For the 14th year in a row, my kids and I drove to Pentagon City Mall for a picture with Santa.
Now 15 and 11, they know the fat guy in the red suit is an echo of their childhood. Still there, and still nice, and still happiness-and-laughter inducing, but not the same as before the veil was lifted.
How could it be the same? Once you know, there’s no going back.
Maybe it wasn’t Santa for you, but maybe there was someone or something that you believed in so strongly, and then you got to Oz and realized the wizard was just Oscar Diggs from Omaha, Nebraska.
For my kids, Santa could really be a guy named Harold, who works at the tax office next to Pizza Hut the rest of the year.
We’d still show up because it’s tradition.
The kids don’t believe in Santa, but they believe in the experience.
It’s not even about Santa at this point. It’s about us and reliving the memories (and about pretzels at Aunt Annie’s on the way back to the car).
This year, though . . .
There was a long line. It didn’t move for a good half hour.
The camera broke.
The time for Santa to head back to Ms. Claus arrived and the line was still out and around the Santa display.
The teenager in charge asked each person still in line if he or she would come back the next morning. We all said no. Kids had school the next morning and we’d invested a few hours at that point.
He decided to pile on. “Santa’s been complaining about not getting out on time and we’re trying to close.” Little ears around him heard this. Santa complaining? Really?
When a parent asked if Santa would still see everyone in line, he replied, “I guess I could try to make the line move faster.”
After we made it through the picture line, his stellar salesmanship continued. I requested half a dozen frames and then he looked at my son and asked, “She your mom? If she was my mom I wouldn’t let her buy those frames. Why are you letting her buy all those frames?” My son smiled. Didn’t know what to say.
Yes the frames are overpriced. Same with the pictures.
Yet, I show up every year—and I spend a lot of money because those pictures and frames get sent to two sets of grandparents, a great-grandmother, a few other relatives, and I want one for myself, too. For them—and for me—those pictures are echos of our own childhoods, and the childhoods of their own kids and grandkids, and great-grandkids. They mean something. The same Harold has been Santa for the last 14 years. He stayed the same, but the kids went from babies to teenagers in their pictures with him—and I remember every single one of those pictures, picking their outfits, running combs through their hair, if it was raining or a clear drive. I hold tight to every day.
And the teenage salesman unknowingly tried to stop it.
He didn’t understand or believe in the experience he was selling.
It was a product not an experience—and it wasn’t a product he wanted himself.
Santa isn’t everyone’s thing.
But if you don’t believe in Santa, or at least in the experience, you probably shouldn’t sign up to be one of Santa’s helpers.
I put a few hundred dollars down and he tried to get my son to stop me—even though I wanted to pay the money. Harold is worth every penny, and my hope has always been that some of that money gets put in his his wallet end of season. The more I buy the better he does, so yeah, I’m okay with spending more on this experience.
Years ago, one of my jobs included sales conference duty, at which books were pitched to the sales reps, who were then tasked with pitching the books to B&N and Borders and Books-A-Million and all the other now non-existent bookstores.
I hated going. I was never convinced that the sales reps believed. It was just their job. The books were products to be pushed or ignored. The reps got excited by co-op dollars and large advertising budgets, but the books alone? Many went unread by the reps. They didn’t understand the power of all the books. Yes, some of the books were real stinkers, but many were extraordinary – and they were more than words on pages with nice wrappers. They were experiences. Both fiction and nonfiction could transport the reader to different worlds and leave them better off for the experience. They just needed someone to believe in them.
That’s what Black Irish Books has always been about. Believing.
Believe in yourself.
Believe in your power to create.
Believe in your creation.
Earlier this month Black Irish Books launched a subscription series titled Black Irish Jabs, which are bite-sized books by Steve, delivered almost once a month for the next year, which pack a powerful punch..
The series feeds into the power of believing and creating—and we believe in its power ourselves.
You have to believe in what you’re selling to make a go in this world, to achieve any sort of success.
So, if you find yourself working a seasonal job as Santa’s helper, if you don’t believe in what’s being sold, find another job, or at least don’t ruin the experience for paying customers.
But, if you do believe . . . If you happen to see a lady with the oldest kids in line to see Santa, and she wants to put a few hundred down on overpriced frames and pictures, let her do it. Show her the best frame you’ve got and show her the picture snow globe too. She might not be one to spend money like that the rest of the year, but this means something to her family. Help her. Make the sale. She’s been at this for 14 years and will back again next year.
Let her have her experience.
Believe in what you do.