If Only in My Dreams

Six South Bay residents reflect on working during the holidays.

The “holidays” is not only a season; it can also be considered a state of mind—frenetic, joyful, magical, lonely, painful and, of course, busy. Our festivities are rooted in tradition yet take on an individual twist. 

We may celebrate a day, several days—or not at all, and still the infectious holiday spirit surrounds us. We might shop till we drop, cook for a crowd and schedule out-of-town flights. Often we are overwhelmed by unplanned mishaps and circumstances, yet most of us strive to find balance between overindulging, doing nothing at all and spending time with family and friends on our time off. 

However, for some of us, the holidays have the added pressure of work. So at this “most wonderful time of the year,” consider the pilots, doctors, plumbers, bartenders, chefs, law enforcement officers and countless others who clock in for the special holidays. 


One Christmas Eve, a man came into the bar wearing a full Santa outfit with boots, red coat, hat, the works. I was very busy and thought it was a drunk or some crazy person. When I got closer to his nose, I recognized my dad, Papa Joe, who came in from out of town to surprise me. It ended up being a wonderful experience. 

Rick Lococo
Bartender and general manager
The Bull Pen, Redondo Beach


We do a legendary potluck. Like any family, our work family is particular about what goes on the menu. Everybody has a personal favorite dish. I make cream puffs, and we serve at least 50 people—from nurses, janitors, registration clerks, X-ray technicians and doctors. These people become our extended holiday family, as do our patients. We love what we do. It’s really a calling. 

Dr. Gina Sulmeyer
Attending physician, Department of Emergency Medicine
Torrance Memorial Medical Center



Once I received a service call to a house in Torrance where they do the Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights. I thought I would be there within the hour but got stuck in heavy traffic behind drivers going to see all the lights. My customer was still grateful I made it there and fixed the problem, even though I was a little late. 

Jason Shafer
JRS Plumbing, Redondo Beach 



To most people the sky is the limit, but to me the sky is home. I enjoy working. At the holidays I know that most of these passengers are not going to work but to be with someone special. They care about this flight more than most, which makes it the same for me.” 

Wendi Shaffner 
United, Palos Verdes




In my earlier years, I had to get used to my father’s schedule. Working on the holidays, nightshift or weekends was always understood for me as part of the job. The first time I worked on the holidays was 20 years ago. I did not have children then, so it was different. Now I see it from the vantage point of my family. It is less about me and what I was missing and more about them. 

Lieutenant Joe Hoffman
Redondo Beach Police Department



I usually celebrate the Christmas holiday a few days before and after … over dim sum in the mornings and lots of Chinese seafood restaurant in the evening. Working during the holiday season can be extremely stressful and sad sometimes because you really miss spending time with your family. However this is the industry that we choose, so no complaining here. 

Chef Tin Vuong
Little Sister, Manhattan Beach


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