In the next month or so, it is entirely possible that I will be changing jobs (I know the title says “Career Change” but job is more accurate, as I wouldn’t describe either my current or possible future occupaion as careers. So what’s with the title? Alliteration, friends. Alliteration.). Though I wouldn’t be so bold as to declare it a sure thing, I would say that I like my chances. There are still a few details that need to be taken care of first, such as the new jobs current occupent leaving it (which Lord willing he will be soon, of his own volition…well, kind of his own volition. We’ll just say, he wasn’t fired) and me actually getting an interview. Minor details really. See, I have an “in.” At any rate, hopefully it all works out. I don’t want to say what it is yet, though many of you probably already know, so there’s a nice, savory cliff hanger for you.
I’ve only had two real jobs in my life, that is if you don’t count working the Santa Claus picture booth at the mall over a couple of Christmas breaks. It was probably only about two months worth of work if I combine the two or three years I did it, but it sure seemed like a lot more. Going to see Santa has a way of sucking the Christmas Spirit out of just about everything within a five mile radius. Even the faux reindeer on the set looked irritated. These people would bring their newborn babies, I’m convinced not more than hours old, drop them in the lap of a large, strange looking man with a white beard, and insist we keep snapping away until the infant opens their eye wide and smiles. On more than one occasion I was tempted to ask the deluded parents if this child had yet developed the muscular control to smile. No amount of bell ringing, goochy-gooing, or clapping was going to make that baby smile and in fact generally had the opposite affect. Nothing like the wail of a screaming child in the mall to bring out your yuletide cheer.
The worst times though were when we had to shut down the set, either for lunch or for the evening. On days when the lines were long, we had to be able to make an educated guess as to how much longer it would take to get everyone who was in line right then through it. Then we’d have to post a guard at the end saying that no more people could get in line because Santa needed a break. Folks had a really hard time understanding this for some reason. I suppose it was because they saw Santa was still there, so I should be able to get in line to see him. Of course, had we just announced that Santa was going on break with no warning, leaving those who had already been queued up to wait around another 30 minutes, we would’ve had rioting soccer moms on our hands. Gaging the line became an artform. The manager then got the brilliant idea of waiting until their appeared at the end of the line person who looked like they were someone who could hold their own in a fracas and would offer them the largest picture package for free if they would hold a sign saying they were the last ones to see Santa before he left. It really was a stroke of genius. Parents of hopeful lap-sitters were less likely to berate another parent of a hopeful lap-sitter than they were a green apron wearing Santa’s helper.
But there was still plenty to gripe about for the parents. The camera we used was digital and everything was computerized, which couldn’t have been a bigger pain. The system was constantly going down and/or causing delays which only made the natives, who had already spent an hour in line with three squirmy, snotnosed kids, all the more restless. Since it was digital these natives were able to see the picture before we printed it and this would lead to a seemingly endless series of retakes as they cooed, clapped, and jumped up and down in a vain attempt to get Tommy the three day old baby to stop drooling on himself and smile (BTW, do you know why babies usually smile? Yeah, that really added to the ambience). One particularly bad day, the system crashed and there was no hope to fix it. We had to order a whole new CPU from the Mothership. So out comes the back-up, the legend himself, the venerable Polaroid. Actually, that may have been the best day. No previews, no package options, no slow printers, just on click and done. The only complaints that day went something like this:
Customer: $7.95 for a Polaroid?!
Me: Yes, that’s right.
Customer: Don’t you think that’s a little expensive for a Polaroid?
Me: Yes. Yes, I do.
Hey man, I’m just the elf. I don’t set the prices. Besides, you are going to pay for it aren’t you? That’s what I thought. It was like watching capitalism in action. If you want to cheap holiday picture of the kiddos, hop the next steamer Mother Russia and get one with Comrade Claustrovich.
I hadn’t really intended this to be a post about my days as a Christmas photog, but I think writing this helped me undergo some sort of cleansing catharsis. Ah, good times on the Santa set. Good times.
I’ll get to the real job stuff next week sometime.