By Michael Davis
This Christmas, Gary Mayfield won't be celebrating with his family but he's helping to make sure that others can. As a distribution operator at Georgia Power's Henry County Customer Care Center, Mayfield said that making arrangements with his family to spend the big day at work makes being away on Christmas a little easier.
"You've got to keep the lights on," he said. "The power has got to stay on."
Working a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift on today, Mayfield will be one of only three or four operators taking calls for service and dispatching repairmen for the eastern metro Atlanta area on Christmas Day.
"It can be quite busy if something happens," he said. "But it can be slow."
As a distribution operator, Mayfield takes calls and dispatches "trouble men," or repair technicians, to make sure the lights stay on.
Mayfield said most of the calls that come in are due to high winds and falling limbs that snap power lines and disrupt services.
Squirrels are also a nuisance, he said.
"They'll chew right through (the power line insulation)," he said.
Ricky Rivers said working on Christmas can actually turn out to be fun. Working on the holiday for four out of his five years with Blockbuster video store, he said that holiday customers usually cheerful and happy.
"We are busier than a lot of people expect us to be on Christmas," Rivers said.
He said many of their Christmas customers have gotten gifts like DVD players or game systems, and want to rent or buy a movie or game to try them out.
"And after all the excitement wears off and people are looking for something to do, they settle on renting a movie," he added.
Lt. Thomas Mahaffey will be helping to make sure that the holiday is safer for Henry County residents. A firefighter and paramedic with the Henry County Fire Department, Mahaffey said this is the first Christmas he'll be away from his two youngest children, a 2- and 3-year-old.
But he said at the fire station, "We usually try to make it fun."
He said he and over a dozen of the firefighters scheduled to work at the department's headquarters will likely have their own Christmas dinner joined by the families of some of the firefighters.
Hospital employees won't be immune from the Christmas grind either.
Registered nurse Candace Kelly is spending her first Christmas Day at Southern Regional Medical Center's emergency room. Though she would rather spend Christmas with her husband and son, "The good thing about it is several of my close friends are working that are nurses and we're going to bring stuff in and try to make the best of it," she said.
Jill Hicks, a nurse at Henry Medical Center, thanks her understanding family for being able to work on Christmas.
"We just have to adjust to my schedule and it doesn't seem to be a problem," she said.
Nurse Laverne Mitchell will be making house calls to Southern Regional Medical Center's Home Care patients who have recently gotten out of the hospital.
Working a regular eight-hour shift of rounds, she said that patients are glad to see them and at Christmas, "We try to keep it light initially in case there's any emergency that comes up."