Not all professions get a holiday break

By The Associated Press

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Inside 1 Seminole Way, the slot machines twinkled and whirred. Dealers shuffled cards. Security staff kept watch.

To the world outside, it was Christmas. But at the Hard Rock casino here, it could have been any other day.

Even as much of the world observes Christmas and New Year’s Day from the coziness of home, with family and comfort foods nearby, it isn’t that way for everyone. Some jobs deal in the never-ceasing circumstances of life: Doctors see patients. Zookeepers feed animals. Cops bust criminals.

Other wage earners get stuck pushing the gears of capitalism, cranking ever toward profit.

Among them: Colsky Louis, of North Lauderdale, Fla. While his wife was at a party, celebrating their 11-month-old son’s first Christmas, Louis, 26, was keeping the spaces between Money Wheel and Jackpot Explosion litter-free.

“Some of (the patrons) are nice,” Louis said. “But most of the time you say, ‘Excuse me, may I take your ash tray,’ they get mad. They’re focused on what they’re doing.”

That’s how Louis spent the hours between 2 and 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Day: emptying ash trays, disrupting the mojo of gamers. But Louis was a good sport. He smiled and insisted it’s not so bad among his colleagues, who are much like family to him. The patrons aren’t all grouchy, he said, and he enjoys customer service.

New Year’s Day is another big day for casinos — and for injuries.

“To work the holidays, it’s part of the service mind-set,” said Nabil El Sanadi, chief of emergency medicine at Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and it literally is expected.”

El Sanadi said there are three types of hospital visits particular to the holidays, and he was not joking about any of them. First are what he called “crimes of passion,” which happen “when families are forced to be together.” Second, Northerners visiting their aging loved ones discover them frailer than they remember and coax them into the emergency room.

“A third category of people is the lonely and depressed,” El Sanadi said. Fortunately, not suicide attempts; rather, “they’ve got a mole they’ve had for years, and all of a sudden they go and get it checked out.”

Some visits are more urgent than moles. In Boynton Beach, Fla., on Christmas Day, a young couple were victims of a drive-by shooting. A whole cast of holiday workers sprang into action: dispatchers, police, paramedics, nurses, doctors and reporters.

“When you sign up for a job in journalism, you know it’s part of the job,” said WPTV-Channel 5’s Evan Axelbank, standing near a blood-stained crime scene. He said he had volunteered to work the breaking news shift. “I’m Jewish.”

For non-Christians, last Tuesday was just a day when all the malls and post offices were closed and the Chinese restaurants were open.

“My whole family is working,” said Cynthia Cheung, owner of Bamboo Wok, west of Boynton Beach. They wrap three times the egg rolls and usually serve 200 customers in a four-hour span. “All my kids, they don’t have Christmas. Their Christmas is at the restaurant.”

On Christmas, some fast-food restaurants were open, but some were not. It’s usually at the store manager’s discretion. McDonald’s, for example, says it lets employees volunteer for holiday hours.

“Our employees were given the opportunity to voluntarily work these holiday hours, were compensated for working these hours and rewarded for their service,” a McDonald’s spokeswoman said.

At a security desk in downtown Fort Lauderdale late Christmas night, Joshua Jean sat alone, his companions a monitor and a near-empty high rise.

The 3-11 late shift can seem thankless. Then that paycheck comes.

“Honestly, I don’t like it,” said Jean, 29, a father of two from Miami. “But I do it because somebody has to, and I got to make money for the kids.”