Every child experiences Christmas the same way: leaving milk and cookies for Santa; sitting on Santa's lap for the first time and thoroughly explaining in excruciating detail that an Asus something-something is no fucking substitute for a goddamn iPad so he better step it up and get his head in the game; and, of course, discovering that Santa is bullshit.
When you're a kid, having the opportunity to personally request awesome toys and trinkets from the slave driver of elves himself is an institution. It's magical, and you're mesmerized. The thought, Why would Santa be in a Miami outlet mall on a Tuesday when he should be checking a list with billions of names -- twice, no less never really crosses a child's mind. That's because children are stupid. They also lack empathy. Perhaps Santa should hand that shit out instead.
But I digress. New Times wanted to review some mall Santas to get people more into the Christmas spirit than the cat-loving lady in your office has already done. Obviously, they chose me, because if there's anything I know how to do, it's berate happiness. Here's what happened.
Seeing as I'm 6'3" and have a penis, I thought it would be a little weird for me to sit on Santa's lap in public. So I sought the help of an attractive young woman of tiny vertical stature.
This gave me the benefit of being able to snap the photos myself, not looking like an unregistered sex offender, and also created the possibility of Santa springing a yule log, if you know what I mean. (Boner. I mean boner.) I almost used my little sister because I have no problem exploiting her for readership, but she would expect hugs and shit in return.
To make sure she told the truth about her interactions with the Santas, I had my assistant swear on a Bible. Of course, I didn't actually have a Bible because my parents forced me to attend Catholic school when I was a child, so I got something close: a copy of Prophecies On World Events by Nostradamus, which is also full of bullshit superstition, making it just as effective. I don't know why I had it lying around in my car, but I did.
The setup at Dolphin had a staging area on the second floor near Dave & Buster's where children could play in the snow -- where "snow" is Miami slang for "dirty confetti." Once we got past the staging area, a group of employees dressed in very Christmasy all-black attire escorted us to Santa or to some ice queen who couldn't have been older than 20. I assume everyone chose Santa, because whoever that chick was surely isn't responsible for giving people gifts. Erections, maybe.
This Santa was very excited to have my assistant sitting on his lap. When I was setting up to take a photo, he remarked something along the lines of, "Very cool of you to let your pretty girlfriend sit on ol' Santa's lap." Pretty sure he licked his lips while saying it. His beard was real, and it turns out he's been at the gig for four years.
Assistant's reaction: "He pulled me closer to him and said that I was the highlight of his day. I said, 'Thank you, Santa.'"
Photo packages here start at $20. There are signs posted saying you're not allowed to take photographs of Santa with personal cameras unless you buy a photo package. Santa is basically a pop star.
Here, Santa was in the very center of the mall next to a very tall, possibly fake, Christmas tree. The employees were dressed in black and red, only marginally more in the holiday spirit than Santa's fucking private security entourage at the Dolphin Mall.
This Santa wasn't having any of the, "Hey, this cute girl on my lap is being slightly flirtatious." It was almost as if he'd been through that shit before. Maybe three years ago, doing a Santa gig in Omaha, Nebraska, some 20-something in a tight miniskirt told him she wanted a white Christmas all over her chest. Maybe not, I don't know. The point is he didn't even make eye contact with my assistant. He wanted to just finish up, take the photo, and get her off his lap before the Omaha urges came back. Or he was just highly professional.
Assistant's reaction: "OK, he kind of avoided eye contact, and then I told him that I loved his mustache, and he was like, 'Thank you, it's kind of tough to keep it curled since it's so hot.' And I said, 'Oh yeah... it's hot?' suggestively, and he was like, 'Yeah.' And that's it."
Photo packages start at $18. Like Dolphin, fraternizing with Santa and using your personal camera are strictly prohibited unless you spend money. Just like Jesus intended.
Not only were the photos here more expensive than the other two (started at around $25) Photos started at $18, but there was actually a pretty sizable line. Pictured above is only an extension of the original line.
However, the whole aesthetic is much nicer here. Unfortunately, no elves were in sight. What the hell happened -- did Santa lay off all his elven staff and get cheaper Latinos who work for half the pay?
Near the stage area in the Falls, this Santa had his own little house, and though there were no elves in sight, at least the employees weren't dressed like Chili's waiters.
Unfortunately, this Santa sported a fake beard. Not like "passable because it's authentic Indian hair bought in a salon in Carol City" fake. More like "this shit looks like Barbie hair" fake. Little kids don't notice the difference because they're self-absorbed, but come on. If the other three malls can spring for a dude with enough dedication and/or lack of giving-a-fuck to not shave for half a year, then the Falls should be able to as well.
Assistant's reaction: "I sat on his lap and then he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I said, 'What do you want to give me?' He laughed and then got nervous. I never got to pick a gift."
I don't think elves make those kind of toys.
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Similar to the other places, the photo prices start around $20. Signs make it clear that you can sit on Santa's lap, converse with him, and ask him what the tooth fairy does with all those teeth for free. However, you can't use your own camera unless you buy a photo package.
So which Santa should you take your kids to? Here's your answer: Why don't you just tell your damn kids there is no such thing as Santa already?
Or the Falls, I guess.