Saturday, November 28, 2009

Front Line, Photo Elf, Usher, Freezer

Another long day at Santaland, but a day without long lines, which is great. Shortcake has a new goal for the season - the line never gets past Stroller Alley.

It was a good Photo elf day. Santa even complimented Shortcake for doing a good job, but Santa was kinda rockin' himself. Ushering is always fun, and the last hour as the Freezer just flew by because it's literally a machine with four people working together to take pictures as fast as possible.

However, after working two days, starting each day on crowd control (and lots of cutters today - BOO), and talking incessantly all day, Shortcake has lost her voice. Also, her feet hurt. And she needs to go grocery shopping in order to bring her lunch instead of buying it. She is starting to get a rash on the back of her neck from her smock pulling forward 'cause there's too much stuff in the front pockets. Thank goodness for two days off.

See you Tuesday at 7:30am for the Autism event!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Congratulations to all who survived the day after Thanksgiving! Shortcake had two lovely Thanksgivings, and then went home to rest up for the first day of Santaland.

The big news of the day is.... (drum roll please): We did not have a line longer than 30 minutes to see Santa! ALL DAY! TADA!

This is amazing. Shortcake expected all day lines of 2 hours or longer. Shortcake worked the front line for 3 1/2 hours. People were nice and friendly, and saw Santa quickly. There were carolers and a train conductor. It was a great day.

Then she Photo elfed, Santa elfed, Santa elfed some more, and refilled some button baskets. It was a pretty easy day. Turns out the rhythm to Santa & Photo elfing takes some time to get back, but it'll come. Of course, crowd control just came back naturally. Go figure.

Off to bed to rest up for another exciting day!

P.S. A family changed a boy's diaper while with Santa today. Shortcake couldn't stop it from happening because her back was turned and when she noticed, the boy was already naked and screaming on the mom's lap. And it was a non-English speaking family.

For those planning to visit Santa, changing diapers within Santaland is frowned upon. Please change diapers in designated restrooms. Thank you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving! Shortcake spent the day disguised as a human, working crowd control for the Central Park South Grandstands. Once they were filled, she sat in the grandstands and watched the parade. Here are some highlights:
Shortcake wearing her HUGE Macy's jacket and Parade pass. Shortcake sitting at 59th St & 5th Ave at 6am in over overly large jacket.
Kermit. The people pulling Kermit. Big Bird on the Sesame Street float.
The M&M Broadway float. It's a castle on a float. Awesome.
Spongebob Squarepants! He lives in a pineapple under the sea!
It's a pirate ship.
Care Bears! I still have my Share Bear. She was my favorite, along with Bright Hearty Raccoon 'cause they were purple.

Santa's new float!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Soft Opening

Tuesday was the "soft opening" for Santaland. It gives the new elves a chance to practice with real people (not elves pretending to be people) and school groups. Shortcake was positioned in the maze at the photo op. She held coats, purses, and bags while people took pictures, and guided them onwards toward Santa. She also met a child from Sweden and impressed the mom by being able to say "Good Yule."

Then she went home early.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Village & Autism Training

Village Training:
Sad news folks: Santa will not be rewarding elves with pins this year for good behavior. He is working on a new reward system, but Shortcake is very sad about this. Pins, despite being a reward system exactly like the gold star system utilized in kindergarten, were highly effective.

The one big change in the Village this year is that the Photo elf will be arranging the group photos instead of the Santa elf. This may take some getting used to, but it should be fine. Half the time, the Photo elf arranged the picture anyway.

Photo elfing came back, no problems. Santa elfing may take a little while, but it will be easier once it's busy.

Since Shortcake is a veteran, she elfed for about 10 minutes, and then pretended to be people coming to see Santa. This involved pretending to be a spoiled brat of a child with Upper East Side parents or a rich lesbian mom with a son or a non-English speaking family or part of a group with two families and one bossy mom demanding 5 pictures or a twin with gay dads.

Autism Training:
The first week after Thanksgiving, Santaland will open an hour early for an event, coordinated by Austism Speaks, wherein kids/people on the Autistic spectrum can come to see Santa. These families have to sign up ahead of time, and there are only five slots per half hour. Santa, elves, managers and straw bosses had to go through training, so they could make the experience as special as possible.

It pretty much comes down to staying calm and gentle. Speaking in a lower register was encouraged, as was making eye contact. The children (ages 3-15, as of Tuesday) will be accompanied by a parent, possibly an aide, and some might even have "normal" siblings with them. Elves should check in with the parent before physically touching the child, and also about using the flash photography, since people on the autism spectrum can be sensitive to extreme stimuli. Essentially, we just need to communicate with the parent/aide, and take our time. Luckily, since there are only five families per half hour, there is plenty of time to be had.

If the child has a meltdown, we were also told to just step back and let the parent/aide handle it. We can offer help, but otherwise it's best to stay out of the way.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How to Visit Shortcake

If you are in the NYC metropolitan area, and feel the need to visit Shortcake while she is working with Santa, please come during the following times:

Tues 9am-5pm
Wed 9am-5pm
Thurs 10am-6pm
Fri 10am-6pm

Shortcake also works Saturdays, but DO NOT COME ON A SATURDAY. BAD IDEA. The line is super long. Don't do it. For your own sake.

Also, lunch breaks are unpredictable.

If you come to visit Shortcake, you can either wait in line to see Santa, and hopefully run into her on the way there, or go to the Santaland exit and tell the Main Exit Elf you're there to see Shortcake. The message will be passed on to a manager, who will try to arrange the visit. There are no guarantees.

Come early in the season. Shortcake cannot emphasize this enough. COME EARLY IN THE SEASON. Santaland is practically dead in the afternoons the first week after Thanksgiving.


Shortcake was scheduled to work an event with Santa called Breakfast with Granma. (Granma is a clown.) She arrived at work at 8:30am, as directed, changed into her costume, and waited. For an hour. At 9:30 she, 9 other elves, and Santa headed down to the event. Santa and two elves were dispatched to entertain guests at the event, and Shortcake and the other 7 elves were given a choice: go home, or stay for training until 3pm and not have to come in on Monday. Because Shortcake already had plans (doing non-elf things) she elected to go home and take a nap.

The moral of the story: Sometimes schedules don't work out, and you just gotta roll with it.

33 days until Christmas!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Crowd Control Training

Shortcake had crowd control training today. This included a costume fitting and a lecture on watches vs. cell phones. If you were wondering, elves are not allowed to have cell phones while working for Santa, not even to tell the time. Elves must wear watches. Luckily, Shortcake is quite happy to wear a watch, as she cannot get through a day without one.

There are new maze positions. These positions have boxes to stand on, giving elves, particularly those of shorter stature (Shortcake) more visibility, authority, and ability to engage in customers. There are also props at each of these stations, thus allowing for more improv in dialogue with the customers, or patter, or things to do during slow times. YAY. The maze will be AWESOME this year.

The Bear band is still in place. Wilhelm, Franz, Hans, Percival and Reginald were all quite happy to see Shortcake again.

We also went over training for the line before it enters the North Pole. It all comes down to being pleasant, keeping the line moving, and knowing when to extend the line.

There is an autism event the week after Thanksgiving, so Shortcake will be participating in Autism training on Monday.

Shortcake will be working the Parade! She will not be in full elf getup, but she will be a docent in a Macy's jacket at 59th street.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Shortcake had elf orientation today. This meant sitting in a big room with about 2o0 other elves, some managers, some Strawbosses, Mrs. Clause, some puppet theater ushers, some HR people, the train conductor, and Santa. The managers briefed us on the most important parts of working for Santa (1: having Christmas spirit, of which Shortcake has loads, and 2: owning a watch, something Shortcake cannot live without).

It also meant a lot of applauding for people. Working for a corporation means a large meeting where everyone congratulates themselves for not doing anything yet, since the holiday season hasn't even started.

It also means being told what an elf does. An elf:

- makes memories
- loves Christmas
- reaches out to customers
- is an ambassador for Macy's
- wants Christmas to be special
- has a lot of energy
- supports, cares for, respects and encourages her fellow workers
- listens
- strives to be her best every day
- has higher standards than the rest of Macy's associates (Obviously. We work for Santa.)
- is considerate of her fellow workers

Visiting Santa is an interactive experience and the managers want the elves to make an impact during that experience.

Elves will be clocking in (because Santa pays by the hour, dontcha know) using an 8 digit ID instead of a 6 digit ID. This caused consternation amongst the elves until it was pointed out that if we can handle the day after Thanksgiving, we should be able to handle an extra 2 digits.

Santa recited "Twas the Night Before Christmas," and it was delightful. Justin Time, the Santaland Express conductor, also gave a presentation on tickets, the train ride, and various protocols. This may be blasphemous, but Justin Time was much more entertaining.

Macy's made it clear that elves should feel honored to have been selected to be an elf. The 200 of us were chosen out of 800, and we were chosen because we talked about how much we liked Christmas, or Santa, or the tradition of Christmas at Macy's, or whatnot. Shortcake felt a slight consternation at this revelation, because she's fairly positive she did not discuss any of those things. She discussed her schedule. She has admitted on many occasions that she loves her job, as well as the alliteration of the job description "Jolly Holiday Helper." However, she has mixed feelings toward Christmas due to its religious overtones, insistence on arriving before Thanksgiving, a lack of family emphasis for the day itself, and a preference for St. Nick Day on Dec. 6. The phrase that struck her as most out of place was "it is an honor to be an elf." Shortcake will examine, at another time, whether or not it is truly an honor to be an elf, or merely the job she happens to be good at and is content to do.