Imagine, if you can, being responsible for the health and well-being of Kris Kringle; even for a brief five-hour stretch, being the one person between the giggly delight of millions of children across the globe or their anguished wails should Santa be officially declared dead.
But, the very beginning of this story is where I must start.
Earlier this spring I paid my dues to an organization that sponsors friendly golf tournaments. Finally, in late June, I had the scheduling opportunity to enter my first Sunday outing with the group. The day started warmish and by our 1:30 tee-time had become a Georgia furnace with no wisps of air to give one hope, 93….94….95, the gauge climbed. As usual, the humidity curled the edges of the score card.
Upon arrival, I was assigned an electric golf cart upon which a golf bag was already in residence, on the passenger’s side. The fellow who organizes these events was making my introductions to some players standing nearby. Across the practice putting green was a tallish man with long white hair and beard. On quick glance and at a distance I thought, “ZZ Top”. The organizer then told me that I was “paired with Santa Claus”, his exact words, indicating this very man. The organizer then called to him and indicated that I, his cart partner, had arrived. Santa waved. And, like all good boys and girls, I waved back.
Santa finished his practice putting routine and walked to me, offering a friendly hand and the instruction that he wanted me to drive. The fact that he had put his bag on the passenger’s side of an empty cart had already given me a solid hint that Santa wanted passenger duty.
All loaded up, we made our way to the first tee.
Santa introduced himself by his off-season moniker, “Richard”. He explained why the others in the group called him Santa, as if it were not obvious. Seems that every November and December, Richard is Santa Claus, not at the North Pole but at Neiman Marcus, that hallowed temple of retail visited by the entitled and their children for shopping and pictures with Santa during the holiday season.
Richard, as he preferred to be called, didn’t have rosy cheeks, a cherry-colored nose or a belly that jiggled like jelly. Clearly, come holiday time, Richard had to pad out the torso and dip into the make-up jar to get the appropriate look. Neither did he have a pipe to clinch in his teeth and so no smoke encircled his head like a wreath. He wasn’t particularly lively or quick but his beard and hair were right on the money. In addition to the white hair and beard, this Santa also had a heart condition.
This condition had required Santa to undergo quadruple by-pass surgery and the insertion and replacement of at least three stents over the past several years. All of this, no doubt, brought on by dealing with snotty little kids bringing lists of demands to Santa’s Workshop, conveniently set up inside Neiman Marcus.
As part of our small talk, Santa produced a ring of keys, attached to which was a small metal vial with a screw top. He always instructs his golf cart partners what to do should he have a heart attack on the course, Santa explained. “There are nitro-glycerine tablets in this container. Put one under my tongue. If I haven’t improved in two minutes, put another one under my tongue.”
Let’s review the situation. It’s 95 humid degrees on a nearly airless day. I am on a golf cart with a stranger who may or may not be the real Santa Claus and he has just informed me that besides trying to concentrate on golf, hard enough under most circumstances, I am the primary source of medical attention should he begin to die during the next five hours.
At this point in the chit chat I am, to paraphrase, a reindeer in the headlights.
Most worrisome was the final instruction to “call 911”, which assumed that I had a cell phone on my person. I didn’t.
A potential headline ran through my brain like one of those scrolling news flashes in Times Square: “Atlanta Man Fails to Revive Santa, World Mourns”.
Should worse come to worst, my eventual obituary would then surely include, “… he is most noted for failing to prevent the death of Santa Claus because he had left his cell phone in the car.”
I can only give you the barest description of my mental state and experience during the following 18 holes of golf, an activity that had become secondary to my day. Ignoring the posted rules, I drove as close as possible to Santa’s golf balls on the fairways to reduce his need to walk any additional steps. I encouraged–some would say “badgered”–Santa to drink plenty of fluids. I watched closely for signs of fatigue. The fact that Santa carded a score of over 110, thrashing through 18 arduous holes, contributed to my concern for his stamina.
To my great relief, Santa survived. Scores were posted. Backs were slapped all around and promises made to “do this again next week”. In my case, probably not.
I shall never again be fully comfortable during the darkened hours of Christmas morn knowing that Rudolph has no opposable thumbs with which to administer nitro glycerine pills and likely doesn’t pack a cell phone.
Observoid of the Day: Just because you have a factory full of elves doesn’t mean that you always have the latest in golf equipment.