The profession of shopping-mall Santa has always been an underappreciated, dirty job. Think about it: a constant barrage of terrified toddlers, kicks to the groin, demanding parents and an itchy fake beard. And that's when actual humans are involved. Earlier this month pet-supply chain PETCO held a nationwide "Santa Claws" day, encouraging customers to bring their cats and dogs in for snapshots on Santa's lap. Afterward Unreal checked in with Denise Taylor, adoption coordinator for Doggy Doodle, a St. Louis-based animal rescue and adoption service who strapped on the red, white and beard to pose for pictures with pooches at a PETCO in south county.
So wait: You're a woman. Were you dressed as Mrs. Claus or the big man himself?
I was dressed as Santa. I had the whole beard and everything.
Wasn't that confusing for the animals?
Actually, a few of the people did say that they were glad it was a woman because their dogs don't like men.
What was on the pooches' wish list this year?
The dogs were asking for a lot of dog bones. They were also asking for a squeak toy that was made to look like a cat. And one wanted a squeak toy that was a great big monkey. A few dogs would love to have boots so they could run in the snow and pull the sleds. They love to pull the sleds.
How did you know what they were asking for? Did you have a dog whisperer on hand, translating?
The secret was their mommies and daddies telling me. I wish we had the dog translator, it would have been perfect.
Are dogs like kids — do they get jaded and stop believing in Santa as the dog years add up?
They do not get jaded at all. Dogs will always believe in Santa, because we'll always make sure they have something from Santa.
Do you prefer working with animals or kids?
I like them both. I love kids and I love animals. I noticed that more often than not, kids that have animals — they're better behaved, they show more responsibility and love for everything. It was really easy to have them both around.
Which did you think was more likely to pee on Santa's lap?
I didn't even think about that, because it didn't happen. Even if it did, it's more of an, 'Oh well, things like that happen.' It wasn't like it would be something major to get upset about.
Have Yourself a Subversive Little Xmas
There are few times of the year that Unreal finds more depressing than the holiday season. It's not just the short days and gray skies. It's the crappy music. It's the crowds at the mall. It's having to go to the mall. It's the little red and green velvet ribbons and bells everywhere. Most of all, it's getting gorged on merriment and good cheer every single goddamn day, as if we're a goose getting fattened up for Christmas dinner until our guts explode and somebody plops our carcass on an overloaded table to be devoured by our family.
Pop psychology teaches us that seasonal depression must be battled, with intensity and rampant consumerism. So we shopped. We watched Miracle on 34th Street. We listened to "Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey." Finally, when we were on the verge of cueing up Frank Sinatra's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," curling up beneath our desk and succumbing to the despair, a new book passed over our cubicle wall: Jeffrey Yamaguchi's Working for the Man: Inspiring and Subversive Projects for Residents of Cubicle Land. And it even has a holiday section!
According to his author bio, Yamaguchi is so dedicated to the idea of corporate subversion that he threw himself a retirement party at the tender age of 26. "No, he had not won the lottery or benefited from a stock options windfall. It was just wishful thinking."
Alas, Yamaguchi's suggestions for inspiration and subversion mostly involve perpetuating holiday cheer. We should use company resources (like higher-grade paper) to make our Christmas cards, address them at our desks and send them out via the company mailroom. We should take advantage of the Internet to shop more and scout out exotic recipes to enliven our Christmas dinners. He does suggest a few pranks, but they are lame: pinning cheap stockings containing lumps of coal on various office doors and broadcasting annoying holiday music from a portable stereo. (The portable stereo should be decorated with a sign reading "Compliments of Management" so everyone will be afraid to turn it off.) And, in a parody of corporate team-building, somebody could bring in a small tree the rest of the crew could decorate with paper clips and Post-Its and other randomly selected office supplies.
To be fair, Unreal's not sure what sort of subversive holiday projects we would suggest. We're beginning to think that the Christmas season is sort of like Euro-Communism. We greet its initial appearance with joy, because it represents a change from the tyranny of tacky Halloween decorations, but then it grows into a behemoth — too massive to be openly defied, let alone subverted, and characterized by long lines.
All that said, Unreal can endorse one of Yamaguchi's suggestions: stealing from the cache of alcohol reserved for the office holiday party. Na strovye, comrades.
Caught on Voicemail
Unreal likes to patronize local businesses. Sometimes we'll even undertake a Web search for the sole purpose of finding more local businesses to patronize. That's how we came across the Soulard-based Amateur of the Month Club (www.amateurofthemonth.com).
According to the Web site, the operators of the Amateur of the Month Club selflessly comb the Internet, cull the very best amateur porn and — get this! — transfer it to a VHS tape and mail it to you. The first month is free (unless you count the $4.95 for shipping and handling); thereafter, you get one tape per month at the low, low cost of $9.99 per. As the site points out, "That's only pennies a day! You can't even buy a cup of coffee for this price!" Too true, alas.
Unreal was intrigued, but we're also a discriminating shopper, particularly during the holiday season, and despite the 100 percent money-back guarantee, the Amateur of the Month Club Web site raised a few questions:
First, why deprive amateur sex video hounds of the joy of discovery? And why VHS? It's outdated, and the tapes are so bulky — wouldn't shipping and handling a DVD cost less (and, for that matter, be more "discreet" — a point of pride at the Amateur of the Month Club)?
Unfortunately, when Unreal rang up the Amateur of the Month Club to ask these burning questions, all we got was a recording. We left several messages, but no one has returned our calls. No one replied to our e-mails, either. We even tried parent company Caught On Tape, LLC (which boasts an intriguing site of its own, www.loverscaughtontape.com, and a proprietor named "Joe").
That just doesn't sound like a business that boasts of its "unique business philosophy — we want to deliver more than you paid for, every time you do business with us." And to think: That's exactly what Unreal looks for when we patronize local businesses!