Janesville61.8°

Local residents make most of Christmas work schedules

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
December 27, 2010
— In the empty waiting room at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville, an overhead television played the film "A Christmas Story."

It was the schoolyard scene depicting the kid with his tongue stuck to a metal pole.


The fire department was en route. Later, characters will exclaim that somebody was bound to shoot their eye out.


"Don't even say it," said Julie Trickle, the trauma center's patient registration clerk, waving her hands as if to ward off the scene. "Because then we'll get that call today."


It was early on Saturday, Christmas Day, and the trauma center's staff already was working on the day's first emergency—a patient who injured his hand in a snow blower.


It was a relatively minor holiday occurrence, said trauma center doctor Craig Goldstein.


"He'll do fine. He's an easy one," Goldstein said. "Off he goes, and he'll be happy for the holidays."


Goldstein said he wishes everyone brought into the emergency room Christmas morning could be discharged by noon. He feels sorry for people who have to spend the holidays in the hospital. But he doesn't feel bad that about having to work.


In fact, he's volunteered to work every Christmas since he can remember.


"I'm the Jewish doctor in the group," he said, smiling.


Jennifer Fredrick, a cashier at the Mobil Travel Center on Highway 14 in Janesville was scheduled to work second shift on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


Fredrick said the holiday crush brought in extra gas sales to the station, which serves Interstate 90/39—but it's the upswing in food sales that boggles her mind.


"Everybody was buying tons of deli food and pizza and stuff today. They're on their way to families, and they're saying they need last-minute food for dinners," Fredrick said.


She's also seen an uptick in friendly customers who took time to wish her a happy holiday.


"People are way, way more friendly than usual. They're more cheerful. It makes working on Christmas not that bad," Fredrick said.


Saturday morning at Janesville's Fire Station No. 1, members of the Janesville Fire Department dug into a holiday breakfast of eggs, hash browns and biscuits and gravy.


The whole firehouse had shelled out-of-pocket to buy the food, and everyone helped prepare the feast.


Even though the gravy got overcooked, the meal softened the blow of a Christmas Day shift.


"This meal is something really special for us," said Scott Morovits, the fire department's shift commander Saturday.


For Morovits and the department's regular staff of 24, a holiday is like any other day at work—it starts early, with crews readying their gear and trucks for any calls.


At 8 a.m., things were quiet. But in the three days leading up to Christmas, the department had more than 70 calls, including a kitchen fire Friday.


Capt. Jody Stowers said holidays can be as unpredictable for fire and emergency workers as any other day. He recalled one year in the late 1980s, when he was part of an ambulance crew on New Year's Eve.


"We were out on calls continuously from 7 at night until four in the morning. It never stopped," he said.


Stowers said some of fire department's younger members who have families at home work around holiday shifts by scheduling Christmas celebrations at different times.


That's exactly what bartender Matt Murray did.


Murray, who works at East Point Sportz Pub on Milwaukee Street on the city's east side, was slated to work from 8 p.m. until closing Christmas Day.


He'd planned Christmas ahead of time; he'd enjoyed watching his infant son play with shiny ribbons and wrapping paper earlier in the day.


"Now he's sleeping, and so I might as well be out earning some money. It just seems like a good financial decision," Murray said.


Clad in a red cardigan sweater vest embroidered with snowmen and penguins, Murray was casually upbeat. Blues Traveler's "The Hook" floated out of a jukebox, and the neon-lit neighborhood bar bustled with about 50 patrons.


Murray said he couldn't be grouchy if he tried.


"These aren't random people in here tonight. They're our regulars, coming in to say hello, like family," he said. "Before you can even regret working, they're already wishing you a good Christmas. That makes it worth it."



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