Saint Nick better with sleigh than with automobile

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Old Santa Claus has been stripped of his beard, his red and white suit, and his patent leather boots.

How in the world could such a fate befall a man of his ilkand at this time of year, when Christmas is staring us straight in the eyeball?

Well, sir, the timing does appear to be of the worst kind possible.

To make matters even worse, Santa was subjected to this total embarrassment in front of what appeared to him to be the entire world.

He took a tongue-lashing the likes of which you have not witnessed-before or since-and it was administered, of all things, by a woman of the female persuasion.

All this was done as the woman's child of about five or six looked on, and listened intently as his mama raged on.

The action took place on the Interstate Beltline around Atlanta, Ga., former home of the famed mirth-spreading columnist, the late Lewis Grizzard.

What happened, apparently, was as follows.

Super Claus, a mercenary St. Nick, had been plying his trade as a child entertainer at this huge department store for several days.

He was a top-notch stand-in for the jolly old elf, so the report read.

However, he had just about "Ho, Ho, Ho'd" himself hoarse on this particular day, and at quitting time, he felt the tension might ease off somewhat with a moderate libation or two at the corner pub.

He suited his actions to his feelings and made the stop he had already pre-planned for himself.

With a couple of belts under his belt, our hero located his car and started his homeward-bound trip- right down the beltline, still in uniform.

But he was in the far right lane of the four-lane bypass, and his exit was as far to the left as you can get.

He negotiated the two center lanes without incident, so he had but one more to go.

Remember, this was the rush hour and the highway was jammed full of motorized vehicles.

Just one lane to go, said he to himself as he awaited his chance.

All was clear, he thought, as he guided his car toward the inside lane; then, all of a sudden, there was this grinding shock when a car out of nowhere caressed the left rear of his car.

He stopped-she stopped-and most of the other vehicular traffic in that area stopped, so that passers-by and rubbernecks could sate their curiosity by eye-balling everything that was going on.

After his tongue-lashing by the housewife had subsided, up drove John Law and hauled him off to HQ's.

He got good news and bad news when released by the local gendarmerie.

The good news: just a small fine for reckless driving, and no D.U.I. because the balloon test fell short of the intoxication mark.

The bad news: his insurance would pay for repairs to the housewife's car but he'd have to fork over the cost of fixing his own auto.

After that near miss, he said "I have, Ho, Ho, Ho'd my last Ho, Ho, Ho."

How the woman explained her altercation with

Santa Claus to her child was, and perhaps will forever remain a mystery.