By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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charliebrowntreeI will not be fluffing Christmas trees this year.

A good friend of mine has, for several years now, been engaged as a tree fluffer for a number of department stores. She gets trees ready for store display by fluffing for a few days during the month of October, generally spending several pleasant hours doing something mindless and making some pretty decent money while she’s at it.

This year, she asked if I’d like to join her in fluffing. “We’d spend a few hours with the trees, we could talk and then we could have lunch. The pay isn’t bad, either,” she said.

Mindless money, talking with my friend and lunch. Sounds like a perfect day. “I’m in,” I said.

Given that I spend all day, every day, staring at a computer and trying to come up with interesting stuff to inflict on the world (there is nothing about that which sounds appealing, and it isn’t many days), I was looking forward to becoming a fluffing professional.

Until I opened my email today, that is.

“Well, I don’t think you can fluff this year. Apparently you need to take three different tests, including a drug test, police record thing and one other. I didn’t know that because I haven’t had to do that since I’ve been doing this for a few years. You’d have to pay for the tests too, and time doesn’t allow for that. So we’ll start earlier next year—-sorry about that.”

Huh? Or better yet, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

I need a drug test and a police record check to fluff Christmas trees? What do they think I’m going to do–try and sell my drug stash to some Douglas firs? Undermine the morals of a blue spruce?

I get that companies need to be cautious, especially if their employees are going to be around people. But is there just the teeniest chance that we’re going a little too far with the tests, background checks and general hysteria? Does anyone really think that someone who voluntarily signs up to fluff Christmas trees is a terrorist bent on mass destruction?

Fact is, we have all kinds of agencies who routinely look into people and their activities for scary stuff–and they also routinely miss the scary stuff, and the scary people, so my confidence in the reliability of both the checks and those who perform them isn’t exactly at an all time high.

Still, with my luck, a background check would uncover a jaywalking incident from 1973 or an unpaid library fine and I’d suddenly find myself sharing dinner conversation with inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

I really was looking forward to having a chance to fluff. But if it means drug tests, background checks and money out of my pocket, I think I’ll pass. Maybe I’ll just try for a job with the CIA instead. I’m pretty sure their security requirements aren’t nearly as strict.

What’s your take on background checks? Click comments below and share!