Back in the early eighties I worked for a silk screen shop in Southside. Rodco wasn't a very good experience for me. The company was owned by two young quirky entrepreneurs. I was hired as a graphic designer for minimum wage to come up with t-shirt designs. It was a bonafide sweat shop.
I remember a cold December morning when one of my bosses, Tim, came in holding a bag. He plopped it on my art desk in front of me and said, "Put this on". I looked up and him and then I peered in the bag.
"I don't think so." I replied.
Tim had a stern look on his face, "You will do it right now. We don't have much time!"
"What is this all about Tim?"
"Christy promised her students that Santa Claus would visit her classroom today and you're going to be Santa!"
Tim wasn't a very pleasant fellow to be around to begin with, and I certainly didn't feel like being bullied into playing Santa.
"Are you ordering me to be Santa because Christy has ordered YOU to be Santa?"
Tim was fuming. "I'm not taking 'no' for an answer David! Get in the suit - we've got to go NOW!"
"Tim, you need to hurry up and get in the suit, because playing Santa isn't in my job description."
Darryl, my other boss, walked in about that time. "What's going on?"
Tim told Darryl about the great humanitarian deed he was making me do. Darryl told Tim that he needed play Santa if I didn't want to. I could tell that Tim wasn't expecting Darryl to tell him to go do his own dirty Santa work.
At that moment I decided to volunteer. I told Tim that I didn't care to be bullied into it. I didn't want to be Santa but I would do it. I put on the cheap suit and sat in the passenger seat as Tim drove down the country road to Ragland Elementary.
When we got there, we walked down the halls together. Kids peering out of windows as if they were convicts behind bars. I could hear countless voices calling out my name. I was immediately overwhelmed with children once I stepped into Christy's classroom. Christy showed me to a chair and I got down to business. I could tell by the clothes the children wore that the school mostly taught children of lower income families. I remember the classroom had kind of a funky smell to it.
Tim and Christy stood by the door as I put children up on my knee and listened to every wish and want. There was a moment though that I will never forget. A little girl crawled up on my lap. I was about to ask her what she wanted for Christmas. Her dirty little face looked up and she asked, "Santa, why did you not come to my house for Christmas last year?"
Tears welled in my eyes and I had no response. I just sat there and hugged her, not being able to say a word. I never played Santa again. Santa writes checks that some parents can't cash. Being a chubby and jovial kind of guy - I've been asked countless times to be Santa. Hold a gun to my head and I'll just say No-No-No!