Recently I was alone in the office waiting on walk-in traffic when I was paid a visit by the Big Guy himself. You know who I’m talking about — Father Christmas, Old St. Nick, Santa Claus, in the flesh.
He came in leisurely dressed in a red outfit, not his typical white fur lined get-up, white hair, round spectacles and big belly. He wasn’t driving a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer, but instead it was a Ford, I think.
Santa Claus was undercover.
As he walked from his car, he brought his driver along. I’m thinking this was his elf because he was shorter and wore a hat to cover his ears, which were likely pointed.
When they walked through the front door my jaw nearly dropped open. I’ve never seen anyone look more like Santa Claus. He didn’t identify himself as Santa Claus, but you just knew looking at him. He had that twinkle in his eye as he stepped up to the front desk and started to read over a copy of the paper.
“I understand you have a picture of me on your front page,” he said in a jolly voice as he looked the paper over.
Front page? Were we supposed to? Had I not received some official North Pole edict we were to run a photo of Santa Claus on the front page of the newspaper that week?
My mind raced and then it clicked with me: “Christmas parade photos?” I asked. Then I had to swallow hard as I considered what I had to tell him next: “Actually, no, we ran those photos on an inside page.”
Santa Claus looked at me, shook his head. I could see it in his eyes, I’d let the Big Guy down. The idea of running a photo of Santa Claus any place other than the front page was a Christmas faux pas I would never be able to live down in a million years.
Slowly I looked up and met the Jolly Old Elf ’s gaze: “I guess that means I’m on the naughty list?” I asked. Santa never confirmed or denied my status, but I’m pretty sure I was naughty.
He returned to looking at the newspaper and opened to the inside, where he found our Christmas parade photos. He looked it over and soon nodded with agreement. He liked it, so that may have redeemed me.
Santa then produced a billfold with money.
Money? Santa carries money around with him? Apparently magic isn’t all its cracked up to be. He looked at me and picked up several papers, “How much do I owe you?”
“ They’re free!” I announced, hoping to please Santa. I told him to take as many copies as he wanted. Santa took several and said he was on his way to check on a newspaper in Caro where he had also taken part in a parade recently.
I guess Santa has to make sure he looks good in the press.
On his way out the door he looked back, smiled and then was off to Caro — probably right before going back to the North Pole to finish getting ready for Christmas.
And now, as Christmas nears, I’m waiting for my lump of coal.
(This is a reprint from December 2009.)