Saturday probably the worst day of the week when you are Santa. Well, the Friday after Thanksgiving isn’t easy, either. In spite of my fears about the upcoming day, in general, things seemed to be working out, at least somewhat. I was happy and unhappy, sad and not sad. I had slept fairly well the night before, so I was ready to handle the many “customers” that I anticipated seeing.
At the store, the morning went by rather quickly. My biggest fears weren’t realized and I had a rather uneventful shift. I suppose that I had thought of every possible thing that could have gone wrong on my short walk into work, so my actual day could not have been so bad as the one I had created in my mind. I usually worked the morning shift from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM. At 12:30 PM, everyone is having lunch, and the customers aren’t queuing up to see Santa in quite the same numbers. Before I left for lunch, the manager of the store came up to me and said, “Please, go out to have lunch, but be back in one half hour. It’s necessary. We’ve got something that you have to do for us.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but I concurred.
I quickly changed out of my Santa suit. It was quick since all I had to do was remove the suit. I had street clothes on under the uniform, so dressing for outside was only a matter of pulling on my tweed jacket. I ran down the stairs, outside the door, up into the Promenade of the Prudential Center and I walked very briskly over to a little restaurant named Brigham’s. I opened the door and stepped into a crowd of people waiting for seats. I said to myself, “Oh, this isn’t going to work out!” I feared that I wouldn’t be back in time for whatever awaited me at the store. At that moment, a waitress comes over to the crowd and said loudly, “I have a seat for one.” Nobody said anything. I stepped forward and she brought me over to the seat. It was a stool at the counter. It was one of those stools that you could rotate, like the old ice cream parlor stools. I hopped onto the seat. There was a waitress behind the counter, wiping the place clean. I caught her eye and said, “ I know exactly what I want.” She took out her order pad, and I ordered a hamburger, French fries, and a coke. She said, “Okay.” I said, “I’m in a real rush.” She said, “I’ll put the order right in.” I said, “Thank you!”
As I waited for my meal, I said, “This is great!” Within 4 or 5 minutes of leaving the store, I had a seat in the restaurant, and my order was cooking. So, I tried to relax and enjoy myself. I looked around at all of the holiday shoppers, laughing, talking and eating or waiting for a table. As I glanced at the stool to my right, I saw a little black child who appeared to be 6 or 7 years old. You could see the lady who was sitting beside him was rather elderly and wasn’t his mother, but his grandmother. Their clothes were clean and neatly pressed, but you could see that she was not wealthy, but she was rich of heart, and she held herself well and the few words that I heard her speak to her grandson were [educated, informed, eloquent…]
The small child had turned around in his stool and was just looking up at me. His grandmother placed her hands on his shoulders and gently turned him back to face the counter and his plate which contained a hot dog and French fries that he had obviously only nibbled. After his grandmother would turn him back, he would slowly swivel his stool to face me again. When this happened for the third time, I thought that I would help out Grandma. I held up my finger to the little boy and sternly said, “Look, if you don’t eat your hot dog and French fries and drink your coke, Santa Claus is going to know.” She said, “See, I told you,” to her grandson. So, this small boy slowly moved his stool to face the counter.
My meal arrived, and I ate quickly and left enough money to cover my bill and a relatively large gratuity on the counter. Time had ticked by, and I did not want to spend time waiting at the cash register. I ran back to Lord and Taylor.
When I got back to Lord and Taylor, I was surprised to see that my Santa chair was occupied by a coat. The coat obviously belonged to the attractive, well-dressed, slightly impatient, woman standing beside the chair, holding a clipboard. As I approached her, she asked, “Are you the Santa?” I answered in the affirmative. She said, “You must hurry!” So, hurry I did. I ran back upstairs to the fitting room and threw on my uniform. When I returned, she ordered, “Come with me.” I followed her toward the exit. When we stepped through the front doors out of the store, I saw a large, black limousine parked at the front curb. She walked to the vehicle, opened the back door and went in. I got in, too, closed the door and said, “What’s going on?” She responded with slight surprise, “You mean that they didn’t tell you”? I replied, “No.” I was suspicious about being kidnapped, but no one would want me so that didn't make sense.
The limousine began to wind its way through the streets of Boston heading down Boylston Ave. We got into the left lane and took street x past Copley Square, see Hancock tower. We didn’t speak but watched the crowds and traffic. When we were on Massachusetts Avenue, heading toward the Boston Museum of Science, she turned to me and asked, “Are you afraid to fly?” I replied, “No.” She said, “Okay.” With a question like that, I really needed more information about what I was being required to do. I asked her, “What’s this all about?” She said, “You mean they didn’t tell you?” “No, they didn’t say anything,” I replied, now becoming annoyed with the lack of facts coming to me. “All right,” she said, “We are going to put you into a helicopter. We will fly you back to Boston, and we will land directly across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue. You are to walk from there, through the park, and over to the Prudential promenade. There, you will turn over the children that you have gathered to a puppeteer, say goodbye and go back to your seat in Lord and Taylor.” Now, understanding the task at hand, I said, “Yeah. Okay. That seems simple enough.”
As our limousine ride ended, I spied a helicopter. As we climbed into the helicopter, the pilot and co-pilot greeted me. “Hey, Santa,” they said. They were really fun guys. [need more words, description, something.] I settled myself into my seat and sang out, “Let’s go!” So, they took off. These guys were real cowboys. I had a great time. The lady who had whisked me off onto this journey was, I believe, a promotional director for some company that had been contracted by either Saks or Lord and Taylor to land Santa in a helicopter, was a little nervous. Not me! I was still having a great time. As we approached the Prudential Building, I yelled over to the pilot, “How about making a complete turn around the Prudential Building?” We had only been scheduled to fly by one side of the building. The promotional director said, “You can’t do that!” I said, “Hey, I’m Santa Claus. We can do that.” The pilot said, “Sure,” and we began our turn a round the Pru.
We flew at an altitude of approximately half way up the building. We banked around the Pru, and I could see people in the offices. I even think that I saw a man brushing his teeth! This circle really scared the nice lady sitting beside me in the helicopter. Landing, however, really scared both of us. We were flying through a canyon of buildings. As you come to the Prudential building, you come over Lord and Taylor, come by Saks Fifth Avenue, you see this little greenish-brownish postage stamp. I began to get afraid. However, the pilot and co-pilot landed the helicopter without incident on this small patch of lawn. As we waited for them to slow the rotors, they said, “Okay, get out.” They didn’t slow down the rotors at all. The promotional director hopped out, bending as she walked forward and I followed. I can remember the beard flying up into my face, getting into my nose and mouth. The pillows that I used to make Santa chubby were falling, and I pushed them back, up under my belt. I was really disheveled. I was also glad that the ride had ended. Although it had been exciting, it was very noisy, and I had begun to feel anxious. Finally, as I straightened myself out, I watched the helicopter rise and fly away.
As the noise from the chopper diminished, I began to realize that other sounds were replacing it. I turned around and saw about 100 kids on the other side of the street. They were waving and shouting at Santa. I said to the promotional director, “What’s this all about?” She replied, “Well, we have been planning this for the last few weeks. What you are going to do is pick those children up, walk through Saks, go out through the back door, and cross the street to Pru’s promenade.”
Now, I didn’t mind kids at all. But, there were a little over 100 kids there, and I was slightly uneasy. I persevered. We walked through Saks and began picking up more kids. There were now about 150 children behind me. We finally made the turn to the alley behind the building, and another 50 kids joined the group. There were now 200 children behind me, beside me and in front of me. There were two Boston Police officers stopping traffic, one for each of the lines of on-coming traffic. Holding my arm was this lady. She prompted me, “Remember, you’re going to enter the Prudential promenade and turn the kids over to the puppeteer who is putting on a show. Say goodbye and go back to your seat at Lord and Taylor.” At this point, I was getting rather nervous and upset. It was too much. There were just too many kids surrounding me.
When we entered the Prudential building, I saw the elevators off to the left. To the right, there was a large sort of room that went around the bottom of the Pru. I turned right and entered this large hallway that was probably 50’ long. As I turned again, flanked by the 200 kids that had followed me into the building, I was shocked to see another 300 children and their parents already seated in chairs, watching the puppeteer. This was a big celebration. I was, even more, shocked to discover that the puppeteer was leaving! He was removing puppets from his hands and began to walk towards me, and towards the exit. I stood in front of him and asked, “Where are you going?” He replied, “I’m going on break.” I said, “Oh no, you’re not.” He said, “Yeah, I’m going on break. I’ve been here for an hour.” Emphatically, I replied, “Oh no, you’re not. I have all of these kids with me.” He said, “So what?”
So, here I am, roughing up a puppeteer, and, in turn, the puppeteer was pushing me, and we were getting into a pushing match. We weren’t shouting. We were smart enough not to shout at each other. I was ready to deck him, and he was willing to deck me. To be honest with you, I think that he hated kids. He hated me. That I knew. The promotional director grabbed me by the arm, gave my arm a shake and inquired sternly, “What is wrong with you? You are having a fight in front of all of these children.” This startled me, and I asked through clenched teeth, “What do you want me to do? There are 500 kids here!” I felt like an idiot. You know, just because you are wearing a Santa Claus suit doesn’t mean that you don’t think that everyone knows who you are. You can put any face that you want upon yourself, but, believe me, you think that they know who you are.
At this point, it was just too much. With all of the other frustrations in my life, this was just too much. Just a day before, I had learned the sad news about the mother of my goddaughter. It was just too much. The helicopter ride was fine, but I didn’t want any more. I just wanted to sit down. I had had it. It was just too hard. As I was feeling these feelings, the promotional director had led me to a chair that was placed in front of the table that had been placed in front of the table that held the puppeteer’s brightly colored stage. She encouraged me, “Get up on the table and sing Christmas carols.”
With all my energy drained, I wearily replied, “I don’t know any Christmas carols. What do you want me to do?” As I looked out over the crowd of probably 500-600 kids and their parents looking at me, I climbed onto the chair and then onto the table. I felt naked. There was a pause, and the whole room went silent. Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thought, “Something is wrong. This Santa is just not going to make it.” I felt as if I wasn’t going to make it. I knew that the promotional director felt that I wasn’t going to make it. I closed my eyes and just thought, “Please!”
I opened my eyes and looked down. Standing right in front of the table was a little black child. I looked at him, and I looked at his grandmother standing beside him. I knew that I was going to make it. I pointed at him and said slowly, “Did you eat your hot dog and French fries and drink your coke?” He looked up at me, and there was a moment from his heart, his soul, his life. He looked into my eyes and every bit of everything bad inside of me was sucked out. There was only goodness inside of me. A smile came upon my face. With a smile, I said, “Misery likes company,” and I reached down, put out my hand, took his arm, helped him climb onto the chair and then onto the table next to me. He looked up at me. He just looked up at me. I put my arm on his shoulder and said, “Okay, who knows some Christmas carols?”
Voices from the back of the room responded, “We do.” I asked, “What do you want to sing?” They started with Jingle Bells. They had a lovely harmony. It was a group of carolers who had just stopped by to see what was going on. It was beautiful. The puppeteer tried to come back, but I just wouldn’t let him. I got a standing ovation. People didn’t want to let me go. They followed me back to Lord and Taylor. Management was happy because many customers came into the store. Overall, it was an incredible success. This night, too, as I left the store as it closed, the manager asked as he had done so many times before, “How do you do it?
An Original Story ( and true too )by Ken Gidge.