He’s Making a List and Checking It Twice: For Only With Such Careful Reviewal Can He Be Certain No One Named ‘Pedro’ Gets a Train

“That’ll be $1.50,” announced the parking lot attendant from inside his air-conditioned box. Eyes twinkling, cheeks rosy, beard fluffy, he followed up with a jolly, “So…what’s new at the zoo?”

It was hard not to grin back at this Santa Claus look-alike, especially because I haven’t exactly been a good girl this year, but I still want a present in December (unremitting greed being one of the myriad faults keeping me off the Good Girl List)–and so it suddenly struck me that a huge, toothy grin might up my chances at getting that spendy hairbrush I’ve been pining after for a decade.

My lips pulled back to expose every last molar, I answered him. “Well, my mom is visiting from California, so we have that going on.”

Santa’s internal sleigh dipped a bit, and his jovial manner faded. “You’re not from California, are you?”

“Oh, no,” I explained. “I grew up in Montana, but a few years ago my mom moved to California–Riverside, outside of L.A..”

“And does she actually like it?” Santa wondered, still looking as though he’d dandled one too-many whiny tots on his lap that day, including an ailing lad named Patrick who’d asked for a Transformer and then released his bowels directly onto red velvet pants and coal-colored boots.

“She LOVES it! I know, for me, it would be too hot, and the sheer number of people would be frustrating, especially with the driving. But it makes her really happy at this stage in her life.”

Swiping distractedly at his leg, Santa Attendant weighed in, “Well, California’s not for me, and not just because of the Mexicans, either.”

¡Santo cielo!

As my brain absorbed his remark, a feeing started burbling up inside of me…a feeling that I wasn’t going to make the Good Girl List this year. Again. My upstart mouth was starting to form the words, “Is it ‘the Asians,’ then?” when I looked at the line of cars behind me, listened to my stomach growl, looked at his 78-year-old face–wrinkles worn into the patterns of a lifetime–and decided to pay the toll and get home to the cold sugar snap peas that awaited me in the refrigerator.

Handing over the dollar bills, I did assure him, however, “Well, it definitely seems like you’ve found your perfect place, right where you are.”

…locked inside a small, dark, dingey room–a place with no horizon, where the air doesn’t move, where the vividness of human traffic streams by, never touching you, on its way

out into the light.



By Jocelyn

There's this game put out by the American Girl company called "300 Wishes"--I really like playing it because then I get to marvel, "Wow, it's like I'm a real live American girl who has 300 wishes, and that doesn't suck, especially compared to being a dead one with none."


  1. Don't you just love coming face to face with some of the ugliness of humanity?

    Personally, I wouldn't love to live in MN, and it has nothing to do with all those…Scandinavians

    P.S. I say toot also.

  2. I ever knew Santa was into racial profiling but gee, looks like you found one who does that, didn't you?

  3. I spent three months in LA recently and loved it. Now that I am back in Maine I feel that I have to lie about that I loved it! So uncool to be east coast and dig cali.

  4. Guess what? We have our own Santa out here – Santa Cali – and I'm guessing he really loves bad little girls because Britney and Paris sure ain't hurtin' for swag.

    Are we talking Kent hairbrushes or Mason Pearson?

  5. Oh my! Sorry to hear Santa is really a Grinch. SOunds like his heart needssoem growing.

  6. Well, it really doesn't surprise me that Santa's racist – he's really old, after all, and sometimes it's hard for old people to let go of their prejudices.

  7. This story reminds me of one my husband likes to tell. He was a Texan with Louisiana plates, working in Delaware, when he got asked to join the KKK. Until that moment he had never met anyone from the Klan before (that he knew, anyway) but in Delaware? Whoda thunk it?

  8. Yikes. I hate when stuff like that happens. I think I'm going to post about something like that that happened to me. Thanks for the inspiration, but I'm sorry you had to deal with that.

  9. eeps! It amazes me how some people think. It shouldn't but it does.

    Riverside is where my husband did his post-doc. I enjoyed the brief stay there. Much too hot and crowded for this Canadian, but it was nice to see variety 😉

  10. Even though I mingle with the general public daily, I am still amazed by what people feel they want to share with you. In the time it took to take your money this guy sized you up and decided you were a like minded being, based on your appearance. That is quite the narrow minded leap.

  11. Star said what I wanted to say.

    I was at a garage sale last year when a lovely elderly woman tried to convince the two South American women and their two children that the garage sale wasn't really open. Confused, they left; and that's when she shared with me that "those people" are taking all the "good jobs".


  12. hooray for all the open minded , non prejudice people in the world!!
    … but, I guess anyone could get a bit cranky if you only got out of the booth/ the north pole or wherever merely once a year…

    and imagine the odeur in his box when tooting goes on… :o)

    hehe – Rainman would be even funnier : "Uhu, toot!"

  13. Maybe he was cutting himself down? He could never quite live up to the standards of integrity, family and hard work set by the Mexican community.

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