There I was, training the new girl Chantal on the registers, practicing how to input UPS charges for send sales and how to print out gift receipts. We were interrupted by an older gentleman waiting to pay for a lemon juicer.
“Do you want to try to ring it up?” I asked Chantal.
“Umm, sure, okay,” she hesitated.
“Just scan the bar code here, and then ask him if he needs anything else.”
“Sir, do you need anything else?”
Chantal and I looked at the man for the first time. He was average height, older, overweight, and he had long white hair in ringlets, and a thick snowy beard. He was wearing a blue flannel shirt, jeans, wire-frame glasses, and a NASA baseball hat (I never knew they had baseball in outer space, but NASA is making new advancements all the time that are not always reported in the media).
Chantal pinched my elbow.
“Look who it is!” she whispered, as if the customer was waaaaaaaay across the store and couldn’t hear us instead of one foot away and looking right at us.
“Santa!” we both squealed in unison, as if he was Bruce Springsteen and we were Courtney Cox and he was pulling us onstage to rock “Dancing In The Dark” with him.
“Santa!” I cried, “You shop!”
All this time, I thought he made everything, you know—like God—but it turns out he has to squeeze lemons just like the rest of us, and maybe that was the secret ingredient in Rudolph’s pre-flight energy drink that helped him get around the globe in one night.
Chantal and I smiled at each other. We smiled at Santa. Santa smiled back at us. We were like a Christmas toothpaste commercial. The other sales associates and a few random customers began to gather ‘round. We all wanted to be in the glow that was Santa, but away from his red suit and cameras and lines of children wanting to sit on his lap. This was the real deal.
“I’ll give Santa a discount!” I declared eagerly, as if Santa needed a discount and as if I couldn’t be fired on the spot for arbitrarily giving out discounts to whomever I wanted. “How about military discount, Santa? You are wearing a NASA hat.”
Santa beamed. “That is very nice of you.”
I totaled out the transaction, all but shoving Chantal out of the way. I kept thinking, Wait ‘til I tell Tall and Short! They will be so excited!
Chantal bagged up the lemon juicer, she somehow had edged herself back in when I was gawking at Santa. We both waited for him to sign the electronic signature pad. He signed “Santa Claus” with a big flourish and we both swooned.
“This is the greatest thing ever,” I said to no one in particular.
Chantal and I handed Santa his bag with the lemon juicer all wrapped in tissue paper as if it was fragile. I thought Chantal might tie a ribbon on the bag, what with her being French and all. Those French people like to show off how stylish they are, and what better opportunity then in front of Santa.
“Bye, Santa, bye!” I waved. Then I added hastily, “We love you!”
I wanted to go around the counter and follow Santa, to see exactly how he got in here (he couldn’t possibly have just walked, could he?) but right then another customer came up and started asking about holiday chocolates. Her timing could not have been worse.
“Do you have any idea who that just was?” I said to the woman.
“No?” she said like a question.
“It. Was. Santa.”
My customer, Meryl Streep, and I walked over to the door, hoping to get one last glimpse of him.
(“Merrily On Vacation”)