It is December, 2011. I am in Mission Valley in San Diego, drinking beer with the sushi chef at a Japanese restaurant. I am celebrating a new job. I am celebrating a new life. We toast each other’s health.
I hear the bells on the door. “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
I turn as Santa Claus enters. “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
He waves a white-gloved hand to the room filled with families enjoying teriyaki and sushi. He Ho-Ho-Hos his way into the restaurant. His appearance stops everything.
Santa waves as he walks between the sushi bar and the tables, jauntily swinging a handsome walking stick. I try not to stare but – IT’S SANTA CLAUS IN A SUSHI BAR!
He walks through the entire restaurant. Turns, waves again. He makes his way purposefully to the restroom. Everyone in the restaurant is watching as Santa Claus makes his way to the restroom. TO. THE. RESTROOM. OH. NO.
A white-gloved hand reaches for the door handle. It is what they refer to as a ‘one-holer’. The door is locked. Occupado.
Santa looks surprised, as though unlimited access to restrooms is one of the perks of his job. Then he looks a little nervous. There is no noise in the restaurant. Everyone is watching Santa try not to break into the pee-pee dance.
I wonder about all the children, the psychological scars that are forming. But they are nothing compared to the ones inflicted on the poor boy who unlocks the restroom door to find Santa waiting. The kid realizes he has gone so far past the naughty/nice dichotomy that there is a new category for the train wreck of future Christmas mornings he’ll be facing.
The boy stands in the doorway looking up at Santa. Santa looks at the boy, smiling. Or grimacing. It’s hard to tell from this distance. It’s dark, too. I could be mistaken.
The boy finally steps aside. Santa beams at him. “Merry Christmas!” He steps into the restroom and quickly shuts the door. The boy stares at the space where Santa had been. Then he looks up.
Everyone in the restaurant is staring at him.
He looks like he’s about to cry.