As we all grow up, we take on many different jobs in our lives. We’re a kid for a while, then a tween and a teen. Before we know it, we’ve accumulated student, babysitter, lawn care technician, gardener, dishwasher, waste removal, writer, reader, mathematician and scientist to our repertoire. We grow, we learn, we add new skills. It’s a fact of growing up, of learning, of living.
We also take bad jobs to make money as we live. Could be working at a fast food restaurant (I’m guilty), or as a cashier at a grocery store (also guilty). There are so many jobs out there that just aren’t our cup of tea, it just seems like we’re always going to be saying, “Would you like fries with that?”. We all know those jobs, even the ones that we wouldn’t work growing up because we felt they were beneath us. I’m guilty of this, as I’m finding many other people have as well.
One of those bad jobs that I took was while I was in college in the late 1990s. I was a freshman in college in a small area in North Carolina, a college called East Carolina University. I dropped out after a year and a half because I couldn’t afford tuition anymore, even with the bad jobs I worked to support myself. My first freshman year, of which there were three, I took a job at the mall. I see eyes rolling, but stay with me.
I wasn’t running a kiosk or working at Foot Locker. I was working seasonally as a Christmas elf. For 10 hours a day, six days a week, I was dressed head to toe in a green dress and stockings, with jingly shoes and a hat. Even had rubber elf ears to wear over my own slightly pointed ears. It was quite a sight. Adding to the image was my having long canary yellow hair at the time and being six foot tall. I was a giant elf, taller than even Santa Claus.
My two main jobs were to operate the camera to take photos of happy children, and to hand out candy canes to kids waiting in line. I think some kids were scared of me, as I would come home with what can only be called “Candy Cane Bruises” from being hit by them. The job itself wasn’t that bad, it was the situation where I found myself.
In addition to working at the mall during the day, I also had classes to attend. I didn’t have enough time to change clothes between work and school, so I would find myself walking to class dressed in full costume, jingle shoes and all. I would attend my classes, amid the laughs and snickers at the elf in the classroom, trying my best to get my education. The walk through campus garnered the same attention from passers by as class did, only on a much larger scale. The back and forth consumed my day, to the point I would find myself passing out in my dorm room dressed in my costume.
The mall was located about a mile from campus, meaning that I would see other students shopping during the day, many of whom recognized me from campus. They would laugh or talk to me, calling me “Elf” even when I was on campus for a day off. I guess a six foot tall elf with canary yellow hair walking around campus isn’t something that you see every day. I left an impression.
In the spring, I was still called elf, even though the month of work had ended right before the holiday break. My hair wasn’t yellow anymore, the costume was returned to the mall. I was back to normal, trying to blend end. Even now, I still have people from my time at ECU who call me Elf, remembering this event.
Looking back, I’ll never forget the looks on kids faces, the smiles as they had their photos taken with Santa. I’ll never forget how heavy that costume was for being just a dress. And the jingle, oh, the jingle. To this day, I refuse to have bells in my house. The sound makes me cringe, remembering those shoes. Those horrible, horrible shoes.