From stalwart podcast contributor Jonn Kmech:
It was with a sense of child-like glee and adult-like anxiety that I waited outside the Santa workshop at Southgate Mall last week. The anxiety? Due to the very nature of being an adult male, schlepping about a Santa compound and observing children as they come out from meeting the Big Guy. If I was mall security, I probably would have asked myself what I was doing. Luckily, even after spending six hours at Southgate during the height of the Christmas shopping season, I was still only halfway to looking like the guy from One Hour Photo.
The glee? Due to the prospect that I was actually going to be interviewing Santa for our most recent Edmonton: A City segment. Not only that, but I would actually have a period of time to talk to him for myself, not just a couple minutes before being kicked out of there. It was a childhood dream. Even as an adult, there was something that felt undeniably fun about going to meet Santa. Maybe he’d even let me sit on his knee.
And, meeting Santa lived up to expectations (except for the knee-sitting thing). Carrying a brown messenger bag with him, which I will assume was where he kept the naughty/nice list, Santa descended down the walkway to greet me. We walked down the mall to the employee breakroom (where Santa hangs during his breaks), as he waved to passing adults and children, charismatically playing the crowd. It was interesting to see how many adults—approximately 0.01% of whom had anything resembling a smile on their face in the midst of Christmas shopping— lit up when they saw Santa, even as much as the kids. It was like seeing him triggered a brief reconnection with childhood memories and feelings of what Christmas is truly about.
I sat down and talked to Santa, a.k.a. Francis Dryden (which I can only assume is his codename), for around 40 minutes—so long that we decided to post the entire interview, for your festive seasonal enjoyment! And if you don’t listen…you’re getting a lump of coal this Christmas.
In it, we discussed:
- beards (and how fake-bearded Santas are an exercise in charlatanry)
- why some kids have difficulty seeing the economic difference between “toys” and “iPads”
- irritating parents who complain to mall management when Santa tells those kids he can’t produce said iPads
- the physical rigours of working 8 hours a day for a month and a half lifting 50-pound kids onto your knee
- why he doesn’t use chimneys anymore
- his background as a rock drummer formerly nicknamed Captain Crunch (yes, really)
- his genuine love for children and work with the Shriners
As the interview went on, it started to become more apparent that he truly sounded like the real deal; someone who went out of their way to selflessly make kids happy. If Santa is a symbol of compassion and love for children, then Mr. Dryden makes a fine Santa indeed.