Pictures With Santa And Other Socially Acceptable Forms Of Child Abuse

This blog was originally posted December 2008.  I am on vacation… deal with it.

I don’t believe in Santa Claus.  I really never have.  We didn’t have a chimney in Pennsylvania (ironically, in Florida we did).  What we had was a piece or horrible furniture that looked like a chimney and where the mantle would be opened into a combination wet bar/phonograph where my father would store his apricot brandy and my mom’s Seals & Croft records.  The lit logs were plaster with circulating red and orange lights.  Because of this atrocity, this conversation ensued:

JIM: Dad, if we don’t have a chimney, how does Santa get into the house?

DAD: He has a key.

JIM: For everybody?

DAD: Yeah.  Everybody.  Now go to sleep.

JIM: Okay. (Pause)  Wait.  There are twenty-two houses on this block.

DAD: And he has twenty-two keys.

JIM: But that would mean on this side of the highway to eighth street he would have over one hundred and sixty keys.

DAD: It’s a really big key chain.  Go to sleep.

JIM: In this city alone there would thousands of keys.

DAD: (Frustrated).  You got me.  There is no Santa Claus.  Your mom and me buy all the stuff.

JIM: Really?  So there is no way I am getting that Star Wars Millennium Falcon for my Han Solo you said you’d never buy me?

DAD: No.  And you’re not getting a ColecoVision either.  You already have an Atari.

Two words, Dad: Skeleton Key.  But my father, God bless him, wasn’t know for his creativity.  This is the same guy who used to give unwrapped cartons of Menthol Kools to his friends for birthday gifts.  As you can tell, my father never really tried to sell the concept.    My brother wasn’t much different.  I can’t imagine I will be either.  I remember my father watching Walter Cronkite during the Great Cabbage Patch Scare of 1982 and commenting, “It’ll be a cold day in hell when I wake up at 4:00a and get my leg broken by a bunch of assholes* to get you boys some stupid toy.”  I learned very quickly there are things you do for yourself and things you do for your children.  My father had a very distinct line that separated these things.

I have one picture of me with Santa.  I was dressed in a red onesy (shut up, Spell Check, that isn’t even a real word) with a hood over my head and mittens.  I am not able to walk so I am completely trusting on my parents judgment of who I should have my picture taken with.  The point is I don’t know where I am nor do I care.  So why is this picture being taken?

For my mom.

I have come to the conclusion that parents will sometimes do things to their children that do not serve their best interest for the sake of a good photo op.  The difference is my mom is not a whack-a-nut.  If your kid, like me, sits on Santa’s lap with the same expression Humphrey Bogart has when someone points a gun at him, more power to you.  Enjoy your picture and fond memories.  If your kid reacts the way I would assume Richard Simmons would if someone pointed a gun at him, you ma’am, are a nut.

Exhibit A: The Moms.

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I am going to assume this woman is from France or some European place where berets are still fashionable or I am going to hate this lady even more.  Look at her kid’s face.  Santa isn’t a jolly bringer of joy to that baby.  That is a fat man in fuzzy pajamas she doesn’t know.  And let me tell you something else.  Your kids hide behind your leg and refuse to talk to the people you work with.  What makes you think this guy is going to fare any better?  Now the kicker is look at the mother’s face.  This crazy chick is completely oblivious the the entire process or just doesn’t give a shit.

I know my baby is upset, terrified and crying… tell you what, let me hold her just long enough to get a picture.

Again, I am assuming that baby is a “she” which is the only thing preventing me from calling Child Services on this woman.  The second mom here looks like she actually had to sit on Santa’s lap in a failed attempt to calm her kid down.

Exhibit B: Singled Out.

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If you let some random stranger hold your kids while they screamed their heads off, begging for the secure embrace of their mother who is standing five feet away, anytime between January and November so you could take their picture, you’d be a psycho.  At Christmas, people line up and pay money to do this.

Exhibit C: Once, Twice, Three Times A Baby.

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And out of curiosity, under what circumstances would you expect anyone to ever hold more than one baby at the same time?  I am sure there are moms out there who do it but not willingly.  If someone, probably anyone, offered to hold one of those kids most moms would jump at the chance.  Most of these Santa’s look like kindly old men who make a little extra coin six weeks a year pretending to be Santa.  He’s retired.  He doesn’t need this shit.  Why don’t you just ask that poor old man to spray himself with pheromones have a knife fight in an elevator with a crack-addicted monkey?  Seriously, that one in the center with the three babies?  What the hell was that parent thinking?

What, you can’t hold three babies at the same time?  What kind of dime store half-ass Santa are you?

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Unless you’re Amish or a biker (or an Amish biker) how many people really have beards like that?  To a child, that’s just a masked stranger taking him from his mother who probably lured him to the Galleria with promises of toys and hot pretzels.  And at what point will anyone look at these pictures with fond memories of the event?  It isn’t like their crying is necessary like you’re getting your four-year-old daughter her Depo-Provera shot.  They are crying for your enjoyment.

Let’s make this clear, this is about you.

I worked with a very nice woman named Tara who had one son named Alec.  He was the Chosen Son.  The reason we haven’t all frozen and died is because the sun shines every morning out of his ass.  There were seven pictures on her desk, all of them of her son.  If you didn’t know you would assume she was a single mother since excluding Alec, there was no proof a husband existed (or maybe, just maybe, she conceived him herself… cue cherubic choir).  She once showed me a scrapbook she’d finished which was a four inch thick testament to Alec’s first three years… not a picture of his father to be found.  She once called me to show me she had finally put a picture of her husband on her desk and when I got there to bear witness, there was a picture of her husband… holding Alec.  I immediately disqualified the picture as invalid.  At three they decided it was time for Alec to go to Disney World and when her mother made the reservations… she cried on the telephone to the customer service rep.

Seriously… she cried.

Meanwhile Alec was somewhere minding his own business oblivious that his mother and grandmother were making memories for him that he wouldn’t recall a year from now and hoping that Mickey Mouse, a character reduced to corporate mascot that hasn’t appeared regularly in cartoons in sixty years, would fill him with glee and isn’t just a six-foot rat in a tuxedo.

There are people that will tell me, “Wait until you get kids,” to which I will kindly refer you to the first paragraph and my upcoming biography of my father, “I’ll Give You Something To Cry About: The Wit And Wisdom Of Edward Ford.”

I don’t cry in Santa pictures.  I knew better.

* My father seldom swore in my childhood and I am quite certain he didn’t at this occassion either.  That is my own colorful interpretation.  I don’t drink and smoke.  Please leave me and profanities alone.


Christmas Shopping for Dummies

Last Friday’s blog was my one hundredth post.  Someone last week said my blog sucked and that stings a little because I work very hard at this and that I have put content out weekly (even if it sucks) for almost two years without compensation is something I am very proud of.  This is my first repeat.  I consider it a public service announcement.

I am an expert at post-Thanksgiving Day shopping.  I plan my shopping day like Rommel in the European Theatre.  I seldom leave the house before 6:00a and I am done well before 10:00a.  This is how I do it.

  1. Doorbusters.  These are the items they sell at crackhead prices.  People spend Thanksgiving Day sleeping on cold concrete to get a 60″ LCD television for $700.  Most of the really high end bargains are very limited.  Maybe ten or fifteen to a store.  Places like Best Buy open at 6:00a but the line starts forming well before midnight.  Honestly, if you aren’t one of the first hundred people in line, don’t waste your time.  If it is that important to you, bring some snacks and something to keep warm.  Generally the way it works (or at least does when I worked at Best Buy) is at 5:00a or so employees will start at the front of the line and ask what you’re there for.  You say $50 digital camera and they’ll give you a flyer for that item.   The flyer guarantees you that item for a fixed time (maybe until 11:00a or noon, ask to be sure).  If you want, go home and get some sleep but just make sure you come back in time to claim your prize.  If you don’t come back by the allotted time, they’ll sell it to someone else.  Personally, if I stood in line that long, I would just get it then and know I had it.
  2. Know what’s on sale.  I registered on and I get weekly emails of leaked deals.  The sales used to be a closely guarded secret.  Not so much anymore.  Visit the websites of the stores you frequent Tuesday or Wednesday, they’ll often have their ads up then.  If you don’t get the newspaper delivered, don’t expect to find one after 8:00a Thursday morning.  They’ll be gone.  You can print items from the website.  Circle the stuff you want so you know what you’re looking for.  If you have a flyer, take only the pages with stuff you want.  If you don’t need a dishwasher, throw those pages out, they’re dead weight you’ll be flipping through in a pinch trying to remember if Kyan or Keron was the Bratz doll you were supposed to get.
  3. Only buy what’s on sale.  Black Friday is no picnic.  Don’t waste your time trying to complete your Christmas list.  If it isn’t on sale, ignore it.  Come back next Wednesday and get it then.  You’ll spend money on an iPod and then see something on sale and question whether you should get it since you already spent the money on an iPod.  Always buy the sale item and if you change your mind that leads us to…
  4. It’s better to have it and not want it then want it and not have it.  This is no time for wavy decision making.  Snap judgements have to be made now.  If you see something for a great price, buy it.  If you don’t know if ‘lil Alex has Modern Warfare 2, don’t bother calling his parents and asking, just buy it.  You can literally decide against it and ten minutes later they could all be gone.  I find things like $10 DVD box sets and I just throw them into the cart and when I get home, I decide who they’d make good gifts for.  I keep a few as “backup gifts” and whatever I don’t want I return and get my money back.
  5. Some things don’t go on sale.  Things like iPods, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 or Disney movies always sell.  If you see a deal here it’s going to be because they bundled several items together and deal is taken from the accessories, not the main item.  Don’t expect to see $300 Playstation 3 for $200 but do expect to see them given away with an LCD television.  The markup was always on the TV, not the game system.
  6. Do your homework.  Know what you’re looking for.  Most of the employees are holiday help.  Don’t ask them what the 3:2 pulldown is or what’s the resolution on a Blu-Ray player.  Three weeks ago that guy was working at Orange Julius in the mall.  This goes double if you’re in a Walmart or Target where the employees couldn’t find their own ass with an electric ass-finding machine.  Get the ads early and go online and do your research and your comparison shopping then.  Your only interaction the retail monkeys should be pointing and saying, “I want that one.”
  7. Have a teammate.  Split the list in two and split up.  Even better, when one of you gets done, head for the registers even if you have nothing.  This way your partner can find you and give you the stuff and not have to wait in line.  When I shop waiting in line to check out takes three times longer than the shopping does.
  8. Don’t expect things to be where they normally are.  The electronic stores will have a pallets of stuff in the centers of the aisles.  Walmart will have movies in a stack in Produce.  It’s a madhouse.  Go to where you think the item may be and if it isn’t there, ask the first employee you see and if they don’t know, which they may not, ask the next one.
  9. Cell phones are useless.  Don’t try and call anyone for advice or clarification of an item.  Don’t try and call your teammate on the other side of the store.  There are often so many people in the store you won’t be able to hear on your phone, anyway.  Text message and if possible, hold your phone so you can feel it vibrate because you won’t hear it ring.
  10. Leave all unnecessary items at home.  Bring your flyers, your cell phone and your money cards.  Everything else, leave in the car or at home.  It will slow you down.  Trust me.
  11. Don’t wait for the good parking spot.  Just pick one.  There will be so many people coming and going there are bound to be better spots that’ll piss you off as you walk in from the back forty.  You’ll wait forever just getting through the parking lot aisles so you’re better off just picking one.  And while I am here, when you get in your car to leave make like a seventeen year-old boy at prom and pull the fuck out.  Don’t check your cell phone for messages or balance your checkbook.  Make sure your packages are inside, your seatbelt is on, and pull out.  Sitting there sorting your receipts and check marking your list at 6:00a while people who haven’t had coffee or sleep are waiting for that spot is how people get shot.
  12. Read the fine print.  Is there a rebate?  Are there “per customer” limits.  Don’t be surprised when you get there and the Bluetooth headset you thought was $14.99 is really $49.99 before two mail-in rebates.  Best Buy almost never does rebates anymore so whatever is marked is what you’re paying.  Staples does online rebates which are very quick and I highly recommend.
  13. Know your accessories.  If you’re buying certain items they are going to do the suggestive sell and recommend other items.  Know what they’re talking about and it’ll save them the time of explaining it to you which they will because accessories is where they make their money.  If your neighbors cousin knows a little about home theatre or computers and will give you some free advice, take it.  So when when they ask do you need a backup battery or a flash drive, you’ll know the answer.  In Home Theatre equipment, they will always try and sell you expensive cables so know whether you’re going to need an HDMI or component cable.  Again, if it’s on sale it better to have it and not want it and make those decisions later.  A personal note: There is are two Big Lots in my town.  They sell all kinds of cables.  I bought an RCA HDMI cable for my tv for $14.99… it was $70 at Best Buy.  USB cable is $4.99 and it’s $29.99 at Best Buy.  Also visit
  14. Leave your kids at home.  With your mom.  Hire a babysitter.  Few things piss me off more than a packed store at 7:00a and someone toting a six-month old.  Child Services should just drive through the parking lot and if they see anyone with a kid under ten in a 40 degree line at 3:00a they should just be arrested and sent to the pokey.
  15. If you need a computer or television, now is the time.  There are a few times of year stuff really goes on sale.  For televisions and home theatre equipment it’s Christmas, Father’s Day and January (the Super Bowl).  For computers it’s Christmas and Back To School.
  16. Have your money ready.  Have your check cards and credit cards.  If fact, have backup money.  I pay everything on my check card but sometimes banks have issues.  I also carry my American Express and Citibank card just in case one of them gives me crap I whip them out to the cashier and play, “Pick a card, any card.”  NEVER pay cash because they don’t track cash at the register.  If you pay with a card and lose the receipt, they can look it up.  You pay with cash and you’re screwed.  People who whip out a check and present their two forms of ID and make the other ninety-seven of us wait for a manager approval should be beaten within an inch of their lives.  Complete asses, I tell you.  The only thing worse than these idiots are the jackasses who have no credit and decide the time to apply for a Best Buy card is at 6:30a after they’ve spent four hours in a line only to get rejected because their longest employment was the job they had pushing in carts at the Walmart for eight months which doesn’t look good with their four priors, three illegitimate kids and two years of spotty child support payments… and this guy thinks he needs a Playstation 3 so he can watch Crank 2: High Voltage in high-def.

Happy hunting.