Back in 2013, the following was one of my first ever blog posts. It still holds true for me today. At this time every year, I hold up a figurative glass to all my fellow compadres who are stuck in the retail sector. These titans of Christmas risk life and limb to bring joy and wonder to young boys and girls all over this great nation (and sometimes dogs, seriously, dogs…). Whether warning of the dangers of bb guns (“You’ll put your eye out, kid!” – A Christmas Story) or getting yelled at by an overeager, too-tall elf (“You sit on a throne of lies” – Elf), there is no end to the dangers and responsibilities of being a retail Santa Claus (I mean, you’ve got the hopes and dreams of small persons in the palm of your hands!). So, enjoy the below description of what it’s like to wade into the dangerous (and smelly!) pool of being a retail Santa Claus!
Now that the Christmas Season is upon us, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on a time in my life that quite possibly could have ruined my Christmas Spirit. Many moons ago, I was working for a major retail store who shall remain nameless. During my short time there, I was asked to do something that I had never done, nor will I do again: Play Santa Claus. That’s right, I was Santa Claus. Now, let’s be honest, while I’ve never been a small guy in stature (so I had that going for me), I would never have considered myself “Jolly,” or even a fan of holly. I think that this was some kind of bizarre hazing ritual that the guys that were in salaried management decided would be the perfect way to test my dedication to the cause of retail. So here’s the deal, no matter what the guy in the red suit looks like, please know, he’s rarely a happy camper. Here’s a few things I didn’t know would happen, but did and gave me a new perspective of retail Santas everywhere (and if you are guilty of any of these, I’m sorry, I can only speak from the perspective of the guy in the suit…..that nasty suit…):
1. The suit is nasty. If you’re lucky, they washed it from the year before. If you’re not, it has sat in its own stench for 365 days before anybody gets it back out of the “Santa Bag.” In my case, I hadn’t been there for long and didn’t even know who had worn the suit prior to me. Then, as the week (at least that’s how long this ordeal was forced upon me) progresses, it becomes worse and worse. For me it was eight hours a day for a full week, with no way for it to be cleaned (because you can’t wash it – it’s DRY CLEAN ONLY and you can’t take it home because its store property). Most days you’re lucky if it receives a Febreze bath. Seriously, the suit is nasty, on the border of unsanitary, and in some cases, across the border and so far from it, the border is just a gleam in the eye of wishful thinking.
2. Most small children don’t like Santa, unbeknownst to popular belief. Sure, I had kids hop up in my lap that would immediately blurt out 15 things that they wanted for Christmas, fulfill their duty as good Christmas wishers, but lets be honest, I don’t remember any of those. What I do remember is all the moms that forced their young children into the lap of a stranger to take a picture only to have them scream at the top of their lungs because they had been forced into the lap of some large, red, stranger.
3. Old ladies turn into Dirty Old Ladies in a heartbeat. Maybe it was just because of where we were living at the time, but it felt like every older lady that came through wanted a chance to sit in Santa’s lap and get a picture and kiss him on the cheek. Needless to say, it was beyond awkward for me. I was 24 years old at the time, and I think they just jumped at the chance to dance around in the lap of somebody that young.
4. The suit is nasty. I just thought that needed reinforcement.
5. No Santa wants to take pictures with your dog. SERIOUSLY. I know its fun for you to watch Fido crawl up in somebody’s lap for a picture, but again, this is a contributor to the suit stinkage (and if that’s not a word in any other context, it is here). If you are going to force some poor schlub into taking a picture with your animal, please, please, please, please, have the decency to a) wash the thing before you come and b) make sure it won’t pee on said Santa. That is a definite cause for you to receive coal in your stocking, possibly even something less useful…
6. The suit is ridiculously hot. This is the true reason for Santa’s rosy red cheeks. Personally, I have never had rosy cheeks, that is until I put that suit on. As soon as you put on two layers of velvet over anything, it is hot. I’ve never been sure why Santa chose velvet as his accoutrement of choice, but it would seem to me to be a poorly thought out decision on his part. I guess when you’re at the North Pole, it might be well thought out, but he definitely was not thinking of all the impersonators that would be voluntold (definitely a not a word, but should be) to bear his likeness.
7. The beard is beyond itchy. As all you men already know, as you grow a real beard, when it gets to a certain point, it itches….incessantly. Once you’ve had it for a while, it quits, but fake beards never lose their itchiness. NEVER. Seriously, the only thing that could make this thing more uncomfortable, would be if they made it out of burlap. I had a rash on my face for a week after wearing that beard for so long. Not how you want to go into the Christmas season.
To all of you recovering Retail Santas out there…I salute you during your recovery time this time of year. I feel for you and will pray for a speedy recovery as you move past this traumatizing time of year. To all of you outside of this small brotherhood of tortured souls, please understand that this is not meant as a condemnation of you and your want of bringing small children to visit Santa. In fact, I encourage you to keep doing that. Just remember, there’s a guy under that suit that is making all kinds of hot, stinky, awkward sacrifices and he’s doing it for you. Did I mention that that suit stinks? Seriously, it stinks.