Three hundred Christmas trees in Target stores the first week of October is bad. Three hundred Santas in the lobby where you work the first week of October is crazy good! It means your facility is hosting one of the oldest and preeminent Santa schools in the country and class is in session! Try having a rotten day at work when the line in the ladies’ room is all jolly, holly-draped grandma-types who drank too much peppermint tea during the “Being Mrs. Claus” breakout session.
One might wonder – okay, it’s me. I’m wondering! – what exactly goes on at Santa school? Do you debate the number of ho’s in your ho-ho-ho’ing or frosted sugar cookies vs sprinkles? I tried quizzing random Santa’s between classes to see what I could find out, and they were all pretty tight lipped. It’s not like I was asking for the secret formula for flying reindeer corn. They just all chuckled and told me to work harder to stay off the naughty list (like that’ll happen). While Undaunted is not one of the reindeer team, it’s exactly what I was, so I went to the internet.
According to the Charles W. Howard Santa School website, aspiring and seasoned Santas can, among other things, “Practice Santa Flight Lessons.” That sounds a little like Santa has a posse covering the exits and a plan to jet the scene if the po-po shows to break up the ho-ho. Do we really want Santa to be a flight risk?
Santas can also attend the session on “Live Reindeer Habits.” What? I’m doing a quick check with building maintenance to find out who gave clearance to have a 400-pound caribou in the auditorium. I’m hoping the first habit that’s getting covered is how many times does a 400-pound caribou need to be walked outside every day to avoid a localized carpet catastrophe. Exactly how many Santas have a reindeer anyway? It’s not like you can run over to the local animal shelter and adopt a Rudolph.
As expected, there are sessions on handling terrified toddlers, what must-have toys need to be coming off that elfin assembly line in China, and accounting advice to keep Santa off the IRS naughty list. But most importantly, they’re all learning “He errs who thinks Santa enters through the chimney. Santa enters through the heart.” (Charles W. Howard, 1937)
Like any consummate baseball fan, I’m super superstitious. Just like baseball players who jump over rather than stepping on the chalked baseline, won’t speak the words “no hitter” during a game that could potentially prove to be one, and Houston Astro’s pitcher Justin Verlander eating three crunchy taco supremes (no tomato), a cheesy gordita crunch and a Mexican pizza (no tomato) from Taco Bell before every start. Which seems strange, a guy who doesn’t want runs eating at Taco Bell.
I haven’t written about baseball at all this season, so I’m nervous about doing it now, particularly with my Astros in the playoffs. But there are regular season rituals and playoff rituals. With that said, understand that until the Astros once again hoist that World Series trophy, I’ll be wearing my lucky pink socks inside out, only watching the games from my favorite chair with two table lamps on (even for day games), and, of course, not washing my favorite lucky Astros shirt. Small things, I know, but this is October baseball and every little bit matters.
If you doubt the strength of the baseball superstitions, check out Hall of Famer Craig Biggio’s batting helmet: he practically wore a hole in it from the millions of times he adjusted it exactly the same way every at bat. And it worked. Three thousand and sixty hits don’t lie. Even today’s team understands. When in September Josh Reddick hadn’t taken a pitch out of the park since the All-star break, he wore an injured George Springer’s pants to the plate. I’m not sure exactly how that conversation went, maybe, “Hey, I left my pants at home and since you’re not wearing those…” Whatever, he hit a homer in the next two games. Face it, Springer, you’re not getting your pants back.
Before Roger Clemens started a game, he had a trainer rub the hottest possible liniment on his testicles. Between Roger and the trainer, I’m not sure who had the worse end of that deal. But if that’s not gross enough, Moises Alou, who hit .355 with 30 HRs for the Astros in 2000, never wore batting gloves. Instead, to toughen up his hands, he urinated on them. Knowing this kind of stuff happens makes you seriously rethink asking for that autograph.
Now grab your cheesy gordita crunch, your lucky socks and GO ‘STROS!