An imposter impersonates impersonators impersonating an impersonator

In the evening I had a short pause

Why did I do it?  Because.

     I suppose I look cute

     In the funny red suit

An imposter of old Santa Claus.

As a doctor, people frequently ask me to do things that have nothing to do with medicine.

I worked with the Canoncito Band of Navajo early in my career.  Shortly after Christmas in 1984 a patient brought in a digital watch and asked me to set it for her; the conversation took place in Navajo.  She had an exquisite silver and turquoise watch-holding bracelet she’d placed the timepiece in.  I read the instructions and set the watch as requested, struck by the contrast between the hand-crafted jewelry and the cheap, mass-produced electronics.  The patient couldn’t tell time, and if she could have, time on a watch has no meaning in the Navajo world.

Shortly after I arrived in Keosauqua, I received a call asking me if I’d play Santa Claus at the library.  I’d never done such a thing before, I said, but I’d be willing to as long as I didn’t have to provide the suit.  The outfit, she assured me, would arrive two days before the event, which would go from 4:00PM to 8:00PM, on weekend evening.

Not long after, the date changed to a Wednesday.  No problem, I said, but remember I can’t be there until after clinic, which ends at 5:00 if I’m lucky

At 4:55, the nurse poked her head in to tell me my last patient was ready.

A non-trivial injury required x-rays, which weren’t ready till 5:22.  I explained to the family the importance of the diagnosis and arranged follow-up with a specialist.  In the middle of the explanation my cell phone sounded.  Would Santa be showing up?

Yes, I answered, but I still had patients to take care of.

I didn’t get my hurry hormones going and I didn’t finish my documentation.  I got into the Santa suit as fast as possible and made the three-minute drive to the library.

Santa impersonator outside of the Keosauqua Public Library


I don’t celebrate the holiday that Santa represents, and the Vatican de-canonized St. Nicolas. Thus, current Santa suit wearers impersonate impersonators, making me an imposter of an impersonator impersonating an impersonator.

The kids came and sat on my knee, serious in asking for things I’ve never heard of and frequently couldn’t understand.  I looked into faces and diagnosed allergies. I listened to coughs I knew were asthmatic.  I smelled parental smoke on innocent victims.  I found the frequency of speech impediments more shocking that the young materialism.   I spotted two children as adopted. 

Waiting in line to talk to Walkaboutdoc, aka Santa Claus

One blond girl missing two front teeth asked if I were the real Santa Claus.  “What do you think?” I asked.  She couldn’t decide.  I said, “You know, under my fake beard I have a real beard,” and I lifted the false white plumage up to reveal my gray facial foliage.  Her eyes widened.  “You ARE!” she exclaimed.


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