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Being at Wrong Mall Works Out Right

TIMES STAFF WRITER

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and Santa was making his list and checking it twice Monday in Glendale.

Santa should have been checking his map instead.

On my last assignment this season as a shopping center Santa, I showed up to work Christmas Eve at the wrong mall.

Toting my Santa suit and white beard in a big, red bag, I was standing in the middle of a frenzied crush of last-minute shoppers at the Glendale Galleria when I discovered that I was supposed to be at a mall in downtown Los Angeles for relief Santa work.

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Or was I supposed to be at a mall over in Pasadena?

St. Nick was lost. And so was his helper, rent-a-Santa scheduling coordinator John McGill III.

“This is Colorado Boulevard, right?” McGill said, checking his own list. “We’re supposed to be at the Galleria’s Broadway Plaza. Wait a minute, maybe we’re supposed to be at the Pasadena Plaza. It’s on Colorado Boulevard too.”

McGill, of Western Temporary Services, was quick to invoke what we North Pole regulars call the “in-Santa-ty clause.” That’s a temporary memory loss that comes at the end of a frantic Christmas season. “I’ve been working since Oct. 24 without a day off,” McGill said, shrugging.

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But before we could pile into our sleigh and dash away all, up stepped Terri Matthews.

She’s the manager of the Galleria’s Santa stand. And she was surveying with alarm the growing line that was wrapped around the Galleria’s center court Santa throne.

There were more than 50 tots and parents waiting to visit St. Nick. And the Santa she had obtained from All Seasons Promotions was about to take his much-needed lunch break.

When she found out I had my own suit, Matthews hired me on the spot to be an unscheduled noontime Santa stand-in. It would be her own gift to the Galleria crowd.

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So instead of a 90-minute wait, Mariann Hartson only had to stand in line half an hour for her daughter, Katherine, 2 1/2, to ask Santa to bring her a Barbie doll.

“I haven’t done all my Christmas shopping, and after this I probably won’t have time to get it all done,” said Hartson of Shadow Hills.

“But Katherine’s the important one--she’s so excited about meeting Santa the first time. I guess her dad and I will defer our gifts to each other until after Christmas.”

Other parents were bringing their children for a repeat visit to Santa’s knee. They were checking on any urgent, last-minute requests the kids might have of Kris Kringle.

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“I’ll be listening closely. If there are any surprises, I don’t know what I’ll do at this point,” said Dee Dee Coultas of Glendale. When daughters Jody, 7, and Ashley, 5, asked for a bike, a walking dog toy, Barbie doll equipment and a crystal rock, Coultas looked relieved.

Sherry Sclafani of Glendale breathed a sigh of relief when sons Matthew, 6, and Patrick, 4, asked for gifts that included Ninja Turtles, a play garage, a “little men” toy set and a necklace. “I could read their lips. It was the same list as before,” Sclafani whispered.

Sam Thompson of Pasadena was willing to give his son, Sam Jr., a chance to change his mind. Two weeks ago, the boy asked another Santa for “cookies and boxes.” On Christmas Eve, Thompson discovered that the 2 1/2-year-old was consistent.

The most unusual request of the day came from two adults. They asked me if Santa would be returning after Christmas to pose for more photos. They’d been too busy to bring their kids beforehand, they said.

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“Ho, ho, ho,” I replied. “No, no, no.”


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