Have you hugged a Santa impersonator lately?

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Tyrades! by Danny Tyree

It has been years since my family last dealt with the “pictures with Santa” pageantry, but Saint Nick impersonators remain an integral part of Christmas for Americans.

Parents feel compelled to honor the tradition of dumping tiny tots in Santa’s lap, even if they’re not emotionally ready for the experience. I wish I hadn’t sold my Child Psychology textbook back to the college bookstore, or I would explain why kids who think nothing of sticking a fork in an electrical outlet or inviting a rabid wolverine into the house are suddenly in fight-or-flight-or-wet-your-pants mode over a jovial old man who surrounds himself with elves and candy canes.

Yes, shrieking and bawling are the immediate result of encounters with Kris Kringle, but the traumatizing life event also creates repressed memories that pop up unexpectedly in adulthood. (“The ocean – it’s shaking like a bowlful of jelly! I can’t help it – I’m going A.W.O.L. from the Navy!”)

Some Santa impersonators (motto: “I’m not a morbidly obese peeping Tom, but I play one at the local mall”) volunteer for the pure joy of seeing children’s faces light up. Other Santa surrogates don the iconic red suit to earn extra money. (Granted, in today’s economy, “extra” money is what Bigfoot and Elvis would use to purchase a unicorn for their UFO.)

I’m glad there are still job opportunities for Santa Clauses, considering retailers’ self-checkout mentality. (“Put on this cap, make yourself a vague promise, make way for the next kid. Buh-bye.”)

Physical disabilities are no roadblock to those truly committed to serving as a mall Santa. The agencies that book Santas do, however, frown on applicants with dyslexia. Being upfront about that cuts down on posting a “Santa wanted” sign and having guys with cloven hooves and pitchforks showing up for auditions.

An article in the “New York Post” recommended Santa roleplaying as a side hustle for college students, but I think the job is more suited for seasoned individuals with experience as fathers or grandfathers. Eight hours of putting up with snotty noses, sticky hands, beard-tugging, mile-long lists, mystery smells and awkward questions (“If you can visit every home in the world in one night, how come it has taken my dad more than three years to go to the corner store for a pack of cigarettes?”) would make the young guys’ reproductive system implode.

Yes, some spoiled brats issue totally unreasonable demands, so it’s heartwarming when one is well grounded in reality. Like the little girl who was patient enough to put off a pony until next Christmas. (“I know that THIS year I need to prioritize having Santa make my 10th-story apartment pony-accessible.”)

Santa impersonators have to do an amazing job of hemming and hawing when presented with a budget-busting wish list. “I’ll check into that.” “Let me see what I can do.” “I would hate to disappoint a good little boy or girl.” Toss in the occasional “I’ll have to circle back,” “infrastructure” and “democracy,” and Santa would qualify for Secret Service protection!

On the other hand, do you know who is the most powerful person in the world? Elon Musk? China’s Xi Jinping? Wrong. It’s a ready-to-retire Santa who gives parents that reindeer-in-the-headlights look by rubberstamping everything on the little darlings’ wish list.

I wouldn’t call them evil masterminds, but their “Ho ho ho” sure sounds more like “Bwahahaha.”

Copyright 2022 Danny Tyree, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”

Controversial author Harlan Ellison once described the work of Danny Tyree as "wonkily extrapolative" and said Tyree's mind "works like a demented cuckoo clock."

Ellison was speaking primarily of Tyree’s 1983-2000 stint on the "Dan T’s Inferno" column for “Comics Buyer’s Guide” hobby magazine, but the description would also fit his weekly "Tyree’s Tyrades" column for mainstream newspapers.

Inspired by Dave Barry, Al "Li'l Abner" Capp, Lewis Grizzard, David Letterman, and "Saturday Night Live," "Tyree's Tyrades" has been taking a humorous look at politics and popular culture since 1998.

Tyree has written on topics as varied as Rent-A-Friend.com, the Lincoln bicentennial, "Woodstock At 40," worm ranching, the Vatican conference on extraterrestrials, violent video games, synthetic meat, the decline of soap operas, robotic soldiers, the nation's first marijuana café, Sen. Joe Wilson’s "You lie!" outburst at President Obama, Internet addiction, "Is marriage obsolete?," electronic cigarettes, 8-minute sermons, early puberty, the Civil War sesquicentennial, Arizona's immigration law, the 50th anniversary of the Andy Griffith Show, armed teachers, "Are women smarter than men?," Archie Andrews' proposal to Veronica, 2012 and the Mayan calendar, ACLU school lawsuits, cutbacks at ABC News, and the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon.

Tyree generated a particular buzz on the Internet with his column spoofing real-life Christian nudist camps.

Most of the editors carrying "Tyree’s Tyrades" keep it firmly in place on the opinion page, but the column is very versatile. It can also anchor the lifestyles section or float throughout the paper.

Nancy Brewer, assistant editor of the "Lawrence County (TN) Advocate" says she "really appreciates" what Tyree contributes to the paper. Tyree has appeared in Tennesee newspapers continuously since 1998.

Tyree is a lifelong small-town southerner. He graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications. In addition to writing the weekly "Tyree’s Tyrades," he writes freelance articles for MegaBucks Marketing of Elkhart, Indiana.

Tyree wears many hats (but still falls back on that lame comb-over). He is a warehousing and communications specialist for his hometown farmers cooperative, a church deacon, a comic book collector, a husband (wife Melissa is a college biology teacher), and a late-in-life father. (Six-year-old son Gideon frequently pops up in the columns.)

Bringing the formerly self-syndicated "Tyree's Tyrades" to Cagle Cartoons is part of Tyree's mid-life crisis master plan. Look for things to get even crazier if you use his columns.