People who know me freak out whenever I walk into a room and I’m wearing my Santa Hat. Me? A Santa Hat? People who know me stare. The rest of the world just assumes I’m one of those people who really like Christmas and they treat me as if I’m one of their own. I’m not. I hate Christmas. I hate each and very day of it, each and every cheap plastic Mal Wart ornament, and I hate Christmas music with a passion. So, Mike, what’s with the Santa Hat?
The people who know me stay the hell out of my way when it comes to Christmas. They do not want to hear my rants about landfill space, and bankruptcy, and this time of year being all about spending money to support the retail economy which is parasitic in nature. But I do realize there are a lot of people who get a big kick out of this time of season, and being around me at Christmas is like being around a diehard member of the AA at a kegger.
Honestly, the Santa Hat is warm on my head. I kinda forgot I had it on when I went out today after the storm, and the second I pulled into the parking lot of the Awfful House I remembered. They’ve taken white shoe polish and done all their windows up in good Christmas cheer but it looks like a five year old with a twitch did the artwork. Speaking of five year olds, as I walk in two kids scream with glee. See, this is what I’m talking about here. Eleven months out of the year I’m pretty much invisible to anyone too young to remember eight track tapes. Now, because I’m wearing this hat, I’m part of the thing that’s going on. I swear it’s weird as hell.
People are much nicer to me. The waitress smiles and brings me water without me having to ask for it. I want hashbrowns. I have to put up with some breakfast special to get them, or pay twice what they’re worth to get them, so at five in the afternoon, I have breakfast. Bacon, oh yeah, none of this stuff is good for me, but I want bacon, too. Screw it.
The cook is a woman past her prime who might have been fun at one point in her life. She has homemade tattoos on her arm, and they looked nearly as old as she is. I can see her as some bright eyed young woman going off the deep end by getting a cool tattoo from her best friend and not thinking for a second she would find up in some minimum wage job when she was sixty years old. I think it’s supposed to be a parrot, but it might be a dog. I try not to stare.
The rules of any eating establishment where there are stools is you never take a seat next to someone when there are empty seats further away. The Santa Hat changes that. A young woman sits beside me and grins at me. Really? “I like your hat.” She gushes at me. Ring on left hand, brakes, cue needle across record sound, now.
Before the married young woman can say or do anything else a thirteen year old male sits beside me on the other side, and starts talking. He’s accompanied by a much older man, a young woman toting a small child, and a young girl I suspect is his sister. The teen never stops talking the entire time he’s in the building. It’s like he’s on meth. The older guy has totaled the cook’s car. No one was hurt, but the car is a wreck. The kid throws in details the older guy leaves out, and while this is going on, the cook never misses a beat. I can tell she’s upset, but she has a job to do. The older guy might be her husband, the young women their daughter, and the nonstop commentator and the rest of the young’uns her grandchildren. This is a woman truly pissed, but she never stops cooking.
It’s some sort of odd tradition, this. After the cook plates my food, and the waitress brings it to me, the family starts their ordering, but it’s off the books. Back when I managed a restaurant, I always looked the other way if good help fed their folks. The waitress hands out a free order of fries to her daughter and tells her to go home and study. The teen looks over at my plate and says, ‘Why are you missing your bacon up with your grits? That looks gross!” The cook is appalled, but that is also part of the Santa Hat. Kids assume you’ll speak to them because of the hat. Without hearing his grandmother, or worrying about the bacon, he starts telling me about the wreck. I never look his way, never answer any of his questions, never acknowledge I even hear him, but he goes through the details, skipping back and forth as he remembers something, and he gets louder and louder in excitement.
“Sorry about that” the cook apologies after they all leave.
“No harm, no foul” I reply.
“The deductable is gonna eat up my Christmas money” she sighs.
“I’ll split my tips with you” the waitress offers and they both laugh hard at that one. Business, tipwise, sucks.
I leave a five for them to split, and wish I had more to leave. “SANTA!” a little girl yells at me as I get into my truck. So this is what Christmas feels like for everyone else. Everyone is happy as hell about it being Christmas even though things are still going to hell on them. It’s denial, but so is drinking beer. So is sitting in front of the computer writing just for the hell of it, but it does make me happy. The Santa Hat changes how people treat me, and it would be rude as hell for me to wear this damn thing and then not smile when they speak to me.
This is just so damn weird.