[Santa Claus and his elven helper collect food donations on the corner of Wachtler Avenue and Lower Colonial Drive in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.]
[A dark night, two days before Christmas. A suburban street on a bluff high over the Mississippi River. Snow is gently falling. TWIN CITY SIDEWALKS (TCS) and his two siblings, BROTHER and SISTER trudge through the snow on the shoulder of Wachtler Avenue, stepping out of the way of the occasional car.
After some time, the sound of jingling bells skips over the snow-stacked yards. TCS approaches a well-lit street corner. Spruce trees are adorned with lights, and SANTA CLAUS and his helper, ELF, huddle around a long white stretch limousine. RANDOM KIDS approach SANTA.]
Elf: [Walking over to the street.] How we doing guys?
TCS: Oh pretty good. How are you?
Random Kids: [Shoved back into the limo by their parents.] Thank you Santa!
Elf: [Motioning to TCS and his siblings.] You guys want your picture taken?
TCS: Oh, super.
Elf: I’d be happy to do it for ya.
Santa: [To TCS.] Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! How you doin’?
TCS' sister: [Shaking SANTA'S hand.] You keeping warm out there, Santa?
Santa: [Patting his belly.] Oh yeah. Santa’s got a coat that keeps him warm.
TCS' sister: [Smiling.] I bet.
[A well-lit sign beckons drivers to Santa's corner as they climb the bluff from the Mississippi River valley below.]
TCS: So, what’s it like to be a Santa on the streetcorner? How long you been doin’ this?
Santa: On the streetcorner here? About five years.
TCS: Wow, really?
Santa: But all in all, I’ve been doing this since I was about twenty.
TCS: [Astonished.] Get outa here. Really?
Santa: [With a twinkle.] But that’s only ten years ago.
TCS: [Nodding.] Oh, I understand that. That’s true for me too actually. So you’re collecting food?
Santa: Food for Dakota County Food Shelf for Neighbors Incorporated. Food or monetary or whatever anybody gives. [Puffing his chest.] We’ve got probably close to 500 pounds of food so far. So that’s been great, it’s been a good year.
TCS: [Dumbly.] Is that a good year, then?
Santa: Yep, it’s a good year. Five to six hundred pounds of food.
TCS: How often do people stop and get out of the car?
Santa: [With a pause.] Oh, that depends. [Another limousine pulls up to the corner.] We’ve got limousines that come by here all the time.
[STEVE THE LIMO DRIVER waves at Santa.]
Santa: Hey Steve!
TCS: How come the limos come by?
Santa: We get a hold of the limousine companies, and tell them what we’ve got, and then they bring ‘em over…
[TWO KIDS look out from the limousine. SANTA jingles his bells.]
Santa: … we’ve had about five limousines lined up here before.
TCS' sister: The limos, they take people on light tours?
Santa: They do Christmas light tours, and then they bring ‘em by here, and then they donate to the food shelf.
TCS: [Inelegantly.] What’s the weirdest thing that happens when you’ve been on the corner here?
Santa: [Scratching his beard.] I don’t know about weirdest thing…
TCS: Is there something crazy that happened, or something…?
[TWO KIDS approach Santa.]
Santa: [Motioning to the children.] Let me get that here…
[Santa Claus poses for a picture with a family taking a guided light tour through the Saint Paul suburbs.]
Santa: Hey Elf, you wanna help with the food? Put it in the box… [SANTA approaches the limo.] Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas! [Unintelligible talking to children.] Pretty good? Well great. Tell me now, what’s your Christmas list? What’s on it?
Two Kids: [Sheepishly.] I didn’t really do it, but I did.
Santa: You didn’t really do it, but you did? OK. Did you put it in the mail yet?
Two Kids: Um… [The sound of falling snow.]
Santa: [Encouragingly.] Well, you gotta do it in express mail overnight, or you could email it to me. You think you could do that? Your mom and dad could do that?
Two Kids: [Nodding.] Uh-huh.
Santa: You out seeing the lights tonight? Whose got the best lights?
Two Kids: [Pause, lost in thought.] You!
Santa: [Ironicaly taken aback.] Whoah! That answer is the correct answer, believe me. How about another candy cane, huh?
TCS: [To ELF.] What’s your job? You help Santa?
Elf: I just come down and help out. I live down the street a little bit.
Santa: [To KIDS.] Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!
TCS: Do you come down here every night?
Elf: Oh no, I’m back in town for a while, so we’re good friends, and I just come down and help him stay busy, when there’s no traffic he’ll have somebody to talk to.
TCS: Is this the busiest night of the year?
Elf: Oh, it’s been busier, I think. I’ve been down here for about a half hour forty-five minutes, and it’s been steady with people coming down here.
TCS' sister: Limos, I can’t believe that.
Elf: Yeah, one after another. Plus the snow doesn’t hurt anything does it?
TCS: Sure adds to the scenery.
Santa: [Waving to a new limo.] Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas! [A horn honks.] So, I had a quota to fill my employment, so I brought in my elf.
TCS: Does he ever dress up in green for you?
Santa: No no, he’d look pretty foolish.
Elf: [Self-consciously.] My tights don’t fit any more.
Santa: Ya. But you said the strangest thing? I don’t know that I really had strange things. I had interesting things…
TCS: Like what?
[A Mercedes SUV drives up, and YOUNG GUY driving around a YOUNG GIRL puts some money into a bin for the food drive.]
Santa: Hey, how you doin’? Merry Christmas!
Guy in Benz: We’re doing good. How are you?
Santa: Great. You got any kids in there?
Guy in Benz: [Reluctantly.] Nah.
Santa: Just the big kids up front, huh?
Guy in Benz: Yeah.
Santa: Well, good. Here’s a couple'a candy canes for ya. You guys have a Merry Christmas.
Guy in Benz: Merry Christmas.
Santa: Ho ho ho! [Jingling bells.]
[The GUY IN BENZ rolls up his window and drives off around the corner.]
TCS' sister: [To SANTA.] Pretty good “ho ho ho” you got there.
TCS: [Jumping on bandwagon.] Yeah, does that take practice?
Santa: About 59 years.
TCS: I thought you said you were 30?
[Three vehicles line up at Santa's corner to exchange donations for candy canes and Christmas spirit.]
Santa: [Smiling beneath a beard.] I am. I learned it from my dad, god bless him. [Pauses.] But I had one couple got engaged out here. Limousine pulls up and she had no idea, the limo driver had no idea, and the kid walks up to me and says, "I’m gonna propose to her." So I said, “What are you stupid? It’s snowing out here for god sakes, and you're both out in…” She had an evening dress on, and they were going to go to dinner. Of course they were riding in a warm limousine, and he gets down on his knees, and he says I want you to stand right here, so we did, we took pictures, and boom! that was it.
TCS: That’s pretty exciting. Wow you’re very romantic, Santa.
Santa: You gotta be. You gotta be on this deal. The limos, we also talk with Hospice Minnesota, and I don’t know if it was from Hospice, but it was somebody who had a situation like that, they’re with the grandparents, and they took a limousine ride with the kids and they want to go see Santa Claus. And it’s important for people so go see Santa Claus with their kids.
Santa: Fortunately we’ve not lost that tradition which is great, you know what I mean?
[Another SUV drives up to the streetcorner.]
Elf: [Nasally.] Ho ho, Merry Christmas.
Santa: [Motioning to ELF.] See he’d never make it. It doesn’t come from the belly.
[TCS' SISTER laughs out loud. A KID approaches from a waiting car.]
Kid: Hi Santa!
Santa: [Bending down on one knee.] Where’s your Christmas list? [Unintelligible conversation.] X-box? Man, what are you going to do with that?
[Three SUVs line up in front of the streetcorner.]
TCS: Thank you Santa, Merry Christmas!
Santa: Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas
[And with a wave, TCS and his BROTHER and SISTER trudge away through the falling snow down the sidewalk-less street.]