“There! Over there … behind the King Kong sized teddy bear … where those gnomes are pointing,” I yelled to my partner.
“Those aren’t gnomes, you bonehead,” my partner blurted out, trailing my backside by two short steps. “They’re elves.”
I cocked my head and smugly retorted, “They’re short green people with pointed auricles—no doubt related to the same pixie clan,” I added. “So, what’s the big deal?”
“Show some respect,” my partner whispered loudly through her cupped hand. By then, she was just one half-step behind me.
We had to close ranks because we were suddenly knee-deep among an endless column of children, all staring at us with wide-eyed trepidation. As we excused our way toward the throne before us, one kid—oblivious to our identity and purpose—shouted,
“No candy cane for you,” I mumbled back.
“Shh,” my partner hissed.
I guess I was a little irritated because my deltoids ached from holding the cardiac monitor and jump kit at shoulder height, which I was doing so I didn’t accidently bump into any tiny occipital plates that might be filled with visions of sugar plums.
Off to the side of the empty decorative throne and hidden behind some curtains sat the patient. And no, it wasn’t the wizard from Kansas. However, several green munchkins did initially approach us, cautiously asking if we were good paramedics or bad paramedics. Seriously, though, the elves told us they called 9-1-1 because the big guy in red was suddenly acting a little odd. To clarify, I inquired if he was acting odd or just Oz. (C’mon, laugh. This is good stuff!)
Our patient was awake, gently rocking himself back and forth on the chair with one arm leaning on one knee and the other holding a bottle of water. He appeared slightly pale and diaphoretic between the whiskers, and he paid little attention to our presence.
I asked him if we had met before, because he looked awfully familiar. Having failed to recognize my brilliant sense of wit, he just flatly muttered, “Just two more weeks.” Then, just like that, he clicked his heels three times (last Oz joke, I promise). He repeatedly said those words, and it wasn’t long after our initial patient assessment that we found his blood sugar level to be at 50 mg/dL.
Ironically, no sugar items could be found at Big Red’s workshop, so one of the green gnomes—OK, elves—gave Mr. C a pint-sized can of pop, which quickly resolved his sugar-free state.
Although he was oriented to the names of his reindeer and their offspring, I was still curious as to the meaning of “just two more weeks.” He simply shook his head and in a less-than-jovial voice asked, “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a mall Santa Claus?” Reaching back to my corroded cerebral synaptic clefts, I had no such recall … If I only had a brain. (OK, I lied about it being the last Oz joke.)
Big Red continued, “I get that I have to meet and greet customers, get my picture taken with crying children who fear me and sit for long hours while carrying out a strict policy of courtesy and service. I get that I have to adhere to a uniform code worthy of the image I portray. I get it. I really do. But this policy regarding a healthy and fit Santa is messing me up, man.”
“First of all,” I said, “Don’t say man. Or at the very least, add a ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ at the end. You’re still wearing the suit after all, and the big fella isn’t supposed to say man, man.”
The patient cried out, pointing to his stomach, “My job description requires all professional Santas to be both fit and overweight. I’m obligated to exercise daily and, instead of eating the cookies the kids give me for gift bribing, and now I’m told to feed off the carrots meant for the reindeer. Shake my tummy like a bowl full of jelly without it becoming a vat full of jelly, they told me. Eat healthy, they said. But I work at a shopping mall! Oh sure, the food court is just full of healthy things to eat. How the heck am I supposed to keep my strength and stamina? That’s why my sugar is probably so low. Just two more weeks man until I can eat the way I normally eat.”
“You’re almost there man … er, I mean Mr. C,” I offered in support.
“Yeah, but the last two weeks bring last-minute shoppers, demanding store owners, crazy tots and longer hours. Not to mention the office parties. How am I going to make it until then?”
Taking a knee next to Big Red, my partner, Dorothy, (Gotcha!) sympathetically placed her hand on top of his and, in a tender tone, simply said, “Hang in there Big Red. All you need is a brain, heart and a little courage.”
Until next time, weigh your holiday options before you sign the “clause.” JEMS
This article originally appeared in December 2010 JEMS as “Tinseled Workman’s Comp: You may not want that extra holiday job after all.”