It’s been a good 15 years since I first played Santa during the holiday season. I’d like to think I was first asked to don the suit because of my gregarious nature – but am certain it was just a ramification of being the only one without kids in my age group.
If you are a man over 30 and have not worn the Santa suit, it is something you must wipe off your bucket list. I can go on and on about the joy you get to feel inside. Watching young kids that still believe in Santa. Seeing in their eyes that wonderment we all had at one time in our lives. It is a pretty cool feeling to know that you’ll forever be in a photo album of some random house, as a wonderful early memory for a child. Or even a not so wonderful memory for some. The screaming terrified kid is also a specialty of mine. Let’s be honest – though the Christmas carols speak of a jolly old man, he appears more a serial killer in a velvet 70s leisure suit to a 3-year-old.
Those things all come with the gig, and they are a true joy. Even while suffering beneath what is basically a suit intended to make you sweat like a pig. Most places know to keep their Santa well hydrated with a spirit or two. In some cases I’ll gladly take that as payment unto itself. And while the joy of sharing a Christmas moment with the kids and parents is what gets me to the show, it’s the collateral activity that keeps me coming back.
There is always something strange that happens when you put that suit on. Besides the fact that you instantly become the focal point of wherever you are – people like to talk to Santa, especially those that are a few cocktails into the night. And oh the things they say.
I’ve been propositioned more times than I can count. Which always leaves me wondering if they knew who was under the suit, or just wanted an evening under the mistletoe with old St. Nick?
I’ve wandered into random parties, bars – even a firehouse a few years back. And never is Santa shooed away. I sometimes wish I could wear the suit year round. It is the nameless and faceless anonymity that makes it so great. I’ve ruffled enough feathers in this town throughout the years that I’m positive some would hate Santa for an evening if they knew who was in the suit. Taking a photo with someone I know who doesn’t particularly enjoy my antics while I’m Chris Teicheira, but is hugged up next to me while in the suit – Fantastic!
The list is endless; getting gas at Chevron while people stare, going through the drive thru a Carl’s Jr. or just showing up to my sister’s house unannounced, because my reindeer heard that Manteca is the best place to buy alfalfa hay – and we need some to make it back to the North Pole. There is basically never a bad time to be wearing a Santa Claus suit...
...until the other night.
(cue the ominous “The story is about to get bizarre” music)
It was a few days back and I’d been asked to show up as Santa for a holiday party at Chez Shari. I know what you’re thinking – “It’s only the beginning of November?!”...This was the earliest I’d ever worn the suit, and maybe the spirits of Thanksgiving wanted to let me know I was stepping on their toes.
I arrived as the party was starting and not wearing the suit. Any Santa worth his salt knows to check the lay of the land before “Ho Ho Ho’ing” his way into the joint. The golf clubhouse dressing room was closed, so I queried as to where I should put on the suit...
...for those that have never worn the suit, I must inform you that putting it on is a long process and is preferably a two-man job. I didn’t have my favorite elf Tony Coit along for this journey so I was looking at a minimum of 15 minutes to get this velvet sweat suit on but where? All the other rooms were occupied. I had only one choice...
The men’s room. And to be more specific: The handicapped stall in the men’s room.
I’m not going lie and say this was the first time I’ve had to use that stall to dress as Santa. Heck, this wasn’t the first time I’d used that stall when not being Santa. We all do it. It is the luxury car of the men’s room – and we all want to drive it when we can.
For what I was attempting to do, the handicapped stall had all the amenities; leg room, a hook to hang my clothes, a little wall mounted table. It however didn’t have what I really needed – someone to help me put it on!
I was 5 minutes in, when I realized I had the sequence out of order, and had to start the process over. There really isn’t an adequate word to describe the feeling of being nude, with nothing but a pair of Santa boots on, while standing in a men’s room stall. (Except maybe “Creepy”)...I hurried myself, like an undressed school boy with the bus honking outside.
Mind you, there have been several visitors to the room while this is happening. I would remain frozen with each entrance.
I was nearly complete. The last stage is always the wig and beard. Once these go on, there is no turning back. Mostly because it is when you finally realize – my god this suit is itchy and awful, I can’t believe I let someone talk me into wearing this for a few hours...
...and then it happened. Several knocks at the stall door. But not a friendly “Excuse me, is this occupied” type knock. It was a “Hey jerk, you’ve been in the stall too long!” kind of action. My blood boiled. Here I am, putting on a Santa suit, for what is no doubt a party that this man will be enjoying, and he rude knocks me?!
“I’m very sorry sir, I will be just a second longer – I’m putting on a Santa suit for your party” – if only that is what I had said.
For the sake of my mother, I will not repeat what I actually said – but those that know me have an idea. It was curt and sharp. The type of thing a seasoned comic has prepared in the case of a heckler. And believe me, I nailed the landing.
It was just then, that I noticed them from under the door stall. And by “them”, I mean the wheels to his wheelchair. He responded immediately – “No prob jerk, I’ll just perch myself up on the urinal to handle my business!”
There was no hole deep enough to climb into. No rock large enough to crawl under. I even crinkled my nose like St. Nick, hoping that in some Christmas miracle, I’d be able to use the air vents as a makeshift chimney and disappear to the roof. Alas, I was stuck, and there was only one way out. The moment froze in time. There I was doing a wonderful thing – all while doing such a terrible thing.
“I’m sorry man, give me two seconds.” And with that said I put the beard, wig, and cap on as fast as I could, and opened the door. We locked eyes for a split second. Which is to say, he locked eyes with Santa. He had no clue who I was under the suit – it was the only saving grace within the moment.
Santa made his way to his bench with the trees and snowy background. It was surreal to say the least. I mentioned the bathroom incident to the friend that had asked me to take part in the evening. She assured me that the gentlemen I’d shared the moment with was a very funny guy, and that in fact he was probably toying with me...????...Who toys around in a moment like that?! She hadn’t heard the tone of the conversation, nor felt the palpable tension that hung in that men’s room.
I went about my Santa business. At one point the gentleman made his way over for a Santa group photo with some friends – but didn’t bring up what had happened.
Which made me feel ten-times worse.
The night was coming to a close, and I was allowed to leave the suit, and join the party. I found myself at the bar within a few feet of the man I’d had the bathroom drama with. I introduced myself “Hi, how are you, I’m Chris Teicheira”...He smiled and responded “Yeah, I know who you are – I’m Robert”...Ever the narcissist, him knowing who I was made my little bird chest stick out a bit. “Oh, from the column, or my comedy?”
“From the bathroom earlier – you’re wearing the same boots dummy.” Robert for the win.
We both couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. He went on to explain that it is a joy in his life to catch people in the handicapped stall. And the fact that he could see I was dressing as Santa – made that moment one he’ll never forget.
Neither will I Robert.
The Holiday Season is upon us folks. Let the memories begin.
“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do”