Yes, I play Santa. A few years ago, I took a gig down in Texas. I was there from 7 November through 24 December. Long time to be away from home, but it paid OK (at least by my new standards, anyway). My venue was a huge sporting goods store in a Dallas suburb. I was the sole Santa and worked the set every day.
One evening, just at the store’s busiest hour, I saw something in the waiting line I didn’t like. It was a fellow in green military camouflage with jackboots. Bad enough, but the thing that really drew the eye was the bright orange day-glow face mask he wore – something like what hunters use in deer season. This mask covered everything but the back of his shaved head. It had two slits for the eyes, a protuberant nose piece and a little round hole for the mouth. The mask went back under the chin and ended in a dewlap running down the throat. It was held in place by straps around the head. It was most disconcerting.
The fellow stood in line with all the kids, patiently waiting his turn. When his turn came, he literally marched up to me like he was in a drill formation. Standing about two feet in front of me, he did a left face then sat on my knee. He held is fists in white-knuckle balls resting on his knees, they shook with mild tremors.
When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he bellowed, “Sir! I want . . .” then proceeded to tick off a list of military weapons. Then he was quiet. Either this guy was shining me on or he was bat-shit crazy. Assuming the latter, I told him something like, “And so it shall be.” I then asked if he was a vet, to which he shouted, “Sir! Yes sir,” and bolted to his feet. I then stood and gave him my best Air Force salute and said, “Son, both I and your countrymen thank you for your service. I wish you godspeed.”
He did an about face and marched back down the runway, up the stairs and out of the building.
You could have heard a pin drop. One of my young Elves was crying and another was hiding behind a counter.
After my visitor left, I looked up to the mezzanine where the gun department was located and saw one of the clerks peering of the rail with a rifle in his hand. I waived in thanks and he went back to the counter.
It was an interesting day.