I Don't Know What to Make of This
Ten Things I Did Over President's Day Weekend

Santa's Little Helper

Once upon a time, in a journal entry far, far away, I wrote about the various jobs I've had in my life. I identified one -- Santa's Helper -- as the worst job in the whole entire world.

Stephanie asked why.

Oh, let me count the ways!

First off, I had to wear actual work clothes, rather than my usual jeans and tee shirt. I got the job so that I'd have a little cash in between circus gigs. I had one relatively decent looking pantsuit (Yes, pantsuit! It was even -- dare I say it -- double knit.) and a couple pairs of non-jean pants.

I wore the pantsuit to the cattle call interview. When the hiring managers saw that I could actually speak in complete sentences and could add numbers with a reasonable degree of accuracy, I was hired.

And then the horror began.

After getting trained in the photo-taking, money-taking, and receipts-reconciling procedures, I was ready for the big time.

Oh, the screaming! From the parents, not the kids!

I realized very quickly that a lot of kids hate Santa Claus far more than they hate clowns. And yet, Mom and Dad have an irrational need to preserve an image of their little tyke screaming in fear on Santa's lap, especially after waiting in line for an hour with the little darling. They'd cajole, they'd bribe, they'd threaten, they'd scream, they'd even spank their precious darling child in an effort to get little Susie or Johnny (wait, I mean little Heather and little Jason -- this was 1976, after all) to smile and laugh and tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.

These were the same parents who didn't want to buy the picture. This was before the era of the instant photo. When we took the picture, we had to give a numbered receipt to the parent, who had to sign up to get the photos. The finished product usually arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later, after which the parent would come to Santa's Kingdom at the absolute most busy time and demand their money back because the picture was awful.

I always gave them their money back. In cash. Because I didn't care.

There were some cute kids, and a couple of the Santas seemed okay, but the girls I worked with were way too perky, as was my boss. She tried to befriend me, but I was in no mood. I just wanted to get the damn hours in so I could go home and get stoned. (Or rather, get more stoned than I already was. It was that bad.)

As the mall got more and more crowded and noisy and the endless piped-in Christmas began to wear down the little bit of sanity I had left, I began to harbor terrible thoughts. It would easy to pinch a kid on the way up to Santa's lap, but I figured that the kid would quickly rat me out. Besides, was it really the kid and the poor kid's frazzled parents who were at fault? Or was it the corporation? The soulless picture-pimping company foisting artificial memories on these families?

Ah, the answer was clear.

On Christmas Eve morning, I called my ultra-perky boss and quit.