You know how at parties, you inevitably get seated next to someone with whom you have little in common, and eventually, you need to make a graceful exit to cure the awkward silence. Well, I got seated next to Santa, who was not, contrary to popular belief, the talkative type. Without a way to exit gracefully, I decided that I needed to prompt discussion. But talking with Santa is more complicated than it might sound.
Santa was sitting on a love seat, where we’d positioned him with Lizzy for some photo ops. Lizzy was indifferent to the guy in the red suit, and instead, she chose to focus on the Christmas tree in the corner of the room. I suppose it was better than her screaming while on Santa (“No Santa, she’s not normally a demon child. She deserves better than coal, I swear.”). She sat quite comfortably for awhile while I took a lot of photos and prodded her to do something other than stare vacantly at the mesmerizing tree in the corner.
I was sitting across from Santa, and Dan was next to me, holding Lizzy and chatting with other party goers who were standing nearby. Nobody seemed interested in talking with Santa, and he was looking kind of lonely. People would walk by, and I’d offer them my seat next to Santa, claiming that I didn’t want to “hog Santa” but nobody took me up on the offer.
The first problem with conversing with Santa is to figure out whether Santa wants to stay in character, or if you can talk directly to the fat guy under the suit. I tried to open with a question that would let him make the choice.
“So Santa, have you been Santa long?”
I guess I gave him the option of letting me know he’d been living up at the North Pole for 1000 years. But he didn’t say that. Instead, he said, “Oh, a very long time.”
Great, not only is he ridiculously succinct for decent conversation, he didn’t help me figure out whom to address. I felt like I was talking with someone with multiple personality disorder.
“Do you come to many parties this time of year?”
He gave me a wink (a regular habit, almost like a tic) and said, “Oh, yes, very many parties.”
Now I fell into the trap of asking “yes/no” questions. But Santa threw me a bone and added, “But I’m the airport Santa.”
I stared blankly at him for a couple moments. Did he mean that his reindeer are out of commission, that he’s relying on commercial airlines these days? Or does it mean that instead of living at the North Pole, he spends his days roaming the halls of the Airport, a kind of airline hobo Santa?
Unsure of how to answer, he got a “oh, that’s nice!” from me. I shot Dan a “help me” look that didn’t get received. I was on my own with this one.
“So you work at the airport?” I prompted.
“Yes, and I have an elf with me.”
“An elf! At the airport! That’s great!” So now I was envisioning hobo santa with his midget tag-along digging through the airport’s trash bins.
“I also have a photographer.”
Okay, succinct Santa was beginning to make more sense. Santa has an elf and a photo crew that go about posing with travelers. When I asked him where at the airport he was stationed, he told me he went all over the place with his North Pole gang.
“You know, I didn’t try to be Santa.” *wink*
He caught me off guard, volunteering that information. I think I was spacing out in the direction of the tree, joining Lizzy in her reverie. Did he mean that one day, he woke up, all Santified? (At least he was letting me know that it was okay to talk about a time when he wasn’t Santa. I still wasn’t sure if he thought he was Santa.) It could be like one of those tacky, seasonal Santa movies where joe schmo is destined to become Santa and doesn’t want the job.
“Well, the best jobs are the ones that find you.” I couldn’t believe how cheesy I sounded. I was like some sort of chipper guidance counselor. What in the world did I mean, anyway?
*wink* “I guess I just looked the part.” *wink* *wink*
Maybe he walked around in a red suit all day, and kids kept coming up to him asking him for presents. I suppose at some point, you’ve got to give in. But of course, I wanted to know what aspect of him was so santalike. Perhaps it was his constant winking. Poor guy has a tic, and everyone won’t leave him alone about it.
“Was it the beard?” I guessed (safer than the tic). A nod and a wink let me know that I had it. I wanted to ask about the belly but it seemed a bit rude to ask him, just after he polished off a plate of Christmas goodies, whether he came by his girth naturally or had to work at it to be Santa. Perhaps it would have been a more delicate question for Mrs. Claus, but I didn’t want to be rude.
Looking around for discussion prompts, I noticed a large red sack on the floor. I figured it was his, but it didn’t hurt to ask. “So Santa, is that your gift bag that you pack around with you?” As if there was a chance one of the other guests would come bearing a large, garishly red velvet sack with items bulging out of it.
Santa smiled and leaned down to his sack. “Well, let’s just look here and see if I have anything for you.”
Great, now Santa thought I was fishing for goodies. “Oh, I didn’t mean you had to give me any presents!” (Wait, isn’t that what Santa DOES?)
He handed me a bag of candy, and passed one over to Dan as well, who was finally taking interest in the conversation at this point (when candy was involved). Not when I was struggling to keep up a conversation. (After the fact, Dan let me know that it was better he didn’t participate. He would have asked Santa about his cholesterol given all those cookies.)
After thanking Santa, I sat there wondering what to discuss next. Frustrated with my inability to figurine out whom I was addressing, I struggled to come up with more questions. But Santa beat me to it and excused himself to eat some dessert. It turns out, I was the awkward conversationalist at the party, the one you don’t want to sit next to, and Santa was the one to gracefully find a way to exit.
**Thanks to the party host and Santa for a wonderful evening. Santa, whoever you are, you did a great job, even when confronted by a tactless partygoer like myself. Thanks for being patient with my awkward and intrusive line of questioning. Oh, and since I forgot to do the obvious thing and ask you for something for Christmas, just to let you know, I’d like Lizzy to sleep through the night on Christmas, if possible. Please. Please.***