Glimpsing from the corner of my eye it was his clothes that rapidly brought my attention to him. I suppose it’s cultural. His pants were just too short and the cut was cheap. His old black shoes didn’t seem to fit very well and were falling apart. It was around midnight. He was with other people in the street but seemed uncomfortable, apologising for being there with hunched shoulders and a meek submissive dog, retreating movement. He stood on the footpath next to a white Van at Flinders Street Station with some charity name blazoned on it. Immediately I felt from his lean appearance, at odds with his dress, and his recalcitrance, that he was an unwilling recipient of the charity. He definitely did not have the appearance of a charity worker. In fact his false beard and the cap pulled right down to his eyebrows obscured all but his eyes. That was as much as I noticed as I passed by on the tram to Collins St. Then as I waited for a connecting tram on Friday Dec 18th he came and stood beside me. At first I was embarrassed to be near because I had images of his “type” committing horrible acts on minors and other unsuspecting innocents. Then, as I observed much closer, I could see he was unshaven under the obviously false beard. His eyes which shone through the gap between the beard and cap were fierce yet friendly. He provoked an amazing response from passers by in cars and on foot. People swore at him, asked what he’d been eating if anything and to all this he responded quietly and without taking offence. He assumed the role with reluctance but honestly without the gross cliche. He brought such a feeling of warmth as I contemplated the fat rich Christmas images that had nothing to do with this man. I thought for a moment of children in countries at war, people who have no-one and nowhere to go to. Here I was witnessing just a care to make people look above the Christmas shopping for a moment to see a reincarnation of Christ. It was magic. Then a girl passing by said “Hey, you’d better put on some weight. No one will believe you. I don’t believe you.” It wasn’t spiteful, which is why what she said made such a deep impression. He didn’t match our image. He didn’t fit. This Santa looked as though he’d escaped from a lunatic asylum and robbed a Myers Santa of his clothes in the toilet. He carried a small plastic bag with a book in it and was rather concerned at the lapsing time. He must have consulted the Gold watch on his arm 10 times with an air of despondency. Was he missing a deadline with someone higher up or something on TV. or did he have to rescale the walls of Larundle so as not to be found missing?
When we took the No.11 Preston tram together I had the impression that he was tiring of the role. He looked weary. At the top end of Collins St a foursome arrived and the eloquent, suited with briefcase, man asked Santa down his end of the tram and proceeded to grill him as if at the bar. Santa spoke few words. At this point the triumphant suited man said loudly “This is the poorest excuse for a Santa I’ve ever come across.” Loudly summing up for everyone,the judge and jury he had us boxed in. Case dismissed due to lack of evidence.
We expect people who take the risks to act in the role models we have set for them. When they don’t, they are relegated into the too hard basket lest we search too deeply to find out who they really are. In case we find out who we really are. Descending from the tram I didn’t know what to say to Santa. Now that I know he exists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *