Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Your Dinner Companion Looks like Santa

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Your Dinner Companion Looks like Santa

Article excerpt

My friend Tom is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Father Christmas.

I met him at burger joint last Sunday. Veggie burger for him. Beef burger (with bacon) for me.

I needed something greasy to flush all that lean turkey out of my arteries.

Tom, I should mention, is 6-foot-3. He has a reddish complexion, a long snow-white beard and the kind of belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly.

On Sunday, he added the finishing touch: a Santa hat.

I laughed when I saw it. "That's funny," I said.

He told me that he — and his hat — had gone shopping on Black Friday. And, in every mall he visited, he said, "all these screaming kids came running toward me."

"Sounds annoying," I said.

I'm really not a kid person. They all remind me of those scary girls in "The Shining."

"Actually, it was kind of fun," he insisted. "I didn't mind."

And he seemed equally amused on Sunday night, when kids throughout the restaurant began squealing and shouting his name.

Well, not HIS name. The other guy's name.

"Santa! Santa!"

It was weird, kind of like having dinner with a large, old Justin Bieber.

Eventually a boy and his sister dashed over to our table.

"Hi, Santa," the boy said. "Can I sit on your lap and tell you what I want for Christmas?"

In an attempt to nip this in the bud, I said, "Yeah, kid. Five dollars."

The boy seemed confused. "Who are you?" the kid asked.

"His agent," I replied.

The two children ran back to their table and I could hear the boy tell his mother, "Santa's agent said I have to pay $5."

I looked over to them and smiled, so Mom knew I was joking. But, seriously, if Tom had done it for one kid...

There were at least 40 children in this place. We would have both left with migraines. Before digging into my burger, though, I did take Tom's picture and sent it to my brother, Don, in a text message.

Seconds later, Don wrote back: "He has to be Santa this year! Ask him!"

I put down my phone and said, "That was my brother. Do you have plans for Christmas Eve? He wants you to play Santa."

Every year, after dinner, one of us adjourns to my brother's bedroom, closes the door and puts on the pricey Santa costume that my cousin Caroline purchased 14 years ago. …

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