Yelled at, sworn at, thumped at and chased by religious zealots. Santa goes toe to toe with Melbourne’s general public on the trams.
‘Do you get paid to act like an idiot?’ a middle-aged woman asked me while I re-adjusted the faux paunch in my Santa suit.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘What’s your excuse?’
She thumped me with her hand bag then jumped off at the next tram stop.
While my last remark may have been duly met I did come to the conclusion that some of the general public had the manners befitting a horde of Orks at a Hobbit tea party.
In my short time as Santa Clause on the Melbourne city circle tram, I had been bailed up by screaming drunks, ‘WHERE’S ME FRIGGIN BIKE, SANTA?!’; had my beard yanked down when I had mentioned to one sad individual that it was Christmas, that he should cheer up, that things could be worse, ‘like working in a bank’ – which, to my horrid surprise, he was; abused by Middle Park snobites for not singing Jingle Bells with enough allegro; had lewd remarks made by a gaggle of nurses whether Santa could fill their stockings; and lastly, repeatedly asked as my glasses steamed up, ‘Gee, you must be hot in that suit, eh, Santa?’
While most of these incidents were like water off a nun’s back, there was one thing that had me ready to Rudolph someone’s nose – asking for chocolate.
Despite making it clear to everyone that the chocolate in my Santa Sack was for children only (though I admit I readily helped myself to them), this did not dissuade adults. Some were positively rabid.
‘You don’t understand me. I want my chocolate!’ an American woman snipped at me with a tone that suggested I had infringed upon her constitutional rights, and then, as if I should care, ‘I CAME ALL THE WAY FROM KENTUCKY, MISTER!’
Maybe I should’ve relented but it was much more satisfying seeing a fully grown adult screaming for a Freddo Frog in forty degree heat.
‘What your name, mister?’
‘Don’t get snitchy with me. Your full name.’
‘I’m reporting you! I’m REPORTING YOU!’
I moved away from her to the end of the tram and plied my Christmas charms on a five year old boy and presented him with a chocolate the Kentucky woman had screamed for.
To my surprise, his father snatched it out of my hands.
‘Hey, that ‘s – ‘
‘NO! NOOOOOOOO!’ he barked, his eyes wild. ‘We’re Jewish!’.
Apparently, I was supposed to know.
As he left in cloud of huff, I shouted in my big Santa voice, door open and pointing to the gold reindeers affixed to the side of the tram, dancing in the fake snow, ‘WHICH PART OF “CHRISTMAS TRAM” DIDN’T YOU GET?!”
But no nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience on my last day: What does Santa do when he gets motion sickness?
There I was during a verse of ‘Tis the season to be jolly’ when I felt the sudden urge to purge. I ran to the back of the tram, barking like a seal to the driver’s compartment (it was an old W class tram), children and parents grabbing at me while I tried not to ho-ho-ho into their laps.
Unfortunately, the kids had followed me and their faces were nowpressed up against the partition window. Thus I found myself with the vexing question of how I was going to hurl? Would I simply rip the beard aside and break the magic for the kids or stay in character and let the muck pump and strain through it?
But before I knew it I was retching into the chocolate esky bag, beard above the top lip and doubled over. I could hear the cries of children ‘What’s wrong with Santa? What’s wrong with Santa?’ then suddenly fade as horrified parents yanked them away from ‘that thing at the back of the tram’.
I felt the tram stop. The driver’s face appeared and said or rather ordered me off at Swanston Street. I did, bag over the shoulder, soupy contents splooshing now like a ruptured spleen, only to be pulled into a firing line of Nikons from Japanese tourists. ‘Just won foto! Just won foto!’
I held one polite frozen moment then broke rank to the nearest bin, flipped up the beard and at last gave it a good ol’ ho-ho-hoooooooooo!
When I finished, the Japanese had gone. In their place was a small woman with a determined smile. She shoved a card in my hand. ‘Even Santa needs to get to heaven.’
I realised then, that yes, yes at last, the inevitable had happened: I was sick of being Santa.