It has been years since my family last dealt with the “pictures with Santa” pageantry, but Saint Nick impersonators remain an integral part of Christmas for Americans.
Parents feel compelled to honor the tradition of dumping tiny tots in Santa’s lap, even if they’re not emotionally ready for the experience. I wish I hadn’t sold my Child Psychology textbook back to the college bookstore, or I would explain why kids who think nothing of sticking a fork in an electrical outlet or inviting a rabid wolverine into the house are suddenly in fight-or-flight-or-wet-your-pants mode over a jovial old man who surrounds himself with elves and candy canes.
Yes, shrieking and bawling are the immediate result of encounters with Kris Kringle, but the traumatizing life event also creates repressed memories that pop up unexpectedly in adulthood. (“The ocean – it’s shaking like a bowlful of jelly! I can’t help it – I’m going A.W.O.L. from the Navy!”)
Some Santa impersonators (motto: “I’m not a morbidly obese peeping Tom, but I play one at the local mall”) volunteer for the pure joy of seeing children’s faces light up. Other Santa surrogates don the iconic red suit to earn extra money. (Granted, in today’s economy, “extra” money is what Bigfoot and Elvis would use to purchase a unicorn for their UFO.)
I’m glad there are still job opportunities for Santa Clauses, considering retailers’ self-checkout mentality. (“Put on this cap, make yourself a vague promise, make way for the next kid. Buh-bye.”)
Physical disabilities are no roadblock to those truly committed to serving as a mall Santa. The agencies that book Santas do, however, frown on applicants with dyslexia. Being upfront about that cuts down on posting a “Santa wanted” sign and having guys with cloven hooves and pitchforks showing up for auditions.
An article in the “New York Post” recommended Santa roleplaying as a side hustle for college students, but I think the job is more suited for seasoned individuals with experience as fathers or grandfathers. Eight hours of putting up with snotty noses, sticky hands, beard-tugging, mile-long lists, mystery smells and awkward questions (“If you can visit every home in the world in one night, how come it has taken my dad more than three years to go to the corner store for a pack of cigarettes?”) would make the young guys’ reproductive system implode.
Yes, some spoiled brats issue totally unreasonable demands, so it’s heartwarming when one is well grounded in reality. Like the little girl who was patient enough to put off a pony until next Christmas. (“I know that THIS year I need to prioritize having Santa make my 10th-story apartment pony-accessible.”)
Santa impersonators have to do an amazing job of hemming and hawing when presented with a budget-busting wish list. “I’ll check into that.” “Let me see what I can do.” “I would hate to disappoint a good little boy or girl.” Toss in the occasional “I’ll have to circle back,” “infrastructure” and “democracy,” and Santa would qualify for Secret Service protection!
On the other hand, do you know who is the most powerful person in the world? Elon Musk? China’s Xi Jinping? Wrong. It’s a ready-to-retire Santa who gives parents that reindeer-in-the-headlights look by rubberstamping everything on the little darlings’ wish list.
I wouldn’t call them evil masterminds, but their “Ho ho ho” sure sounds more like “Bwahahaha.”
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”