Careful What You Wish For

Posted on by Dave Woodruff

Some folks don’t like the holidays.  Easily understood if you’ve ever worked retail during the Christmas season. Last year I got a call from my employment agency and was blessed to fill in for a day as a local shopping mall Santa. It seems the previous Santa forgot children are unimpressed by a white bearded jolly man who vomits his Red Bull and Vodka on their nice clothes just before their holiday snapshot. Mind you, I do not possess the girth or facial hair of your expected Mr. Claus, but modern theatrical accoutrements had me portraying a convincing stand in in no time.

The job requires little training or skill, perfect for my less than extensive resume. Santa asks the child’s name, gives a bit of a chuckle, asks if the particular child has been good, then after every child responds in the affirmative, Santa asks what they would like to find under the tree this year. Simple as cake, hopefully not fruitcake.

I take my throne at the top of the fabricated North Pole stand in. I’m surrounded by Santa’s Helpers, a combination of two types of employees, A: Loser adults who either want to be near crying kids by choice or B: Loser adults who want to be near kids crying out of necessity. It’s very hard to tell the difference. The velvet rope is dropped, the child stampede begins. My first child, a six year old named Noah, claims to have been “very good”, I am immediately suspicious, he wants a BB gun to shoot his sister. Perhaps she deserves it, perhaps not. I ask him if he wants anything else. He tells me he wants a Nintendo Wii, a new iPod Touch, a PSP and lists off a plethora of games and accessories. It’s very hard for me not to tell him, “People in Hell want ice water.”

Later I have a 7 year old girl named Lindy, she wants her own bedroom, shower and phone line for Christmas. I instead, imagine her receiving the back of my hand wrapped in some shiny paper and a bow. Eight year old Lucas asks for Two Thousand dollars so he can fly to New York and see the real High School Musical on Broadway. I think $20 to purchase a burlap bag and toss him in the river might be money better spent. A vast amount of the morning is consumed with filling bratty children’s heads not with visions of sugarplums, but innuendo about frontal lobotomy, forced foot binding, and indentured servitude.

During my break, while trying to eat my egg salad sandwich without swallowing stringy fake white beard in every bite, I’m seriously shocked at the level of self absorption and ego of some of these children. Of course there are the minority who are polite, sincere and ask for appropriate gifts. Maybe I’m old fashioned, I grew up in an era, where a few small toys and possibly one large gift was a grand bounty. Who am I to talk, I’m sitting here in a fat suit, with a fake white beard laden with egg salad bits.

The afternoon is worse, kids have been forced to wait during my break. The lack of movement in line just amplifies their restlessness. It seems to me, the inconsiderate, greedy requests are coming faster and furiouser. I’m strangely reminded the fact Santa is simply an anagram for Satan. This is not great news for the next kid, who sits on my lap, an eight year old named Will. He doesn’t even bother to say he was good. He says, “sometimes.”, he goes on to ask for a Segway so he can zoom past his slow poor friends in public school, he also wants tickets to the Christmas Day game for the Phoenix Suns, but the tickets have to good, in the lower ten rows only, if not, it’s just stupid. He wants a Movado watch, like the one James Bond just wore in his new film. How could this kid have seen that film? Isn’t it rated R, and what does a kid need a watch for anyway, why does he need to know what time it is?  Satan Claus kicks into high gear.

I whisper into his ear with complete sincerity, “You know Will, I’ve been watching you all year, that’s part of what Santa does.” 

I don’t think he buys it, but he does play along.

“I’ve watched you, and I have to say, your behavior has been less than exemplary.” His face is blank. “Do you know what exemplary means?”

“No.” he says.

“Basically, it means you’re getting a giant sack of Jack Squat for Christmas.”

His eyes pop a bit as he looks at me with incredulity. I try to give him a smile with a twinkle in my eye.

“I’m getting what?” he asks in a newfound whiny voice.

“Let me ask you something.” I say with the intonation of a caring story teller. “Have you gotten your balls yet?” 

“My balls?” he asks sheepishly.

“Yep, the two things you carry in your shorts.” He looks at me in a mix of dismay and confusion. 

“The best thing Santa is likely to bring you this year is a swift reindeer kick in your selfish little elfin gonad package.”

The tears are tremendous, he’s crying as if I forced him to slide down a fifty foot razor blade into a pool of lemon juice. I’m only halfway through my next child, explaining the possibility of Santa tying her to a chair to bear witness the burning of her gifts on her list as mall security forcibly removes me from my throne. More kids are crying now from the ruckus than I could possibly have gotten to. As I’m led away in handcuffs one of the mall security clowns asks how I could do such a thing.

“Maybe the egg salad had gone bad.”