes to interview?)
While Tom is winging to Germany, Noella is interviewing the single father with three kids. Although we were told that the dad teaches the kids that Santa is just a myth, the youngest child and only girl, Betsy, really believes. She and Noella bond over this. Sorta.
“I wrote him when I was little.” [Noella said]
“What did he bring you?” [Betsy asked]
Noella showed her the necklace.
“Did you ask for it?”
“I bet your daddy got you that.”
“It was Santa.”
“Nuh-uh. Not if you didn’t ask for it.”
Oh, SNAP! Noella just got told! By a second-grader!
In case you are wondering: Betsy, despite her brothers’ teasing, is asking Santa for only one thing: a restful holiday season for her father, who works very hard.
PAY ATTENTION BECAUSE THIS WILL BECOME IMPORTANT LATER
Back in Germany, Tom gets a charter flight into the Black Forest. It is just him, the pilot, and two Canadian businessmen delivering a printing press. To the Black Forest.
I guess people in the Black Forest need Canadian printing presses, too.
Tom falls asleep on the flight, and wakes up to find that the plane is crashing.
And I know this will shock you all, but Tom is the only survivor.
Tomorrow: Tom’s survival techniques, and his (heh) unlikely saviors.