Make the most of working on Christmas and New Year's
These six laborers manage to look on the bright side of spending the holidays on the job.
THE STRIPPER Paige Presley, 24
Presley has stripped at the historic Admiral Theater gentleman’s club (3940 W Lawrence Ave, 773-478-8111) in Albany Park for the past five years and usually works all holidays.
Perks “There’s a good vibe on Christmas—people want to get away from their families, have fun and party, so tips are better. And you normally have to pay ‘house’ money to the club to work, but you get free house on the holidays.”
Craziest thing I’ve seen “The DJs play Christmas music and some of the girls dress up in candy-cane outfits, or like Mrs. Claus or an elf. One year a customer came in with leftover turkey stuffed in his pockets and pulled it out and ate it as a joke.”
THE CHINESE RESTAURANT OWNER Spencer Ng, 26
Ng grew up working holidays at his family’s Chinese eateries and now owns and manages Chinatown’s Triple Crown (2217 S Wentworth Ave, 312-842-0088), open year-round.
Perks “Everybody’s in a festive mood during Christmas and we’re busy so the employees make more money. We sell 200 pounds of lobster and crab during the holidays. It’s physically exhausting but mentally satisfying to see the looks on our customers’ faces when they’re having fun with their families.”
Craziest thing I’ve seen “Last Christmas a lady made a reservation for ten people and showed up with 40 and the dining room was already packed. She was screaming at me in Chinese, but luckily some tables opened up after they’d waited an hour.”
THE DOG DAYCARE WORKER Keith Herzik, 36
Herzik has worked the busy holiday season at doggy daycare service See Spot Run (2756 W Fulton St, 773-638-7768) in East Garfield Park for the last four years.
Perks “It’s pretty awesome having a service job at Christmas. There’s lots of holiday cheer and people get really generous—you get big tips, muffins and bottles of wine. Partying on New Year’s Eve? Hell no, I’m not into that at all, so getting up early to work the next day is no problem.”
Craziest thing I’ve seen “Lots of people travel during the holidays and maybe their pets have never boarded before, so the chemistry between dogs in a play group might not be right. Sometimes I have to break up fights.”
THE CAB DRIVER Mohammad Sharifi, 59
Sharifi, a taxi driver with Checker Cab, immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in 1975 and has driven a taxi for 29 years. He always works Christmas and New Year’s.
Perks “You see people very happy and very easy-going and very, very generous. Tips are much better. …It’s not a bad thing to work during the holidays because you get to see other people having a good time. It makes you happy helping to make them happy.”
Craziest thing I’ve seen “A couple years ago on Christmas a stockbroker paid me $50 for a $3 fare and said, ‘Merry Christmas to you and your family.’”
THE DOCTOR Joanne McKell, 44
McKell has worked most holidays over the last few years as a doctor specializing in pulmonary critical care, researching and treating lung diseases at UIC and Mercy hospitals on the Near South Side.
Perks “Nurses tend to be really good about bringing in their home cooking for Christmas so you can score some really great chow—roasts, Filipino, Indian and Thai food. You walk by the nurses’ lounge and they pull you in and say, ‘Doctor, you have to eat.’”
Craziest thing I’ve seen “When I worked in the E.R. during the month of the Christmas holiday we had four different little old ladies come in on gurneys with severe back pain. If you don’t have family and friends your pain is magnified during the holidays. It may only be mental pain, but it’s real.”
THE BARTENDER Mike O’Connell, “29”
O’Connell has bartended every Christmas at Delilah’s (2771 N Lincoln Ave, 773-472-2771), Lincoln Park punk rock and bourbon bar, for the last 17 years.
Perks “Lots of old friends fly home from New York and L.A. on Christmas, and by 11pm everyone’s had enough family fun and is ready for some cocktails. There’s gotta be worse jobs than being surrounded by great whiskey, listening to great music and getting your buddies drunk.”
Craziest thing I’ve seen “One Christmas it snowed really bad and the only customer I had was [now deceased schizophrenic local artist/musician] Wesley Willis, sitting there breaking ashtrays over his head. After I put him in a cab, a Jaguar pulled up and a woman in a fur coat was about to get out. She saw me standing there in my hoodie and locked the door instead.”