I’ve had a few jobs in my time – mostly pretty dull stuff – but as we head towards Christmas, I always get to thinking about the job I had for the longest. I was one of Santa’s helpers. At least, that’s how some people used to see it.
‘You’re so lucky,’ they would say. ‘It must be like Christmas all year round.’
Yep. All. Year. Round.
Don’t misunderstand me, though. I love Christmas. I love the build-up of exciting the children, the family visit to the panto, the carols, the decorations, the food, the family gathering . . . all of it. But that job – no, it wasn’t Christmas all year round. It was a job, probably much like any other project based office job of crunching numbers and making lists and organising and making sure everything is finished on time and gets to where it’s supposed to be going. We had an impressive showroom and year-round Christmas songs, but there’s only so much excitement to be had from sitting at the same desk day in day out, looking at the same face opposite you. No offence intended about that face, mind you, Gary is still a good friend of mine.
But the end of October was like D-day. That was when ‘all hell broke loose’ (to use an anti-Elmore phrase). You see, the company designed and installed massive Christmas displays. The kind you see in your local super-mall. And while I spent most of the year costing and tracking the projects, the end of the year was (dramatic music) INSTALLATION TIME. And INSTALLATION TIME was something more suited to Satan than Santa.
Those decorations weren’t going to put themselves up, so in the chilly months of October and November, teams are sent far and wide, followed by trucks and gear, lifting machines and platforms, all ready to bring Christmas cheer to the general public. Night shift in the cold and empty silence of shopping malls is a strange thing. Like . . . hmm . . . like Dawn of the Dead. Only wthout the zombies and the guns. Well, actually, some of the team members could occasionally be mistaken for zombies and I imagine some team leaders would’ve like to have been armed, but that’s by the by. I actually managed to escape the full horror of being on a team most years, instead being kept back at ‘base’ to firefight the problems and assist/placate shouty, teary team leaders at three o clock in the morning, but then would come the summons to the office –
‘Dan,’ my boss would say. ‘What are you doing this evening?’
‘Er, now?’ I look at my watch to see it’s already eight o clock. I’m thinking I was going to go home to my wife and newborn.
‘Yes. How would you like to drive up to Aberdeen for me to drop some kit off?’
Cut to Dan climbing into a high-top transit. It’s pouring down outside.
Anyway, I’ve been to a couple of the local malls recently and I can say that some of those decorations are looking fantastic. The immense, hand-made reindeer in MetroCentre is stunning – I see it adorns the cover of Accent Magazine this month, too.
So next time you’re in the mall and you’re looking at the decorations and (hopefully) enjoying them, spare a thought for those tired teams who have put it all up. Oh, and remember, when January comes, the poor buggers have to come back and take it all down again.
Footnote: I was going to put a picture of one of Santa’s helpers on this post, so I searched Google Images for ‘Santa’s helpers’. Hmm. See what you get. Mostly it’s women in very skimpy Santa costumes.