I was an Elf at the Mall During Christmas. My Story is Insane.
By Kelly O’Grady
Ten years ago I was twenty and still living with my parents, it was late November and I needed to find a seasonal job or my parents would make me move into the woodshed in the backyard, that was not an option because there were lots of black widow spiders in there.
So I sat at an Internet café for hours on craigslist searching for work; I found one as a photographer or “Photo Elf” at a Santa’s Photo Hut, they needed someone with a lot of enthusiasm. I had a lot of enthusiasm not to live in a shed with black widow spiders so the opportunity seemed amicable.
I had to commute an hour via bus to get to the interview, which was conducted by Mrs. Clause herself (real name Sandy) and she was every bit the sweetheart you’d think she’d be. The interview went well and I really padded out my photographic expertise and she offered me the job.
Santa Claus was another story altogether, he was an “authentic beard Santa” as in he had an actual snowy white beard and red nose (probably from alcohol). He thought he was hot shit and when he wasn’t in Santa mode he was a cantankerous old bastard.
Mr. and Mrs. Clause were an actual married couple, Santa was Mrs. Clause second husband. Maybe her first husband was Paul Bunyan.
A week later a corporate stooge from San Jose trained us photo elves on the inner workings of Mall Santa photography, they also gave us our elf names, mine was Pippin.
We started the day after Thanksgiving, aka BLACK FRIDAY. Everything went wrong, the cash register wouldn’t open and the printer exploded, children were crying and parents were yelling at each other. It was not a festive atmosphere. Santa Clause was slamming Coca-Cola’s he hid behind his chair. I got home at midnight after a two-hour commute.
The next day two other elves quit but I hung in due to the fact that I’m a tough little elf, I was totally inept but Mrs. Clause thought I was a technological wizard because I could operate a digital camera and a computer.
Mrs. Claus and I would laugh and carry on, meanwhile, Santa would glare at me from his chair, he was under the impression that I was flirting with his wife. Maybe that’s how people became Santa Claus and he was worried he would be usurped Game of Thrones style.
In the second week Santa got food poisoning from a bad food court hotdog and had to leave because it took all of his energy not to shit his pants, I was tasked with donning the big red suit and the worst Santa beard you’ve ever seen. It looked like a dead shitzu was strapped to my face with an elastic band.
I would describe myself as “Thick” but this Santa suit hung off me like Santa had been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for eight years. On my way to the Santa hut from the locker-room some teenagers pointed at me and said “Santa looks like he’s a junky!”
The parents weren’t impressed with me either and there were many complaints about how I was not an authentic beard Santa as advertised. It was true: I was a sad excuse for jolly old Saint Nick.
We were about to close when a family came in at exactly 9:59 and we had to oblige them a photo. I noticed the kid was drinking a lot of apple juice. They put the kid on my knee and we went through the whole “What do you want for Christmas” shtick when I started to feel a dampness spreading across my leg, I look down and the child had urinated all over me and the floor. That was a picture to remember.
The next day Santa complained that his suit smelled like piss.
One of the worst things about that job is all the goddamn holiday music playing on an endless loop. Even to this day when I hear the song “White Christmas” I start retching like Alex from a Clockwork Orange when Mozart is played.
Finally Christmas Eve arrived, the war was almost over; It was just Mrs. Clause and I holding everything together because all of the other photo elves buckled under the mounting pressure and had gone AWOL. Mrs. Clause had been feeding Santa a fistful of Xanax to get him over the hill, the drugs only improved his mood marginally.
Finally the last photo was taken and the door to Santa’s hut had been shuttered for the year. I was getting out of my elf uniform when Mrs. Clause gave me a Christmas card and a big, warm hug. Inside the card was fifty dollars cash taped inside. The card read as follows:
Dear Kelly (Pippin ha ha)
You were my favorite elf this year and I think you are a lovely young man. You brought me laughter and cheer when Santa Claus was being an old fuddy-duddy. I hope all of your dreams of becoming a famous cartoonist come true, I know cartoonists are poor so here is fifty dollars to buy yourself some spaghetti. You’ll always have a place in Santa’s hut.
This was sealed with a lipstick kiss.
That was the nicest Christmas card I’ve ever received and I would miss Mrs. Clause, she was true to the legend and not a kinder woman walks this earth (Except for my mom of course if she’s reading this) but Santa Clause can kiss my ass, I know who really does all the work delivering all those gifts across the world and its Santa’s wife!
That fat old buzzard Santa Claus gets to wear a cool suit and fly around the world and take all the credit while his old lady gets shit done and makes all the miracles happen.
Thank you Mrs. Clause because you are the brains and heart behind the operation.
America thanks you.