Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mrs Santa

Some years ago I got a job as an elf at a local shopping centre. I was to help Santa keep the ankle biters children under control, dispense presents, and generally look merry and festive for the public.
The Grotto opened at the beginning of December and on my first day I reported for duty, got my stripey tights and pointy ears, met the woman in charge of the shebang and met Santa.
Now Santa, is meant to be a jolly, rotund chap, with rosy-hued cheeks and a cheeful 'Ho-ho-ho'.
This Santa, was indeed rotund, but it was his nose that was rosy-hued, and he got his 'Ho-ho-hos' from a hipflask hidden in his boot.
The first week went reasonably well; Santa stayed almost sober, and with the help of feeding him breath mints and spraying a festive air freshener about the grotto, only a few of the kiddies remarked on Father Christmas' slurry voice, which I explained away by saying he was tired from getting all their pressies ready for them.
The second week arrived, and on the Monday I changed into my cheery green elf outfit, and waited for Santa to arrive.
The queue of kiddies grew longer as we waited. And waited. And waited.
An hour after the grotto was supposed to open, Santa finally arrived, but alas, he was well over the eight and barely capable of standing.
Luckily, the woman in charge was there and together we persuaded him to go into a back room of the shopping centre and pass out sleep it off.
But that left us with the problem of what to do about the lack of a Santa.
I went out to the queue and explained that Father Christmas had had a very bad journey in from the North pole, and that the grotto would be opening as soon as possible, and apologized for the delay, then dashed back into the office which doubled as the grotto's back room.
The woman in charge came up with the idea that she could call her other job, explain what had happened, and then be Santa for the day, but as soon as she started to put the costume on, her five year old boy who was with her for the day, burst into tears and crying that mummy couldn't be Santa, because that would mean Santa wasn't real.
That left only one other option.
Misty to the rescue.
After checking with her son that mummy was alright to be an elf, we got him out of the way and I got kitted up in the Santa suit.
Now, the Santa suit had been made for a man, and a tall, large man at that. Me? I'm 5'7" and was about a size 10* at the time, rather much smaller than the suit had been intended for, and to say it swamped me was an understatement.
I got together as much padding as I could find for a tummy, put my false beard on, stuffed the toes of the boots with paper, and wobbled off to the grotto.
The elf announced my arrival, and I got stuck in to a day of being sat on by brats, and 'ho-ho-ho'ing' in my deepest voice.
The children, being children, mostly didn't notice that Santa was rather more effeminate than usually depicted, but some of the older ones stared at me quizzically, trying to figure out why Santa was smaller and had a higher voice than in previous years.
But we made it through the day somehow, and when the grotto closed I was very pleased to be able to get out of my layers of bubble wrap and cushions.
'Santa' had at last slept off his binge, and was informed that he could bugger off back to the job centre, as it was supposed to be Rudolph that had the red, glowing nose, not him.
The woman in charge asked me if I could bear being Santa for the duration of the job, and seeing as it meant sitting down for most of the time and a pay rise, I agreed.
Another elf was found for the next day, and once more I wrapped myself in layers and set to being cheerful and festive.
But sadly, and I suppose inevitably, some of the parents began complaining that Santa was not a jolly fat man, but a petite, blonde, female teenager, and did not really fit the bill of the stereo-typical Father Christmas, even with my false beard.
The woman in charge had to replace me with a bloke, and as they'd hired another elf I was redundant, and three weeks before Christmas to boot.
But there was a happy ending to the tale.
The woman in charge, and the rest of the management at the shopping centre felt so sorry for me after all my efforts and holding the fort** for them so well, they decided to pay me what would have been my wages up until Christmas Eve, so the result was that I ended up with three weeks pay, at Santa rates, for not doing a thing!
Best. Job. Ever!

*USA, size 6.
**Or should that be grotto?

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