My daily commuting time has gone up dramatically in the last two weeks. Unlike my sedate (other than manual labor) life since retirement, I have been on the road quite a bit to be Santa in Fort Myers at Bass Pro Shop.
Ignoring the abysmal driving I’ve observed, I’d like to focus, instead, on the wonderful people who come to take photos with me.
I have been Santa for 20+ years now, and each season gets better. Perhaps because I no longer have a single thing to prove. I’ve now done every kind of event offered with two exceptions: ice skating/skiing Santa and stripper Santa. Yes, all real, and wisely declined on my part. I desire no injury to my portly body and no videos on Instagram of me in a red thong. I will admit, however, that the money for all of the above was spectacular. Use your imaginations, but have a barf-bag ready.
I have a lovely cast of elves who do their very best to make my job easier. I have NOTHING AT ALL to do with reservations, money, credit cards, or anything remotely resembling the business end of the event. Instead, I eyeball the line from my bench and determine how much time I can spend with each family, who sits where, who stands, and what questions to ask the family.
Much to my delight, my paltry Spanish has been more in need this year, as there is a gigantic Cuban community that comes to visit each day I am there (I am not there every day) and it has been fun. I have been able to guide people, assuage doubts, and chuckle. I find it heartwarming when Abuela tells the kids that Santa is a cutie in Spanish in the misunderstanding that I am English only. When I quip back that it beats being ugly or fat I get some good laughs.
I’ve also had occasion to speak French (not very well, mainly based on my bar-hopping as a young sailor and mission trips to Haiti – top that combo!) with a family that came to visit from France.
Finally, my German is getting a workout. I have come to understand that dialect is a huge deal and my German is lacking a bit. But it still gets smiles and some chat going.
If you haven’t already guessed, my heart swells a bit with each visit. The love is palpable.
Oh, one final oddity and change from Minnesota: pajamas.
There are huge numbers of people who do family photos in pajamas. Didn’t see that much in Minnesota. And I figured out why: you’d freeze to death crossing the parking lot in silk pajamas in Minnesota. In Fort Myers, you work up a light sweat.
Now, back to shining my boots and getting ready for my next day on the bench!