Late one Christmas Eve an eon or two ago, a group of friends and I -- while consuming large amounts of what was surely non-alcoholic eggnog -- broke into a spontaneous round of "The 12 Days of Christmas."
We did fine until the "fourth day." Not a one of us could remember what our true love gave to us on the fourth day of Christmas. So I picked up the phone and called information.
Remember, this was back when all telephone operators were actual human beings who sounded like Lily Tomlin's Ernestine character.
Me: "Yes. Hello. You know the song, 'The 12 Days of Christmas?' What did my true love give to me on the fourth day?"
Operator: "One moment please. (Singing softly to herself) On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree. On the second day of ...."
She did great. Until the fourth day. Then she went blank.
Operator: "One moment please."
She turned to her fellow operators.
Operator: "Hey, you guys. In the song, 'The 12 Days of Christmas," what did my true love give to me on the fourth day?"
In the background, I heard all the other operators singing to themselves, "On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, a partridge in a pear tree. On the second day of ..."
They did great, too. Until the fourth day, when they all went brain dead at the same moment. There was a long pause filled with frustration, disbelief and, yes, anger. How on earth could any self-respecting Christmas reveler forget what his or her true love gave to him or her on the fourth day of Christmas?
Finally, a lone operator in the background triumphantly hollered, "CALLING BIRDS! FOUR CALLING BIRDS!"
Cheering, applauding, and clearly filled with a renewed sense self-respect, the roomful of operators yelled, "Merry Christmas!"
Me: "And a merry Christmas to all of you!"
Operator: "Thank you for calling information. On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ..."
Mike Burkett, reporter