So pretty much my whole week's plans were anchored with the intent to take my son to see Santa for the first time today. Well, ok, it's my first time taking him to see Santa. He went with his grandparents for the first time last year. But anyway, the plan hit some snags this morning when for the first time I can remember (hey, another first!) he didn't go down for a nap at his usual 11am time, and ended up falling asleep at about 1:30pm. By the time we left the house (after I fed the boy and dressed him all cute in a moose sweater) it was cold, stormy, and just 1 hour before dark. That was all okay. I didn't have any other plans for the day.
We went to a mall that is never really too crowded, even at this time of year. Still, I was surprised to see that, on the 17th of December, there wasn't a single child in line to see the rather authentic-looking Santa they had working. The little village was nicely done, and the photo prices reasonable. I decided it was my lucky day and navigated the stroller through the winding line perimeter in no time. I was smiling the whole way, just super excited to be sharing this moment with my son and eager to see how he would react to old Saint Nick.
But alas, the boneheads at so-called Santa's Village had other plans.
Today's New Activity: Evil Santa, Evil Elves
Awww, see even writing that makes me sad. I was hoping to post about today's new activity being a fun visit with the baby to see Santa. But the thing just wasn't meant to be today, it seems. Ok so when we rolled up, nobody said anything. Like, I wasn't sure if someone was going to talk to me about the photo packages, give me some kind of instruction or something. But nobody did, so I just picked up a pricing brochure from a nearby pile of them and checked it out. The photo-taking girl and some kind of technician elf next to her stared at me impatiently, and then she said, "Santa's ready. Go ahead!" all mean like.
At that point, I thought Santa may try to soften the blow by saying something nice to the baby, smiling, opening up his arms, welcoming and jolly maybe. But no, he just looked at me like, 'you wanna hurry this up, lady?' I started unfastening the baby from the stroller, cooing things at him like, "you're gonna see Santa, and you can tell him what you want for Christmas, and he's really nice and he loves little monkeys like you."
Now, if I were a Santa, this is the point when I would smile, or just say ANYthing to the baby or the mom to avoid coming off like just another creep of a fat man in a red velour suit. With some trepidation, I placed the Monkey on Santa's lap, who still said absolutely nothing to comfort the boy or even do his damned Santa job. I mean, isn't Santa supposed to ask the kid what he wants for Christmas at least? I know I haven't seen a Santa in action up close in at least 25 years, so it's possible they've changed his job description, but still it seemed that a few words from the stranger whose lap a child has been placed in would be--at the very least--the polite thing to offer.
All of a sudden there was this loud, crashing bell sound coming from near the camera, and then flash! I moved inward toward the camera to try and get the baby--who was starting to cry at that point (this itself was a sign as he is so friendly and comfortable with strangers it has been a concern of mine that he could one day just run off with anyolebody)--to smile, and then both Santa and photo girl barked at me to get away or I'd be in the picture. The girl jingled the thing again and then flash. Another!
Only then (because I'd scarcely let go of the child before the first picture was taken) did I notice that his hair was all goofy, so I stepped forward to straighten it. And for that two seconds I could feel Santa's death stare boring into my neck. What gives?
I stepped away and jingle jingle flash! Then the photo girl proclaims, "That's three! Three is all you get!"
I grabbed the baby and went to look at the computer screen and she says, "Which one do you want?" The pictures were all terrible. First of all, the lighting was awful and left the whole scene looking totally flat. Also, one of the baby's pant legs was riding high and made him look kind hobo baby-like. But beyond that, the baby was making a sad face in two of the shots, and a neutral in the third. She pointed to this neutral shot and said, "This one's good. He's smiling."
Smiling? What joke of a Santa school did this motley crew graduate from?! Even Santa wasn't smiling in the pictures. I said, "Is there no way we can take another? I mean I didn't know you were gonna take the pictures that fast. Can I try and make him smile?" (Because for some strange reason that jingle crash you're making over there just doesn't seem to be doing it (?))
She said, "Well I can take another but then these will be erased."
That would be a real shame.
I walked the baby over to Santa and moved to put him back in his lap. "She said we can take another," I said, "Can I give him to you?"
The face he made in response to this question was exactly the one I picture a person making if asked: "Hey, would you mind hanging onto this hole-ridden sack of unmatched hippopotamus testicles and rapidly decomposing dingo carcasses for me?"
Even so, I was already setting the baby down in his lap; but in that moment--when I saw that facial response--the Mama in me said, 'oh No Ho Ho. I don't think so.' I scooped the boy back up and said, "You know, never mind. It's okay."
I turned and caught photo girl looking at me as if to say, "So which of these lovely mugshots will you be taking home with you?" At that point I couldn't stifle my laugh. What a ridiculous scene. It honestly felt as though I'd interrupted their plans to smoke a big fat joint or something.
And you know, I have a lot of patience for bad customer service. I certainly understand bad days, being sick of people, sick of talking, sick of your crappy job. But this Santa had to really go out of his way, grow a beard, grow a belly, in order to work with kids and be mf'n SANTA CLAUSE! How can you apply for this job if you don't absolutely *love* the little fellas? It was too much.
I didn't mind the whole thing terribly because we already had plans to visit a different Santa on Sunday with my parents. Hopefully his nature will be a little more Santa-like. And even if the baby cries during the photo, I will buy it, because I think those pictures are super funny. But I'll only do so if I see that at least that Santa tried to do the right thing and make a child happy during this one very special moment in his brand new life.
It occurred to me afterward why there was absolutely nobody in line ahead of or behind me to visit this Grinch-in-Santa's-clothing. Apparently word got around and I was just out of the loop. No matter; the little monkey's oversized heart didn't miss a beat, and he was back to his smiling little self immediately following our parting ways with Santa Evil.
Still, I can't wait to give him the Saint Nick experience his sweetcheeks deserve :)