In Search Of The Christmas Spirit

B & I were chatting about Christmas the other day, about how commercial it has gotten and about how difficult it seems to be to recapture the spirit of Christmas that we had as kids.

“Yeah, my bell has certainly stopped ringing,” I lamented, referring to Santa’s little bell in The Polar Express, which could be heard only by children who believe in Santa. “For a while there I thought I was still hearing it, but it turned out to be my Tinnitus.”
“How did you discover that?”
“I heard it right after losing a twenty dollar bet on the all-star game last July.”
“Hm. That might have been your blood pressure, Dear…”
“Whatever. It damn sure wasn’t the Christmas bell.”
“Well,” B said, thinking out loud, “If you can’t recreate Christmas as a child, perhaps you could recreate it as Santa. After all, you do have a beard, and a little round belly… tee hee hee.”

Tee hee hee. I’ve always hated it when B thinks out loud. But this time she might be on to something. After thinking it over, I decided to give it a try. What the hell, if I could spark a little Christmas Spirit in a kid, who sparked it back to me, then what’s the harm? I wouldn’t be like stealing a kid’s Christmas spirit, but more like, well, borrowing it, or living vicariously through the kid, or kids. Hey, that’s it! You have a bunch of kids sitting on your lap, telling you of their Christmas dreams and wants, and you go home with some Christmas cheer! I liked it!

But wait… on the other hand, it could turn out to be just a long day of bratty kids screaming in your ear, sending you home early, reeling from the whole nightmarish experience, your ears ringing… and not from the Christmas bell. Then you’d be finding your Christmas cheer at the bottom of a fine bottle of brandy.

It turned out to be one of those ‘oh, just go try it, what is there to lose’ moments. So I drove over to Mount Vernon and walked into the Macy’s department store. A clerk directed me to the manager’s office, who directed me to the next room, which turned out to be empty, except for a desk and two chairs. I sat down to wait, and after a few minutes a guy in a white shirt and tie, (no coat) walked in and sat down behind the desk.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, without looking up.
“I want to apply for your Santa Claus job,” I managed.
He reached down to a lower desk drawer, pulled out a sheet of paper, put it on the desk in front of him, then finally looked up at me, with what I thought was a slight smirk.

“So, you want to be our Santa, eh?” There was something ominous in that statement, but I forged ahead.
“Yes, yes I do.”
“Have you done this before?”
“No, but I think i could be a good one…”
“what are your qualifications?”
Good god, was he going to want my medical history too? “Well, I have a son, who turned out quite well, and he likes Christmas…”
“Is that all?”
“I can be jolly…”
The guy began writing on the sheet of paper in front of him. “Can you work two shifts of two hours each, two to four, and four to six?”
“Sure, that sounds easy enough.” At that, the guy actually smiled.
“Do you have a Santa suit?”
“No, but I guess I could get one somewhere…”
“Let me hear your ‘ho ho ho’…”
“Um, do I have to?” The eyebrows went up again.
“Okay. Ahem. ho ho ho.”
He stared at me. “That’s it?”
I stared back. “Yes. That’s it.”

The guy checked off some boxes on his sheet of paper, then paused. “Look,” he said, with his eyebrows slightly raised. “You really don’t meet any of our qualifications for a Santa. You have no experience, you don’t own a suit, you’re bald, your beard’s not white and it’s way too short.”
“Wait,” I pleaded. “The hat would cover the bald, and they have fake beards, right? Those are little things…”

He held up his hand. “Please. According to my Santa chart, you’re way short of the points you need to qualify as a store Santa. You’re not jolly, you’re not fat, you have no experience… even your ‘ho ho ho’ is ho ho horrible, if you don’t mind my saying so.” And at that, he actually chuckled.

I stood up, fairly pissed now. “So I assume this interview is over?”
“That would be correct,” he responded dryly.
“Good. Because this is the worst interview I’ve ever been in. All I was trying to do was do a little public service and make a few kids happy. I’ll bet the poor sucker who gets this job is gonna regret it!”

“Actually,” said the guy, who was smiling that insidious smile again, “It turns out that you’re the sucker, sir. We’re not having a store Santa this season. I interviewed you because I always enjoy this part of the process. It brings me a certain kind of cheer, you know?”

I stared at him. The little bastard. Finally I breathed. “Yes, I know. and I also know you’re nothing but a sniveling little, um, little Santa basher, and I know where you can stick your questionnaire!”
At that I departed Macy’s posthaste, feeling fairly good about my parting shot.

Later that day, back at home, sitting in my favorite chair, a double shot of Hennessy’s tinkling in the icy glass beside me, I was able to reflect on the morning’s events. B was knitting on the couch, and finally she looked over her glasses at me. “How did the interview go, Dear?”

I knew it was coming, I was ready for it, yet I took a deep sip of the brandy, just to make sure it all came out the way I wanted it to. “Oh, I thought it went quite well. I was all ready to be their store Santa Claus, but there were long hours and some store restrictions that I just couldn’t abide by. And yet, over all, a good holiday experience.”

B continued to look at me over her glasses. “They didn’t need a store Santa, did they?”
Did I detect a note of ice in that question? “Well, actually… no, they didn’t.” Then, “But how did you know?”
“It was in the morning paper yesterday.”
“So why didn’t you tell me?”
“Dear, you were so intent on finding some Christmas spirit, I wasn’t going to rain on your parade. Besides, when you left the house this morning, you were so positive, so hopeful, so… so cheerful!”
“Oh, and now??”
She paused. “Christmas can be a difficult time for all of us. Have another drink, Dear… who knows, maybe you’ll even hear the little bell!”

Steve Hulse

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