Not everyone gets to take the holiday off
By Bobbie Poynter
Christmas is a time for family, but some people, depending on where they work or profession they’re in, may not always have that choice. Then again, they may be given the choice, but choose to work the holiday instead. Whether it is required that a person work the holiday or whether it is voluntary, there is still the question of how or when that person will get to celebrate the holiday with family.
Gary Gray, has served as a Knox County dispatcher for two years and pulled the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Christmas Day rotation.
“We’re on duty here 24/7 365 days a year,” said Gray. “There’s no use in trying to hide it, beat around it, or get out of it. If it falls on your day, you work it.”
Gray’s family split their Christmas celebrations so that they could spend different days with their extended families. However, the dispatcher got his wife Katie and two-year-old daughter Loren up at 5 a.m. Christmas Day so they could open their presents together.
“I took this position with the understanding it was a selfless job. You just have to remember that someone always has to be here. This job has no breaks.”
Law enforcement officers are probably the first thing people think of when they think of someone out working on the holiday. That’s because it’s their job to remain visible to the community, even when the rest of the city is off and at home.
Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Claude Hudson is a 15-year veteran police officer who takes the holiday in stride.
“If the holiday falls on your day to work, you just work it,” he said.
Hudson worked from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Christmas Day.
“My family works around my schedule,” said Hudson. “We still get to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day if I don’t have a killing or stabbing to make me work over. We promised the public we’d be here 24 hours a day, so someone’s gotta go.”
Hudson’s family opened their Christmas presents on Dec. 23. Their family spent time with the in-laws Christmas Eve and his mom and dad’s on Christmas Day.
“It make for a more exciting Christmas for the kids,” he said. “They get both a Chinese Christmas and a traditional Christmas.”
Detective Steve Owens of the Barbourville Police Department also worked Christmas Day.
“Somebody has to work, no matter what time of year it is,” said Owens. “People still need protection.”
Owens worked the 3-11 p.m. shift Christmas Day. Since his shift began in the afternoon, he and his family were able to spent Christmas together that morning. However, they also celebrated some the day before Christmas and a bit the day after Christmas.
“You take it when you can,” he said.
=======Sara White-Amber Elliott====
Sara White, of Barbourville, has been working at the Knox County Hospital Emergency Room registration deck for three years. She spent her Christmas with her five-year-old before she clocked in for work on Christmas Day.
“We try to rotate the staff and volunteers here at the hospital,” said Janet Wilder of the hospital’s Human Resources Department. “But there are some who simply volunteer so that their co-workers can be home with their babies.”
Holidays, Wilder said, can be especially busy at the hospital.
“We get everything from sinus infections to the flu, cuts to broken bones,” she said. “Doctors’ offices are closed, so the ER gets everthing.”
Dr. Robert Bond, director of the emergency department, spoke for his staff. “Accidents and illnesses don’t take place on a schedule. Somebody has to be available for the public at all times. You choose this profession, you know its provisions. Sure, we’d all rather be at home with our families, but sometimes, it’s the nature of the game. You do what you signed up to do.”
Pamela North, is a registered nurse, and has served in the Knox County Hospital’s ER for 20 years.
“We rotate holidays,” she explained. “This is simply my year to work.”
North pulled a 12-hour shift from 8 a.m. to midnight on Christmas Day. Everyone in the ER, she said, is scheduled 12-hour shifts.
“My family brings me Christmas dinner,” she said. “And if things don’t get too crazy here, which it often does on holidays, they’ll stick around and eat dinner with me.”
Nobody’s immune to the sound of an ambulance’s shrill siren and flashing lights, and it seems even more unnerving when it’s a holiday. But, still, someone has to be on call to transport victims to the hospital.
Niki Reynolds, of Barbourville, a three-year EMT with Knox EMS, volunteered to work Christmas Day, while her partner, Parametic Steven Dykes, of Somerset, drew the short straw as he has only been with Knox EMS for about three weeks.
Matt Hobbs volunteered to work at the EMS station Christmas Day.
“It’s not like anyone here wouldn’t work for someone else at any time,” said Hobbs. “We’re all family here, perhaps a dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. In fact, my wife, even cooked Christmas dinner, for those working today, and even some of those that are off will probably stop by. We’re that close.”
Not always are people forced to work the holiday. Once in a while it may have nothing to do with the people or the circumstances. For Home Tuttle, a cook at the Knox County Detention Center, it’s all about the love the work.
“I didn’t last any time at all after retiring,” said Tuttle. “So I got a job here at the jail. But, at my age, it was kind of hard to keep up with everyone else. Then I got offered the job here in the kitchen, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Tuttle and his wife had the grandchildren over for Christmas after he had served the 4 p.m. chili supper at the jail. Everyone at the house understood Grandpa couldn’t hold out forever.
“When I get too tired, my daughter takes a look at me and sends me off to bed,” he said. “My wife knows how I am and takes it in stride. Working can wear me out sometimes, but she knows I love what I do. And I think the inmates at the jail do too. They’re lucky they’re at this jail and not somewhere else. Here, they’re treated with respect.”
So where do you go when you’ve procrastinated about buying gas for your long trip to the in-laws? How about the batteries you forgot to buy for the electronic toys? No problem. The convenient store down the street is always open.
Travis Smith, 22, of Stinking Creek, is a clerk at the A & B Quick Stop. The store is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so folks in the Artemus area never have to drive all the way into town to buy milk in the middle of the night.
“I really don’t mind working Christmas Day,” said Smith. “People are always in a really good mood when they come in. A lot of them even thank us for being open. Besides, I need the extra money.”
Smith’s shift started at 5:30 a.m., so he woke his family at 4 a.m. so that they could have their family celebration on Christmas Day.
The people and occupations in this story are only a sampling of those out there working on the holidays. Many other occupations or businesses could have been mentioned in the story, but there simply was not enough room for everyone.
Anytime you’re in a job where you need to be accessible to the public 24 hours a day, you run the risk of having to work a holiday. Besides those listed above, there are also radio D.J.s, nursing home attendants, half-way houses, motels, homeless shelters or even children’s homes that must be manned at all times.
Perhaps these jobs wouldn’t be quite so hard if people were a little more like some of Travis Smith’s customers and just said thank you.