These are all problems I've had before, but they all occurred in one day on my Melbourne Zoo job. Now only one of them was a major problem, I actually still had quite a good day, but the major problem was pretty damned major. I'll go in order, from beginning to end.
Changes that don't get passed on.
I left early for the job, as I always do. The brief that had been emailed to me said I should arrive by 10:30 for an 11am start. I usually aim to arrive at least a quarter hour earlier than the first arrival time. It gives you leeway for traffic problems, getting lost, etc. Plus it allows you time to scope out the venue. Meeting the person you're meant to meet, getting to the change room, all that takes a good 5-10 minutes. It really is good to get changed and then just sit and chill for a few minutes, so you're fresh when you head out.
So at 10:15 I'm at the zoo, in the carpark walking towards the gate when my phone rings. Turns out when the client had reconfirmed they had changed the time. I was meant to start at 10:30. By the time I had met up with the zoo guy who was taking me to my changing room it was 10:25. After finding the first room locked and having to find another, it was 10:30. He's telling me to please be quick to get ready, because the client was freaking out. That's understandable, it's not my fault, but I'll do my best.
It wasn't a changing room, it was a store room. I'm fine with that, I bring my own mirror because I've been trapped without one before. The problem is, it's not a terribly secure room for leaving my stuff in. I'm not that worried about leaving my stuff there, but I'd prefer people not be able to just walk in while I'm getting changed. I don't have a nudity taboo, but people shouldn't be suddenly confronted by a naked or semi-naked man when they've come in to get animal feed. I had two different women walk in on me.
Even with deodourant, I was already sweaty and smelly from carrying all the gear. It's rare I sweat, so it's rare I smell. And I stank of B.O. I honestly can't remember the last time I smelled that bad. It predates any Santa work. I took the extra time to try and de-stink myself and got ready as quickly as possible. In a proper changing room I may have been able to do more. Also a good change room has a toilet I could have used before I headed out, instead of a bottle. I think I'll save it as a gift for the next surely costume kid (see below).
"No, it's apple juice, honestly..."
Yes, I was seated for photos in full sunlight. People forget, if they are wandering around in the sun, they can choose to get out of it. If I'm seated for photos, I'm stuck there. In a hot heavy suit. It may not be as bad as those full suits, like Waggs the Dog or Mickey Mouse, but it's still pretty warm. If I'd had the time to scope out things beforehand, I would have asked them to arrange for one of the mobile umbrellas to be brought over, though as it turned out the wind meant that they stopped using the big brollys. And it was so busy I wasn't getting the chance to drink. I'd literally say goodbye to one kid, and the parents would race up with the next. Without some sort of assistant to help control the crowds, they just overwhelm you.
This is the biggie. In three hours in full sun, I had one fifteen minute break. I was meant to have a break every hour, but Father Christmas doesn't wear a watch. You can't have the mobile on you with an alarm set because some bugger will ring you, without doubt. Now if you have an elf helper, they can wear a watch and make sure the breaks happen. When you don't have a helper, you have to rely on the organisers. They're busy, they forget or figure that you'll sort it out. Jimmy, the guy taking the photos tried to let me know when break time was, but he was flat out too. I got a break an hour and a quarter in, then I worked the next hour and a half straight.
I've had this problem on many jobs, but this was the worst situation. It's something I'm going to talk to the Entertainment Store about, in regards to the contracts. I want to propose that if a client doesn't hire an elf as well, the onus is on them to make sure we are aware when our breaks are due. And if they don't inform us of a break period, they pay us an extra $50 for each missed break. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd rather have the break than the cash. Hell, it's a health issue. Do they want St. Nick to faint in front of the kids? Do they want him to reek of sweat and not have a chance to clean up?
You also need the break to bolster your mental reserves for dealing with the awkward kids and the nasty adults without snapping. It really is in their best interests to make sure we have the opportunity to take our breaks when we are meant to have them. If we decide to go without, then that's our own lookout.
A new one!
Yep, a problem I hadn't had before I got the new suit. Kid's saying it's the wrong colour. All the adults love it, but I've had a couple of kids on each day say it's the wrong colour. At Melbourne Zoo I had two of them. The first said it and I told her that I have many different suits, in various shades of red. Then I added that 200 years ago I used to wear green and brown. She said she thought that would look yucky and I explained that it was harder to dye things red back then. She was happy and said she liked the new suit.
The next kid was, to be blunt, a surly little shit. He came up and said, very aggressively, that the suit was the wrong colour. I explained, as I did with the previous child, about the different suits. He glared at me. I mentioned about the old green version and he said, "I don't believe you!" and walked off. Wouldn't even come back for his photo with his siblings, the little mongrel.
So I've done some net research and I'm going to print out a bunch of pics of Santa costumes from around the world. They are all obviously meant to be the same character, but we have the classic St. Nick with the outfit based on bishops robes, the white outfit with a red cloak, the green version and, to my surprise, a blue one. If I have a few copies with the various outfits I can hand them out and it may help reduce the problem.
The Two Santas
Not a missing Doctor Who story, this happened at Melbourne Zoo. It happened at Funlands and Werribee too, but at one I was away from the main drag, so it wasn't an issue, and at the Open Range Zoo they actually got rid of the other guy and 'kept the nice one' (their words, not mine).
However, at Melbourne Zoo, another FC started giving out presents in a covered enclosure a short way off. He got cover, the bastard. And an elf! And then about half an hour later, he came walking across the lawn to go to another pavilion, within twenty feet on me! It wasn't his fault, I saw the moment he spotted me and it was far too late. He called out "Oh, a Brother Santa! Hello Brother!" and I hello'd back. What else could we do?
This is where the places holding Christmas functions should get their act together. If they hire the Santa's and just bill the clients, they can make sure that this sort of thing doesn't happen. The one guy can do multiple events or if there needs to be a couple of them, you can place them so it won't cause a problem.
It's all about the kids, and if there are several Santa's they notice and you can see it does spoil the magic a little. You can say that you're magical and can be in several places at once, or you can say that the other is a helper, but it's better for everyone to just avoid the whole problem.
As I said, I've had all these problems a few times before, they just happened to have all happened on the one day. And the only real bad aspect was the break/sun thing. I still had a great day :)
And I rewarded myself with a trip to the butterfly house before I went home. Eeeeeeeeee!