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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Just another day on the job

Ken Martin, a Southwest Airlines agent, checks in a passenger early Christmas morning at the Spokane International Airport. 
 (Liz Kishimoto / The Spokesman-Review)
By Trinity Hartman and Jonathan Brunt The Spokesman-Review

Working Christmas Day at Spokane Fire Station No. 4 in downtown did not mean missing out on a Christmas meal.

After responding to several morning Interstate 90 crashes, which prevented some folks from making holiday flights but caused no significant injuries, a firefighter served up a prime rib lunch.

John Gilbert, a fire equipment operator and paramedic, said it’s not great to work Christmas, but it would be worse if his daughter lived in town. He volunteered to work the day in place of a firefighter with a young family.

“I see more of a sacrifice for people who have little kids,” said Gilbert.

As usual, many stores closed on Christmas. Parking lots at many large retail stores and small businesses were empty across the region.

Open were the usual suspects: fire stations and hospitals along with some video stores, groceries, motels, movie theaters and restaurants. Many, like the Bates Motel in Couer d’Alene, had shortened hours.

For Dusty Van Iderstine, an owner of the motel, work usually starts after his morning cup of coffee and doesn’t end until he goes to bed.

Yet Saturday was Christmas. Van Iderstine watched his grandkids open presents. He ate his fill of Christmas goodies. At 11:30 a.m. he opened the motel office.

The front counter of the Bates is only a few steps from Van Iderstine’s living room. If the afternoon remained quiet, Van Iderstine said he’d take a nap. While Van Iderstine said working holidays gets a little old sometimes, he enjoys the slower life of running a hotel. The Bates Motel sits at the east end of Sherman Avenue, Coeur d’Alene’s main drag.

“We still do what we want to do,” said Van Iderstine’s girlfriend, Barb McNamara, as two pet rats sat on her shoulders.

They planned to close early and spend the evening with family.

While most Coeur d’Alene restaurants were closed Saturday, a neon sign called to hungry stomachs from across the mostly empty parking lot at the Silver Lake Mall. The International Buffet ushered customers through the fire doors, because the mall itself was closed.

“Yes, we’re open,” manager George Jhang told a group of people walking toward the building. “There’s no buffet.”

There aren’t many restaurants open on Christmas. So the owners of the International Buffet and Coeur d’Alene’s Top of China Buffet decided to open so people could have a place to eat, Jhang said. The restaurant will close early so employees can celebrate Christmas with their families.

“We’ll have a happy time after work and celebrate,” he said.

The Christmas celebration for Irene de Villiers and Anne Edmonds consisted of a Scrabble match at the Jack in the Box at Sprague Avenue and Havana Street – one of the few restaurants they could find that was open.

They were grateful that it remained open on the holiday.

“If you don’t have family around here, having a place to go with a friend makes the day because otherwise, it can get very lonely at home,” said de Villiers, who has children living in Minnesota and Virginia and a brother in South Africa but no family in Spokane.

Some of those working got into the Christmas spirit and sported Santa hats or reindeer accessories.

Ken Martin, a Southwest Airlines customer service agent, wore antlers on the job Saturday. Like firefighter Gilbert, he volunteered to work the holiday.

“It’s nice to work on Christmas so others can be home with their family,” Martin said. “I had a little Oprah moment there, didn’t I?”

Also dressed (at least partially) for Christmas were three dancers at Deja Vu in Spokane Valley chatting and waiting early Christmas evening for a crowd to dance for.

The dancers agreed: They were there for the same reason many others work on Christmas. For the money.

“All the little boys will want to spend there Christmas money here,” said a brunette dancer wearing a short white dress with white high-heel boots. She declined to give her name.

Toby Murray, Deja Vu’s manager, predicted that business would be a bit slower than normal.

“You never know what will happen,” Murray said. “There will be people who will come in. A dollar is a dollar.”