Sunday, December 19, 1999

A Case Of Mistaken Identity?


     I had just been seated at a local restaurant we often frequent when it happened.  I forget the name of the restaurant but it's the one that's recently discovered that if you take one of those old rotating color wheels people used to use to add color to their aluminum Christmas trees and set it up next to your salad bar, you no longer have to depend on microorganisms to turn the potato salad from yellow to blue.  Anyway, I'd just been seated in a booth (or maybe a table) when this guy came up to me and infected my life with the following conversation.
     "Excuse me, Sir," he said, without further preamble, "but aren't you Santa Claus?"
     "No," I assured him, having just seen my face in the mirror that very morning.  "You must be mistaking me for someone else."
     "You aren't the one the Dutch call Sinter Claes?" he persisted, not unlike a color wheel certified by Underwriters Laboratories never to cease spinning no matter how thick the mayonnaise gets.
     "No," I replied.
     "Perhaps you've taken to calling yourself St. Nicholas again?  Well, I'm glad!  I've always thought that to be the best of an admittedly bizarre lot."
     "I'm very sorry," I lied, "but I'm really not who you think I am."
     "You mean to tell me you weren't born in the ancient Lycian seaport city of Patara near modern Kalamaki, Turkey some 1700 years ago?  That you weren't the bishop of long-ago Myra?  That you've never served time in a Roman prison or had your holy bones carried by Italian sailors from Myra to Bari, Italy in 1087 A.D.?"
     "I don't think so," I took a wild guess.
     "Then why do you smell so bad?"
     "I believe you are confusing me with my wife's never-been-washed fajita," I replied in a barely controlled tone of voice, miffed not only at everything this confusion implied but by the fact that my wife was almost done with her meal while I had yet to order.
     "Wife??"  the man exclaimed, eyeing my spouse closely while his fingers busied themselves probing her hot sauce.  "I thought this was one of your reindeer!"
     Oh, but I'm sure she would have impaled him with one of her antlers had the flaring of her nostrils not been enough to send him fleeing.  Not real antlers, of course - just stuffed brown felt ones attached to a head band she'd picked up this week and had become quite attached to - but only a fool would underestimate the damage she could do even with such meagre equipment when really motivated.
     I'm not sure why the guy (or maybe it had been a woman) had mistaken me for Santa.  
     In fact, I have no idea.  
     I don't have a beard.  I don't have white hair.  I'm not fat.  I don't wear red suits.  I'm afraid to fly in airplanes let alone open, dangerously overloaded sleighs.
     Was it possible that some inner Santa essence was oozing out without my knowledge?
     Was it possible that I really was Santa in disguise?
     Suddenly a host of old memories and fears encircled my head like a wreath.
     Reagan had sometimes forgotten he was president when he was president, hadn't he?
     Countless cartoon characters seem to utterly forget what happened to them yesterday even though many have more substance than I'll ever have.
     And hasn't my worst fear always been that I'm actually God hiding out in the least likely hiding place after having given Myself a divine case of amnesia to avoid having to face the utter mess I've made of reality?
     Maybe that fear was really just an indication of my mind's failure to fully escape the knowledge that I truly was Santa!

     The question became why, if I was Santa, I would want to forget it.
     And then I knew why.
     People are always asking Santa for things.  People are always expecting him to deliver.  And they're always expecting him to deliver on the biggest holiday of the year - and to be downright jolly about it, too.  They think that a few cookies and a glass of once upon a time refrigerated milk is as close to paying him a living wage as they ever have to get.  If anyone has ever bothered to write Santa a thank you note, I haven't heard about it.  Could it be that I'm just deaf from clanging my dinger on street corners for hours at a time??
     Could it be that I actually smelled bad from having refereed one too many reindeer games???
     It was all I could do to keep from putting a finger alongside my nose and disappearing up the restaurant's chimney.
     Or down the diner's grease trap.

     The point is, maybe I am Santa.  Doctors will try to find out by running a few tests this week to see exactly how similar my belly really is to a bowl full of jelly.  
     I'm so scared.  I'm too young to be Santa, damn it!!  
     And tough luck for you if I am, too, since I'm way too selfish to be giving any toys away that I haven't played the crap out of myself.
     I guess we'll just have to wait and see, eh?
     Or drink nog til we're too sick or unconscious to care....

     On the bright side: I was having a pretty good day before we went to that restaurant/diner/hotdog stand.  In fact - miracle of miracles! - I actually found not one but two gift items at KMart from which the price stickers peeled off without leaving a trace of residue!  
     Wooo-hooo!  Do you have any idea how rare that is?  How remarkable??  How utterly exciting???
     If I'm not too distraught tomorrow over the possibility of my being Santa, I think I'll go back and buy 'em.

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(All Material ©1999 by the author - whoever he may turn out to be)