If you are as unemployable as I am, you will understand the feeling of applying to each part time job that appears before your eyes on-line. Retail, waitressing, bar work – the list goes on. I even applied for the job as a christmas elf at the grotto in my local shopping centre for a laugh (as well as to say to people I was honestly still looking for a job).
Imagine my surprise when I get phoned for an interview. The interview consisted of a few questions and was a fairly regular which resulted in me being invited to a further interview. This then led to me being invited for a trial shift a few weeks later.
For the past 2 weeks or so, I have been a full time christmas elf at the grotto. In all honesty, I’ve learned so much from that job when I thought I would learn nothing. I obviously learned the usual basics such as using the till and operating the camera software but I also learned much more about people as well as myself.
- Frozen has taken over the world. I’ll admit that, for the past year, I have boycotted watching Frozen. I never have watched it and I never will. I just don’t want to simply because I don’t want to give into this hipster Disney hype that has sprung up. However, in this job, it seems vital that you watch Frozen at least once. Most of the girls visiting the grotto would ask for some form of Frozen gift from dresses to dressing tables. I couldn’t get over how one simple movie has morphed these children into being dressed head-to-toe in merchandise as well as begging for other items.
- Kids still play with toys I loved. I loved it when the kids would come in and they would ask for things like Lego, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Barbie merchandise. It made me realise that times may have changed but kids are still encouraged to play with items that my brothers and I would adore and ask for for christmas. Hearing this made me realise that there are some kids who aren’t those annoying ones begging for an Xbox, iPad AND new phone. There was even one girl asking for a yo-yo and a skipping rope!
- Stop spoiling your kids. I understand parents want to ensure that their kids have the best christmas ever, but is showering them with expensive gifts really going to make that happen? Sometimes I felt like saying to them that spoiling them with all these gifts is just going to make them more ungrateful when they are older as well as expecting something much bigger the year after and the year after. I mean, I witnessed 5 year olds asking for iPhones and Xbox’s or even both. (Don’t want to play that card but) when I was younger, we got a Wii between us as our main present – don’t think I would have dreamed of asking for my own as opposed to simply sharing one with my brothers.
- Parents are worse than their kids. When I had to keep the queue occupied with copious amounts of chocolate and paper hats that sliced your hands, I learned that the most patient were in fact the kids. The parents would complain the minute they joined the queue even though they were aware of the waiting time. I guess the kids were just far too excited to see Santa but surely the parents would make sure they didn’t ruin the experience by being so impatient and causing a scene.
- Kids facial expressions are the best. You would be using the usual script you had been saying for days (“Excited for christmas? Been good? Excited for Santa? etc etc etc) and the kids would be looking a tad excited but once they opened the door and saw Santa – wow. Their little faces would light up and this huge grin would appear on their faces as if they had just seen something magical (when in fact it was a retired 65 year old man who had nothing better to do with his time). It was so amazing. However, there was also the other side where the kids were terrified and this look of panic mixed with horror would overcome them as they ran for the exit.
- Selfish parents are the most annoying. I don’t think parents understand that if your kid is terrified of Santa and you force them in a small enclosed room, then they are not only going to freak out but they may also be scarred for life. One of the other employees told me that there was an adult terrified of people dressed up and discovered it was because they were forced to visit Santa. All some parents seem to want is a photo and I could never quite understand why they would want a photo of their child crying their eyes out in terror.
- It actually didn’t feel like work. Honestly, for the majority of the time, it didn’t feel like a job at all. It felt like I was choosing to be there to the point I forgot I was even getting paid for it. Even the work it involved wasn’t anything extremely difficult or tiring – you either kept the queue occupied, worked the camera in the grotto, made the photo gifts or worked the till. Knowing that you were making a kid feel the magic of christmas made up for the 7 hour shifts (almost daily). Not only seeing their faces light up but even how excited they got about the fact Santa could use a magic key to get into their chimney-free house. We even stayed open half an hour later because there was a single dad who only got too see his daughter that one day – he was so grateful.
Working there has definitely helped give me confidence as well as realise that working with kids (in any age range) is what I want to do as a career. I may have been laughed at by people I know walking by and have a strange guy hit on me two days but it was definitely worth it. (Got told by a fellow employee that there is such a thing as an “elf fetish” which is far too strange for me).
It was something that kept me busy during my winter break, the chance to socialise with other people and obviously a part time job that is a little different from the few i’ve had.
You can all keep your retail christmas jobs because I can guarantee you that mine was far less stressful because I got to make sure kids had a smile on their face and a great experience meeting the jolly old man himself.