Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Shortcake's (fake) boots at the end of the season.
Shortcake with Santa.
Shortcake as a photo elf. Shortcake's buttons go all around her hat.
This is Shortcake in front of her locker wearing her parade credentials.
This is Shortcake's locker. It dates back to Miracle on 34th St. times.
This is from Thanksgiving, before the Parade. It was Shortcake's first public day as an elf.
The last three days have been kinda nuts. Some of the parents were well-behaved and very sweet. Many were thankful and genuinely appreciative of their time with Santa. Some were just cranky and domineering. One man yelled at Shortcake because she wouldn't let him join his family on line, aka cut. It is Macy's policy not to let anyone cut in line to join their family. The entire family must get into line together and stay together. Therefore, plan accordingly. Go to the bathroom before getting in line. Two days before Christmas people become irate, loud, and start yelling at elves who are merely enforcing the policy. They also yell at managers and complain the line is too long two days before Christmas, and then snort derisively when told Santaland will be open at 7am on Christmas Eve without a line. No, they won't get up early to see Santa, but they'll procrastinate and take it out on elves. They asked if Santaland would be open after Christmas. For what porpose? What would you talk to Santa about the day after Christmas?
Shortcake got to usher for Good-Looking Santa. She worked the main exit, Santa elfed, front line, and Village exit. She's worked every position except register, but ushering and crowd control are still her favorites. She met a boy named Ewan from Australia who lives in Nevada. He was so silent and cute. She watched managers become Santas and elves because we were shortstaffed today.
Shortcake's voice is almost back, and should be fine as long as she doesn't talk all day for awhile. Her nose on the other hand... In cold or wet air, it clears out, but as soon as she's inside with the heat, she's a congested mess. So either a humidifier needs to follow her around, or she needs serious decongestants.
At the end of the day on Christmas Eve, all of the elves gathered at the Main Exit and sang Christmas carols to the last people in the register area. Pictures were taken. Hugs were exchanged. The Christmas cheer was kind of overwhelming. And now everyone is going home, probably to the North Pole, while Santa sets out on his world journey in his sleigh.
Monday, December 22, 2008
There was a schoolgroup that arrived and wanted individual pictures of all the kids. Santa's policy is not to take individual pictures with school groups because it delays the line, and he has so many kids to see. Parents had given the director of the school money to buy each picture, but they hadn't received permission from the managers. When the schoolgroup presented themselves as such, the elves proceeded as if it were a normal school group and denied the pictures. Of course, they were sent to 3 different entrances to see Santa, since there were 60 kids, and then the woman in charge ran around trying to get her individual pictures, and three entrances were held, holding up the line, while the managers figured everything out. It turned out okay, but Shortcake was ranted at for awhile, when she couldn't do anything about it.
Shortcake spent time with Babbling Santa, who is a very sweet man, but he tends to babble about any and everything. He told one family about JRR Tolkien's drinking buddies.
Santa Jack had problems with his Santa elf in another house. They did not get along, and Santa yelled at the elf. DRAMA.
Shortcake had to photo & Santa elf at the same time for about 2 hours because they were shortstaffed. It made the time go by quickly, but it was constant movement as she arranged the photo, took the photo, handed off coats, handed out buttons, moved strollers and talked to people.
Shortcake can almost breathe out of her nose. Another night with the humidifier and vaporizer, and she should be better.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
She worked the front line for a few hours today and invented Christmas Spirit Fingers. They're like Spirit Fingers, but they show your Christmas Spirit. Shortcake's friend Dana came to see her today too. Dana had great Christmas Spirit Fingers.
While Shortcake was Santa elfing in the afternoon, there was a woman who cursed at her 1 year old daughter for crying in the picture. Quote: "I am so pissed at you. We waited in that f***ing line for f***ing ever and now you're f***ing crying." Shortcake has two questions: 1) Who cusses out a one-year-old for crying? 2) Who does it in front of Santa?
Seriously people. It's just a photo.
Shortcake thinks the elf Skater has a crush on her. This is awkward because Skater cannot be more than 19 in human years. Also, Shortcake is not attracted to Skater.
Ah, elf drama.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
There have been lots of crying kids in the last two days. The two most impressive were both boys. One boy was with a school group, and screamed for 5 minutes in his mother's arms. The entire time he was in the presence of Santa he was crying and screaming. His mother tried to take a picture with Santa with him on Santa's lap. She tried with him on her lap. He did nothing but scream, and she kept trying. Shortcake said multiple times that maybe she should just let it go. The kid was obviously terrified, and it was only getting worse. The second boy wouldn't come in the house. He hid and cried. The usher elf finally got him inside, and he just stood next to Shortcake hiding his face against the wall. After Shortcake took the picture of Santa and the boy's mother and brother, she told him it was over, then escorted him out of the house. But to get out of the house, he had to go past Santa. So Shortcake told him to hide his face in her smock, walk right next to her, and she walked the entire house with her back to Santa, blocking his view. Once they were outside, the kid stopped crying, and Shortcake told him it was over. She gave him to his mother, and went back to work.
Someone asked if there was a point where elves step back and say "not in my job description." Crying kids aren't those times. At that point in time, it's all about protecting the kid from Santa, even if the kid isn't technically in harm's way. It doesn't matter; a kid is terrified, and all Shortcake wants to do is calm the kid down. If that means walking sideways, hiding a kid's face in a smock, then that's what happens.
Shortcake was put in two of the slower positions today. Both positions consist of telling people where to go to exit after seeing Santa, which means people pass by, but inconsistently. Shortcake had a lot of time to entertain herself. She danced, flapped around her sleeves, decided having an opposable thumb is awesome, tangoed, waltzed, sang "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and tried to turn a broken button into a monacle.
It is one week to Christmas.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Is this childish? Yes. Does Shortcake get excited every time she gets a button? Yes. Does she strive to earn more of them? Would she work just as hard were she not to receive buttons because she has a strong work ethic? Yes. It doesn't matter that Shortcake knows these buttons are manipulative and based on a juvenile reward system. She is proud of the FOUR buttons she has earned:
Pace - for working in the village on a busy day and keeping the line moving
Multi-Tasking - for manning the camera at the Town Hall/Bear Band part of the maze
Above & Beyond - for staying late last Saturday to help out Special Santa even though it was
after her shift was over
Crowd Control - for her work on Saturday keeping the crowds amused in HR while they stood
and stood in line
Shortcake wears these buttons with pride, and when people ask where she got them, she says she earned them by being a good elf.
Turns out, he was doing the reading at Lincoln Center, and he was only signing books at Barnes & Noble. To meet him, Shortcake had to buy a book by David Sedaris from that particular store, get a wristband, and then show the receipt and wristband to get into the room to have him sign the book she would have just bought.
Shortcake laughed and walked away.
Monday, December 15, 2008
There was a little boy who told Shortcake she wasn’t real. She held out her hand and said, “Touch me.” He told her she was real, but not a real elf. She said, “Of course I’m a real elf.” He asked why she wasn’t wearing real boots. (Shortcake admits, the fake boots look stupid.) She said, “’Cause boots don’t have arch support, so I’m wearing sneakers.” He asked if Santa was real. She said, “Yes.”
There was a family from
There was a man who brought his 3 year old godson to see Santa. The little boy had decided they should switch coats, so the man was wearing the boy’s blue coat as a hat, and the boy was wearing the man’s coat. It was so big; you could barely see the boy. He kept saying, “I’m not a person, I’m a coat!” It was adorable.
There was a group of 5 families with 13 kids between them. They weren’t related; they just played football together, starting 2 years ago, became friends, and now came to see Santa together. There were 2 families missing even. The kids were rambunctious, tackling each other in the waiting area while their parents bought the photos.
There was a family whose Dad hadn’t waited in line with them, so he tried to join them in line. This is against the rules because it’s not fair to the people waiting in line behind them. Shortcake stopped him. She was informed that everyone at Macy’s was an “idiot.”
Special Santa got to sit in the house with the Peek Window, and Shortcake was his Photo elf. It was an important moment because Santa had been told he would never be allowed to sit in the Peek Window house, yet, there he was!
Julianne Moore came to see Santa. Shortcake exchanged a few words with her that were not particularly witty or memorable, but Ms. Moore had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. It went like this:
Shortcake: “Please step forward, filling in all the available space. You can step forward to see, uh, -“
(She meant to say “the workshop,” then realized the sign said “this way to Santa,” but Shortcake didn’t want to see say “You’re almost to see Santa,” ‘cause it’s a lie. There are about 3 more corners to turn before you’re almost to Santa.)
Julianne Moore: (smiling) “The stuff over there. Go thataway.”
Shortcake: “Yes, exactly. That stuff through there. Go see that.”
She told you it wasn’t particularly memorable.
Advice for Saturdays:
Shortcake worked crowd control all day Saturday because the line was so long, and, if Shortcake says so herself, she’s good at it. By the time people saw Shortcake they had already been in line for a half hour, maybe, so they were cranky. Shortcake tried to cheer them up by telling them they were on a treasure hunt. “Santa’s the treasure, and he’ll bring you treasure on the 25th. The elves are the secret clues pointing you in the right direction. You’re on an adventure taking you to far-off places and foreign lands you never thought you’d visit. It’s like Gulliver’s travels; pretty soon we’ll have talking horses and Giants and Lilliputians. We’re searching for Santa. Nothing’s ever in the first place you look, but we’re checking here anyway. You never know where Santa will show up. Maybe one of the reindeer escaped, and then he had to go looking for the reindeer, and now we’re looking for him.” When the treasure hunt didn’t work, Shortcake tried the sentimentality tack: “Think of the stories you’ll be able to tell in years to come. You’ll be sitting around the dinner table and say, “Remember that time we went to see Santa at Macy’s and waited in line for 2 hours?”” And when that didn’t work, she took the train tack: “The Polar Express is moving, folks. Please step up. Thank you for your patience. Due to construction on the track, the express is running local this weekend. It’s just like the Subway. We appreciate your understanding.” After those three tacks, people were past Shortcake, visiting another elf, and she could start over. In the pauses while the line wasn’t moving, Shortcake talked to the visitors. She asked where they were from, guessed ages, sometimes sang “Jingle Bells” or “Rudolph.”
When waiting to see Santa on a Saturday two weeks before Christmas, do not be surprised if you end up waiting for 2 hours and stand in a line that wraps around the HR department of the store. When asking “when is a better time to see Santa,” do not be surprised when elves tell you weekdays. There will not be a short line on Saturdays or Sundays. Ever. Nor will there be short lines the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday before Christmas. Be smart. Come early in the season, and do it on a weekday.
Do not take give the elves dirty looks when they direct you in the line. It is not their fault you decided to come see Santa. It is not their fault there are this many people in front of you in line. The line has to go somewhere, and it can’t be on the Sales floor because it’s already a madhouse.
Remember that at Disney World you wait in a line just as long to go on
A lot of local people came in last Saturday:
Shortcake has met people from
People go through Santaland taking pictures of everything. They take pictures of the trains and the dancing bears and the trees and the snowglobe and the toys and the penguins and most of all, their children in front of the trains and dancing bears and trees and snowglobe and toys and penguins. This does not make sense to Shortcake. She understands why people want to take pictures to remember it and show to other people, but if they’re taking pictures, they’re not walking through and experiencing it. If they would just enjoy the walk, they might be able to remember it as a time they spent with their family before the kids grew up and Grandma got too old to walk. Their kids could talk to Santa and tell him what they want instead of worrying about where they’re looking and if they have a good smile.
Also, taking pictures holds up the line. Which is just annoying to the thousands of people in line behind you. It’s the reason you’ve been in line for an hour. Why contribute to the problem?
Last Saturday Shortcake lost her voice. By Monday she had a cold. Tuesday, she was back at work talking for 8 hours. Wednesday was the worst day of the cold. Thursday, Shortcake felt much better. She had energy and was excited to be at work. By the end of the day on Saturday, her voice was gone. Again. The party Saturday night did not help. It is now Monday, and she still sounds hoarse. She feels great, aside from some sniffles and a lack of speaking ability. She is now on the search for major rehabilitation drugs because if this cycle continues she won’t have a voice until January.
Monday, December 8, 2008
It didn't help that Saturday night she went to a bar and yelled over people and music for 2 hours. For those concerned with Shortcake's moral leadership, she only had a water and left at 1am.
For those concerned with Shortcake's health, she is consuming massive quantities of clementines, sucking down cough drops while elfing, drinking gobs of tea, and taking Tylenol for the sore throat. And the humidifier is up and running. This is just a cold. She just happens to sound like a husky folk singer.
Saturday was a long day. Shortcake was working for 5 1/2 hours straight without a break. This was a fluke accident, but by 3pm (after starting at 9:30am), she needed to eat. Usually, Shortcake hates breaks, but in rehearsals or running shows there are chances to grab a snack or sit down. Working the Village exit and as an usher elf requires constant talking and energy. At the end of the day, she worked the maze for two hours. It was good it was the last two hours of her last day of the week because Shortcake was tired, hungry, and was starting to lose her voice.
Even if she has no voice for tomorrow's shift, at least she'll have energy after a day off and sleeping for 8 hours.
Friday, December 5, 2008
In other news, Shortcake spent the day Santa elfing, Photo elfing and standing at the Main Exit. Santa thanked Shortcake on her break for all her help while she was Santa elf, which is sweet, but made her wonder if he was just thanking her as an elf in general, or her specifically. The difference matters only because every time Shortcake Santa elfs she feels like half her brain stops working and she's only doing half her job. This probably isn't true, but it's still a relief to do something else. Like Main Exit.
At the Main Exit, Shortcake handed out flyers for the puppet theatre, told people where the bathroom was (7th floor), prevented people from entering the exit, and talked to kids in line. She also proved that the wait is only 20 minutes from the exit through Santaland and back to the exit. It looks longer, and one family challenged her, so she timed that families trip. At 3:05pm they were standing next to Shortcake in line, and at 3:25pm the kids walked out of the registry area. Ha! Success!
One of the managers said she did a good job at the Main Exit; it was actually inspiring. Shortcake thought she was good at crowd control, but it's good to know she's meeting the managers expectations. Do not worry, gentle readers, Shortcake shall not get a big head from this compliment. There is always Santa elfing to challenge her abilities.
Santa is based on a real person, St. Nicholas, whose feast day is fast approaching. The mythology of St. Nicholas may not include the North Pole or reindeer, but it does include giving treats to good children and impoverished children, leaving presents in shoes left out overnight.
Shortcake stopped believing in the reality of Santa fairly young, although she remembers faking it for a few years for purely materialistic reasons. But belief in the reality is not the point. At the end of the day, it’s about the tradition.
Despite the fact that Shortcake left the Roman Catholic Church (for theological reasons) she remembers fondly the traditions. The mass is beautiful, with lighting the candles, and singing Christmas carols for the first time.
Shortcake remembers one mortifying Christmas mass when she was ready to sing “Joy to the World,” and it sounded like the intro was over, so she busted out the chorus as loud as she could. The intro was not over, and she sang alone for a phrase. She then proceeded to blush as hard as she could, and joined in meekly when it was appropriate.
All of Shortcake’s favorite Christmas songs are religious in nature: “Away in a Manger,” “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “Angels We Have Heard On High.” (This is actually a handicap in being an elf. Elves aren’t supposed to sing religious songs as the emphasis is on Santa, a thoroughly secular figure, and not Jesus, a thoroughly religious figure. Shortcake ends up singing “Jingle Bells” a lotva because it’s the only song she can remember all of the words to.)
The nativity goes up every year, with the prerequisites listed above (look up 4 paragraphs). There is a tree, decorated with ornaments, even if it’s small and fake. (Christmas trees should be real, goshdarn it.) And there is St. Nick day. Shortcake relies upon her mother to send her St. Nicholas day presents (she received three packages today and spent 5 minutes hugging them in happiness), and Shortcake always prepares small packages of chocolate and oranges (traditional St. Nick treats since chocolate is yummy and oranges were hard to come by in
The following post should be read with parental guidance, as there may be information inappropriate for young children, or those perpetually young at heart:
For those who believe in one, and only one, Santa Claus:
There is one, and only one, Santa Claus. He is the real Santa Claus. He flies down to Macy’s in
As was once said, in a very famous article, “Yes,
For those who believe in Santa, but are willing to concede the laws of physics:
Santa Claus exists, and he lives at the North Pole, but he’s got a few helpers, Santas, elves and parents, working for him in Macy’s and all over the world. But if we all believe in the Christmas spirit, and give generously to our fellow humans, aren’t we all Santa, inside, a little bit?
For those cynical people who stopped believing in Santa years ago:
Yes, there are six different houses that hold up to six different Santas. In the morning we open with at least 3 Santas in the houses, and often go up to 4 or 5. On busy days (Saturdays, Black Friday, Christmas Eve), we have all six running full time.
There is even a Santa of non-Northern-European descent (known as “Special Santa” or “Good-looking Santa” or “Sexy Santa”) (politically incorrectly known as the “Black Santa”) who is in House 1 in the evenings. He is available by request only.
Shortcake saw Special Santa today for the first time. It’s kinda cool to think about. No matter how cynical you are, Santa can be any color, any ethnicity, anything you want him to be, as long as fulfills the mythology of Santa, i.e. eating cookies and bringing presents and going down chimneys and flying in a sleigh with reindeer. Okay, so, maybe that’s the commercialized version of Santa, propagated by Coca-Cola and Macy’s to spur sales of merchandise.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Shortcake was at Macy's at 6:30am, got into costume, and then went downstairs to sit on some metal benches behind the performance area. Yes, she literally acted as a seat-warmer. She was paid to sit on metal benches for an hour. While this seems silly from a managerial point of view, at least Shortcake viewed In The Heights, South Pacific, Little Mermaid, White Christmas and the cheerleaders practice their numbers for the TV cameras, which was kind of cool.
After sitting on metal benches, Shortcake was sent to 34th Street to entertain the crowds. This means that for 4-5 hours she literally ran up and down the street, jumped up and down, shouted, marched, danced, cheered, and did 2 cartwheels. She was given a bullhorn occasionally, which was cool, but most of the time she just talked to people, and tried to keep them occupied and distracted from the cold while waiting for the parade to hit 34th Street.
It turns out people will do the Hokey Pokey if an elf does it right in front of them. They will not the hand jive. They will sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." They will not sing "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" They do not know how old Santa is (as old as his tongue, a little bit older than his teeth).
Also, Jewish kids don't know their favorite Christmas movie, predictably enough. Nor do they know their favorite Hannukah movie. They do know their favorite Princess movie. Note to Shortcake: just because you are an elf at the parade does not mean everyone there celebrates Christmas. Oops.
Shortcake had an amazing view of the parade, since she was on the curb of 34tg & Broadway. Dora was huge with the kids, as was Kermit, Shrek, Spongebob and the Pikachu balloon. And do no underestimate the appeal of Miley Cyrus. A few balloons almost fell over on top of the crowds, which was exciting, as was being so close to the balloons to see how they were piloted.
About halfway through the Parade, Shortcake started going to the corner, looking to see what was coming, and then shouting it back to the waiting families: "Hey kids, there's Snoopy! Look!" Also, she played a game with a 4 year old that consisted of the kid throwing confetti at her, and then Shortcake laughing in response.
Shortcake started looking forward to the appearance of Santa, since that meant the parade was over, and she could stop running around entertaining kids - which, don't get her wrong, but entertaining kids is tiring. There were many false promises of Santa, but Shortcake persevered. By the end of the parade, Shortcake was doing a conga line dance with herself to the tune of "Santa, Santa, San-TA, Santa, Santa, San-TA."
And, the good news is, after the parade, as the families were leaving, Shortcake was told mutiple times, she was the best elf. She was great. So maybe Shortcake is meant to be an elf. Or maybe she just connects to children really well.
Elfing in the store:
The weekend was spent being a Santa elf, a photo elf, ushering, being in the maze, and crowd control at the front of the line.
Santa and Photo elfing is still scary because Shortcake feels she's not doing enough to really rock out the positions. She's still too tentative, perhaps?
Ushering is good, and Shortcake has the maze patter down. A sample:
"Step up, step forward. You can see Santa and Mrs. Claus right here in the snowglobe! If you watch closely he might laugh his big Jolly Santa laugh for you or wink at you. Most of the time he just watches to see who's been naughty and nice. I'm sure all of you are on the nice list because the naughty people are too ashamed to face Santa in person. Who knows Mrs. Claus' first name?" *pause for names* "I don't know her name. I think it's Sophie, but no one will tell me her name. It's the best-kept secret in the North Pole. I know; I've tried to find out. I've looked in all the best hiding places. Step up, step right up, folks. It's like being at the circus, only we have Santa instead of elephants, and Santa is better than elephants or clowns or magicians, but he's kinda like a magician since he's magic. Step forward please. We don't want to leave gaps in the line, or it will make Santa think no one wants to see him, and we know that's not true. Step forward please. It doesn't need to be a single-file line. I know we all feel like big kids, but this isn't kindergarten. We can stand next to our families and friends. We can even make new friends - share that Christmas spirit, that Christmas cheer! Step forward, please." *to a little kid* "Hi, what's your name? Would you like to stand right up here next to me by the railing where you can see the snowglobe with Santa? Step up, step forward please. After you turn the corner you are 5 minutes from Santa. I know you've heard that a lot, but if you can see that nutcracker, you can see the gatekeeper, and the gatekeeper is the one who sends you to see Santa. Step up, please, step up." Etc, etc, etc.
Shortcake uses a lot of cough drops in the maze or doing crowd control.
Shortcake got to visit the Bear Band today, and introduced some families to Franz, Hans, Fritz, Wilhelm, Reginald and Percival. Then she went down the maze a bit and named Gustave and Jean-Paul.
In short, (get it - Shortcake) being an elf is good, and Shortcake seems to have a natural inclination for it, even if Santa and Photo elfing is still scary.
Friday, November 28, 2008
She started working at 9:30am, and went until lunch break at 1:30 without a break, and barely noticed the time passing. She worked the full 4 hours as an Usher elf, which was awesome. She got to talk to so many people, many from Massachusetts, oddly enough.
During lunch, Shortcake ate a turkey sandwich, then curled up on a bed she made herself with cubes, and slept for 30 minutes. After lunch she ushered, Santa elfed, and Photo elfed. She spent the entire day working in the Village, which was exciting since she got to see so many kids, big and small, excited to see Santa! Santa elfing and Photo elfing is still very high pressure. Maybe it'll get better over time, but there's so much to remember, and everyone to be nice to, and buttons to pass out. She managed to break the photo computer twice in 10 minutes! Oops.
But Shortcake survived, and everyone seemed to like her. She even got a button in reward for setting a good pace. Let's hope she can do the same thing tomorrow!
(Shortcake is still sore. Somehow, being on her feet for 7 1/2 hours didn't do anything to ease the soreness in her legs. And now her abdomen is sore, and she has no idea what she did to do that. Maybe laugh a lot...? Ideas are welcome. As are recommendations for stretches for muscles in the back of the thigh - Are those hamstrings?)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Shortcake survived working the parade. It was fun, but now she is sore (from running, jumping, dancing and shouting for 4 hours straight) and exhausted after being up at 5am, then working the parade, then doing Thanksgiving dinner, then ushering for a show, and then coming home to clean up from Thanksgiving.
Shortcake is going to collapse into bed. There will be more details about the parade, promise.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Shortcake had a lot of fun pretending to be customers. She was a child that pretended to be an elephant for the entire visit. Then she was part of a French family. She asked Santa for allergies and a new sister.
It's all fun and games until Day 4, when Santaland was opened for real (for about 2 hours). Santa doesn't officially arrive at Macy's until the day after Thanksgiving, hereafter known as Black Friday. Customers in the store came through; school groups came through; non-English speaking adults came through. Shortcake deeply regrets forgetting all of the French she learned in high school and never learning another language. Curse you, American school system! Luxembourgian children are fluent in 4 languages by the time they graduate high school!
Shortcake started off the day as a Santa elf. Again, the pressure. Shortcake just isn't very aggressive yet, partly because she doesn't have the routine down. Also, because they prep you for families with kids, and we had a lot of adults. Of course, everyone's welcome at Santa's, but it's weird to be giving adults buttons and telling them "Merry Christmas" (when Christmas doesn't start until the day after Thanksgiving, but Shortcake won't get into that) and you have managers and veteran elves watching you. The criticism was great, simply because it was a lot to remember in a few short days, and the confidence isn't there yet, but it's just a scary endeavor. You don't want to do a bad job, or slow down the line, or let down Santa, but you don't want to ruin the visit either.
Being a Front Line elf was much more fun. Front line is when elves stand at the entrance of Santaland and either corral the line, or try to get people to go see Santa. Because they were overscheduled, to give the new elves as much practice as possible, there were about 15 elves at the front line, which is a little nuts, considering there weren't that many people in the store on a Tuesday morning. So, Shortcake danced to the music, waved to people, said "Merry Christmas," and invited people to see Santa. Some people came, most just walked past. It's an easier job for Shortcake because it's so similar to ushering for theaters. At theaters you tell people where the bathrooms are and say "Enjoy the show." At Santaland, you invite people to see Santa, tell them where the bathrooms are, and say "Merry Christmas." There's more energy involved at Santaland, and more freedom for movement, but essentially, it's all crowd control. Shortcake can do that.
After Santaland closed, the elves were sent to an Awards ceremony where veteran elves and managers and Santas were honored for their Christmas spirit and dedication. Shortcake was given a certificate stating she was qualified to spread holiday cheer. Everyone who was given an award was honored, and a few people cried. It felt a lot like watching an American Girl gathering, except Shortcake hadn't been there long enough to appreciate the sentimentality fully. Also, American Girl may already hold the place in Shortcake's heart that Macy's holds in other elves hearts. Maybe after a season or two, Shortcake will love Macy's as much as AG, but right now, AG holds the place of pride.
It's weird to think Shortcake will make friends of the elves, and drop into the managers offices, as she used to, but then it was awkward the first summer at AG too. And now those people are her best friends.
The best part of the day came at the end. Since Shortcake will be entertaining VIP children at the parade, she was given - wait for it - parade credentials! Yes, indeedy. Shortcake is an official elf now.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Registers are scary. The price list is daunting, and there are two computers, and so many buttons. Scary! Of course, it could get better with practice, but there are so many better stations to work.
Crowd Control leads to The Maze which leads to the Village, where Santa sees visitors. Those are the positions that interact with children, as Shortcake learned when she got to practice being the elf for about 90 people.
Oh, yes, Shortcake wore the costume. Her costume this week consists of red pants and a green shirt. The sleeves are too long, but that's okay. There are pockets in the shirt, and this is the list of supplies she will carry in those pockets: water, cough drops, hand sanitizer, tic tacs, and kleenex.
Shortcake spent 40 minutes at the Bear Band station in the Maze. As there were few people in the maze on their way to visit Santa, Shortcake had a lot of spare time, so she named the bears in the Bear Band: Hans, Franz, Fritz, Wilhelm, Percival and Reginald. Franz and Fritz are brothers. Percival & Reginald are the English cousins of the German band. Wilhem is a Major, Franz is a Lieutenant, and Hans is a Sergeant. The other three are junior officers and Reginald is a Majordomo/baton twirler. He had no musical ability, so they gave him the baton.
Shortcake's favorite station was Usher elf, the elf who leads families to Santa. She got to talk to the kids, parents, etc. and she met a 7 year old who wanted "5 expensive gifts: a Wii, 2 games for the Wii, an iPod and a laptop. Her little brother wanted a handyman set.
Oh, and one kid brought presents to Santa because Santa only brings presents, he doesn't get them. Today, Santa got a truck. It was super-cute.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Shortcake received an elf manual replete with all of Macy's attendance policies, descriptions of the elf positions, suggested elf names (which, obviously, Shortcake did not need, as she had chosen her name weeks in advance), and explained how to say "Merry Christmas" in many languages, including sign language.
Shortcake was taught how to be a photography elf, i.e. pose people for their pictures with Santa, how to take the picture, where to draw their attention with a "Magic Ticket." There was also a brief lecture on register training. Shortcake hopes there will more hands on training with the registers, as there were a lot of rules regarding selling of pictures and merchandise, and the difference between computers and registers.
Then Shortcake was sent to the costume cage, - so called because it has low ceilings - and fitted for a costume. The exciting news is that she gets a new costume every week, so come visit often! Every week you could get a different picture since the shirt and pants will be in different prints and fabrics.
But wait! There's more!
Shortcake volunteered to work (don't worry, she'll be getting paid) on Thanksgiving, entertaining the kids in the VIP section for the parade! Yes indeedy, Shortcake will be getting up to be at work at 6:30am on Thanksgiving to bring joy to children. Is there any higher purpose for an elf?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The paperwork was easy. It took about 15 minutes, and Shortcake just had to write her name, address, phone number, social security number about 1600 times. (Not really - that was an exaggeration.) The hardest part of figuring out how many tax exemptions to which she was entitled. (Prepositions are so awkward.) Th second hardest part was calling her brother, Dorkwad, to ask his address, so he could be listed for the travel insurance in case she was asked to travel in her duties as an elf and died. Dorkwad was vastly amused.
HR training consisted of watching videos on shortage, registry use, harassment, and something else that was so not exciting it was promptly forgotten. After the videos, Shortcake was sent to a computer to be trained on the register by a CD, and then be orientated - oriented - into the Macy's corporate ethic. If anyone was wondering, Macy's core customer is a woman who shops 78 times a year, earns more than $78,000 annually, may have children, and about half are married.
American Girl's HR training is so much better.
Why, you ask, would anyone sign up to be an elf?
Well, once upon a time, okay, two years ago, Shortcake's father made her listen to a series of David Sedaris stories published on NPR. These consisted of David Sedaris reading chapters from his holiday book about being an elf at Macy's. A year ago, Shortcake picked up the book Holidays on Ice and read the whole thing. It was hilarious. It did not inspire a desire to change career paths and follow Sedaris on an elf-career.
About 2 months ago, Shortcake saw a job listing on the internet for an Elf. She was in need of a second job, and it didn't look like the Parade thing was going to work out. She applied to be an elf, strangely excited about it. "I'm short. I'm peppy. I'm perky. I worked with kids at American Girl for 3 years. I work in children's theatre. I read kids' book and seek out animated films. I understand kids. I would be a great elf!" she thought. "If David Sedaris can do it, I can! And I won't be as snarky as he was."
Thus, the impetus was born.
Shortcake went through a long application process on the Macy's website, and an interview with the hiring manager. She managed to convince him with her bright and sparkly personality that she was worthy of being an elf, and thus, Shortcake was born. (Disclaimer: Shortcake's birth name isn't actually Shortcake. The nickname came from a tour in the spring. It is a useful nickname, however, because it easily translates to Crabcake for Bitter Week or Cupcake or Cheesecake or...)
After Shortcake received her schedule, she started having doubts. She had never worked a retail job before - only office and theatre jobs. She had never had to interact with customers for 8 hours a day, standing on her feet - although ushering and stage managing is probably great preparation for it. For five days a week, between the two jobs, she would end up working 14 days. This was turning into a daunting venture, rather than an exciting one.
But Shortcake is not daunted. Okay, she is, a little bit. But the feeling of excitement is returning, particularly as people are charmed and amused by the idea of Shortcake the Elf. This will be an adventure, albeit without fedoras or wands or whips or dragons or teleportation (Seriously, scientists. If you could get working on the teleportation technology, Shortcake would appreciate it.).
So, visit Shortcake often, gentle readers. The adventure, in its entirety, will unfold before you.