Christmas day of joy, labor

From nurses to officers, plumbers to baristas, Yule holiday just another workday

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter



When her children were a little younger, Vancouver resident Jamie Zimmerman didn’t have to worry about them asking why mom had to be away from home, at work, on Christmas Day.

But her 6-year-old daughter and her 4-year-old son are now old enough to let the questions fly.

“This year,” Zimmerman, 34, said, “they know.”

They know, and they also understand why, said Zimmerman, a nurse at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center who will, from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., tend to patients on Christmas Day this year.

“They know that people need help at the hospital, so they understand that,” she said. “We’re thankful that I have a job. We’re blessed in that way.”

Zimmerman is among many Clark County residents for whom Christmas Day is really a labor day. Everyone from police officers and nurses to movie-theater ticket-takers to hotel and motel workers will be on the job during the holiday.

Not that those of us who have the day off will necessarily leave work completely at the office.

About 68 percent of employed American adults check work emails during traditional family holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to a recent online survey of 2,800 adults commissioned by Xobni, a San Francisco-based company that provides email and contact management services.

And of those who do check their emails during the holidays, about one in four do so multiple times during the day, the survey found.

When The Columbian spoke to local residents who will suit up for the office today (and check their work emails while actually at work), the paper found them taking it in stride.

One Starbucks worker said she’s looking forward to serving people who’ll be riding the day’s wave of cheerfulness. The owner of a plumbing company in Brush Prairie took a stoic’s view, saying it’s his job to fix things.

Others said that just because you have to work on Christmas doesn’t mean you don’t get to celebrate it before or after work.

‘A little brighter’

Or during work, for that matter. Zimmerman said PeaceHealth Southwest keeps its holiday workers well-fed, providing free “turkey and stuffing and all that good stuff.”

Teresa Decker, 51, a nurse and co-worker of Zimmerman’s, will act as the charge nurse on Christmas Day, overseeing a group of nurses as they “put out fires and make sure everything’s running smoothly,” she said.

Decker also planned to make almond rocha and add it to the “extra special treats” her co-workers bring to help spread holiday cheer at the hospital.

Working on Christmas doesn’t get her down, Decker said. She thinks of others, she said, including the family she and her colleagues adopted through a charitable program.

“When we delivered food and gifts for all the kids, it was just very special,” she said. “Otherwise they would not have had a Christmas.”

The patients she cares for also give Decker perspective. “I always look at my patients and think how lucky I am compared to where they are,” she said. “I try to make their day a little brighter.”

Getting the work done

For others, working on Christmas is a matter of getting the job done and helping others when they can.

“This is what I do for a living,” said Nathan Kysar, 44, owner of Nate’s Plumbing Inc. in Brush Prairie.

Kysar advertises his business as a 24-hour operation. True to his word,

those 24 hours include Christmas Day.

The company, which employs six people, rotates holiday duties every year. This Christmas, Kysar will tackle the on-call tasks.

It doesn’t bother him. He’s proud of the work he does, he said. “If it’s broke, we fix it.”

Kathy McNicholas, a sergeant with the Vancouver Police Department, isn’t working on Christmas this year, but she’s been on duty during the holiday plenty of times during her 12[ ] years with the department.

Family tensions can run high during the holiday, she said. Add alcohol to the mix, and you’re getting called to someone’s house.

For McNicholas, it’s a time to remember that some people just need an officer’s time, patience and sensitivity. “Especially with the homeless,” she said. “They need their meals. They need blankets.”

Conversely, McNicholas said, the officers who are out on patrol on Christmas are also away from their loved ones. That’s where a Christmas potluck and some camaraderie come in handy, she said. “We just try and all get together and eat between calls.”

This year, though, McNicholas said she’s looking forward to being with family on the holiday. Looking out for her colleagues, she does have one wish, though: “Be nice to officers,” she said.

Nicole Kaiel, 22, a Starbucks employee, will serve coffee and treats on Christmas Day at the company’s coffee shop inside the QFC grocery store off Southeast 192nd Avenue in Vancouver.

She said she’s looking forward to it. “People are wonderful on Christmas,” she said. In fact, she said, she volunteered to work the holiday this year.

As to her plans to celebrate the holiday away from work, Christmas Eve will serve that role perfectly. “I’m going to be cooking for my family,” she said.

Likewise, Jamie Zimmerman, the PeaceHealth Southwest nurse, will do most of her celebrating on Christmas Eve. She doesn’t dwell on the fact that she has to go to work the next day.

“With everything that’s going on around the country, I feel really lucky that I have a job,” Zimmerman said. “I can’t really complain about working Christmas.”

Aaron Corvin:;; 360-735-4518;