OTHERS MAY rejoice in the holiday season, but my days are spent hiding behind the drapes and dreading that moment when the UPS truck roars up to the house and the driver strides briskly up the walk with a package.
The package will be a fruitcake from my mother, who refuses to acknowledge that I have yet to eat any of the fruitcakes she has burdened me with in the past.
Of course, I am not exactly alone in my dislike of fruitcake.
Reliable surveys indicate there are only about two dozen people in the world who actually enjoy fruitcake, and most of these are drifters, kooks and shut-ins with a variety of emotional problems.
Aside from the awful taste, what's truly disturbing is that the stuff has the half-life of uranium.
Let's say you left a fruitcake on your kitchen counter and walked outside and (God forbid) got hit by a bus.
Even if you lapsed into a coma for many months, you could count on the fruitcake remaining largely intact for the duration of your illness.
Upon awakening from the dim shadows, you might even spot the fruitcake and remark: "That . . . that couldn't be the same fruitcake that . . .?"
The people gathered around your bedside would then nod their heads gravely and say: "Yes, unfortunately it is."
At a picnic some years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a marvelous impromptu experiment.
A group of us had left the food basket under a shady tree and gone off to play softball. When we returned, one of the dogs had gotten into the food and left it strewn about in the hot sun.
Predictably, the ants were already at work, swarming over the roast beef sandwiches, pickles, cupcakes, etc.
But they were not touching the lone fruitcake that some demented individual had brought -- I assume as a gag.
In fact, the ants were beating a steady path away from the fruitcake, which surely cannot be attributed to chance.
Say what you will about the insect world, but the incident left me with renewed respect for the intelligence of these creatures.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but famine victims would no doubt display similar behavior.
When the Red Cross truck rumbles into a refugee camp, you'll notice that relief workers toss rice, flour, canned peaches, chocolate bars and so on to the crowd.
In all the footage, never once has anyone seen a fruitcake hurled to these poor unfortunates.
Of course, this makes perfect sense.
The Red Cross workers know that if they started pitching fruitcakes out the back of that truck, they'd have an angry mob on their hands within minutes. A lynching or stoning would surely follow.
There's not a court in the world that would convict the individuals responsible for the violence, either. Not when it came to light that the dead relief workers had been pushing fruitcake on innocent men, women and children.
Of course, I fully expect to get letters now from the pro-fruitcake crowd that say, in essence: "What exactly is it about fruitcake that gets you so hacked off?"
Well, I . . . I don't know where to begin.
No, I take that back. Let's begin with those . . . little green and red and orange things that dot your garden-variety fruitcake.
What are those things -- JuJubes? The tips of crayons? There are just too many foreign substances: raisins, candied cherries, currants, the list is endless. Apparently you could empty the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag into a cake mix and be reasonably certain that you're following someone's fruitcake recipe.
The dryness of a fruitcake is equally unnerving, requiring a person to down an average of two full barrels of water with each slice consumed.
Then there is the texture of the fruitcake itself. The density compares favorably with many of the alloys used to line a safe. This is why those who receive fruitcakes at Christmas will often use the gifts as doorstops, footrests and to chock the wheels of dump trucks parked on a steep incline.
In any event, all these factors combine to make the fruitcake virtually inedible.
This is why people will often chew a single bite of fruitcake for literally 45 minutes, so frightened are they of having to actually swallow the stuff.
I understand there are support groups to deal with this fear.