Friday, December 20, 2013
The Christmas when romance (and me) were Frosty
You’d think with a resume as skimpy as mine I’d seize on any past occupation to bolster my flagging prospects.
But I’ve never written about one full-time job I held in 1983 around this time of year.
My mother, who forgets what year it is, reminded me of it the other day when she asked me to tell her some stories about the time I was Santa. She was close, but I wasn’t Santa.
I was Frosty the Snowman.
Ohio University, where I was educated to be the underemployed blogger I was destined to become, used to operate on the old trimester system. That meant we had from before Thanksgiving until the week after New Year’s off before the resumption of winter classes.
And here many of you thought the only reason I attended there was because at the time the Ohio drinking age was just 18.
The glorious six-week break gave some of us opportunities for seasonal income.
We were neighbors with a friendly woman who did the hiring at the old Kaufman’s Department store in Century III Mall. She said she had a job for which I’d be perfect.
So I went and got my hair cut, put on a sports coat, a snazzy tie and went for the interview. They took one look at me in my Sunday finest and said, “Yep, he’ll do.”
Then they handed me the 20-pound costume that would conceal every inch of my appearance.
I was to be the department store Frosty, assigned to wander the store and hand out cheer and candy canes. For that I’d be paid about $4 an hour and all the candy canes I could eat.
Even though no one would know who I was, I felt an instinctual embarrassment when I looked in the mirror and saw round-headed Frosty grinning back. It was so childish, so silly.
I’d become a cartoon.
I was struck by the paradox that even though I was dressed as a 6-foot snowman, I didn’t feel very cool at all -- in more ways than one.
The outfit was incredibly hot. I was fearful an hour spent dressed as Frosty would puddle up my snowballs.
But I had about six weeks to kill before I headed back to Athens. What else was I going to do?
I started walking the aisles and approaching the customers -- and I’m talking here about the 90 percent majority women. I had no interest in the few men, they none in me.
I soon found about one third of these women were what I guess you’d call coldly indifferent to snowman. They’d ignore me and I’d ignore them back.
Another third would smile politely. For them I’d wave.
But another third could barely contain themselves. They were so seasonally juiced, they seemed out-of-their minds to see Frosty the Snowman strolling through cookware.
I soon learned the best way to deal with these people was to just run up and hug the absolute crap out of them.
Because it made them very happy. Understand, they were happy people to begin with, but to give them an effervescent outlet for their innate joy just made their day.
So once I’d see someone who was delighted to see me, I’d dash down the aisle and just throw my arms around them and often pick them up, an impulsive action that could have been disastrous in terms of potential injury and sexual harassment lawsuits.
Some of the kiddies were frightened. So I’d try and hand them a candy cane. If they were nervous about accepting, I’d raise the candy up to my little mouth slot and with my mittened hand slam it home, wrapper and all. During breaks, I’d lift off the big bowl and four or five candy canes would spill out.
I used to like spending time in ladies lingerie. It cracked up the shoppers to see Frosty the Snowman standing in front of a mirror considering how he’d look wearing a frilly pink teddy he was holding out in front of himself.
My mother, of course, loved it. That’s why I was happy the only picture I have of me in the suit includes her and one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Picci, the middle school choral teacher I used to torture with my disruptive class shenanigans. She for reasons I cannot recall was in a wheel chair. I love that picture.
And, of course, there was a romantic element to the whole endeavor.
I soon became chummy with many of the employees including a very pretty blonde woman working the make-up counter. She used to sneak up and squirt me with perfume when my head was turned -- and inside that big helmet, my head was turning all the time.
She was about 30, me 19.
We’d clown around and laugh during my near hourly passes through her department. Sometimes I’d stop and talk to her.
I told her I wanted to be a writer. She told me she wanted to get a divorce.
I wish someone would have preserved the films from the security cameras monitoring our conversations. I’m sure it would be hilarious, her talking earnestly about her crumbling marriage to a stranger snowman. Me, nodding, my giant top-hatted head in empathy.
It was right around this time, just a few days before Christmas, when I finally strolled up to her counter in street clothes late one night after my shift had ended.
She had no idea who I was. I asked some stupid questions about perfume just to try her patience.
When I had her at peak exasperation, I laughed and told her I was Chris the Snowman.
If I ever got as warm a reaction from an introduction with a woman, I don’t recall it.
I was the snowman, but she was the one who melted.
I’m not going to say she thought I was handsome, but I know she at least thought I was not repulsive. And she liked me a lot when I was in the costume so the bar was low.
I remember her holding my hand with one of hers and gently stroking it with the other.
I knew right then I could have taken her out in the parking lot and spent hours doing what Austin Powers calls “shagging.”
But I’d be gone in a few days, she was in a difficult time and I sensed from what she’d told me about her rat bag husband that getting involved might have led to one or the other of us getting shot.
Strange, at Christmas, I was dressed like Frosty, but I was behaving like one of the Three Wise Men.
Of course, in hindsight I once again look back at my youth and rage that my parents raised such a thoughtful gentleman.
Gunshots or not, I’d love to have a memory of fooling around with her in the chilly parking garage.
But despite what she may have thought, it might have caused more harm than good.
She needed more than physical satisfaction. She needed caring, she needed understanding.
She needed a warmth I could never provide.
Any guy so adept at playing Frosty would have been all wrong for a girl like that.
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