Old Saint Nick Saved in the Nick of Time for Christmas

By Richard Thayer

Several days ago a headline in the Bellevue Reporter proclaimed: “A year without a Santa Claus: USPS carrier not allowed to deliver while wearing Santa suit.”

According to the story, Bob McLean, a city letter carrier since 1971 and a goodwill ambassador in a Santa suit during the holidays for the past 10 years, was told shortly after Thanksgiving that he would not be allowed to wear the suit this year because the post office had received a complaint.

Not complaints, mind you, but a complaint. Just one.

And it wasn’t even a customer who had complained. According to postal management, it had been one of McLean’s fellow carriers.

No explanation was given as to why the carrier had complained.

So, because of one complaint from a local Scrooge, McLean was forbidden to do his Santa Claus routine this year.

McLean, who dyes his blond hair and beard white for the yuletide transformation each year, had gotten the idea of delivering mail as Santa Claus more than a decade ago when a stranger in a mall told him he resembled the jolly old elf from the North Pole.

Between that first year and this year there had been zero complaints about McLean’s Santa outfit.

Over the years McLean had drawn a lot of attention, so much in fact that his appearance on the streets of Bellevue had caused traffic jams–“Look, there’s Santa Claus delivering the mail!”–and people jams with both kids and adults wanting their pictures taken with him.

Then, this year old Saint Nick got nixed because of one alleged complaint. I say alleged because, being the cynic that I am, I believe the Santa suit may have been pulled because of a management complaint rather than one from a carrier. They’ve been known to do things like that. I can see where management may have wanted to stop McLean from wearing the suit because his posing for photos would have taken him longer to deliver the mail. Definitely a time-wasting practice.

And even if it had been a fellow carrier, a complaint from one carrier seems a mighty flimsy excuse for stopping McLean from donning his Santa suit.

Now, here’s the rest of the story.

News quickly traveled well beyond the city limits of Bellevue, Washington, appearing on the World Wide Web, on radio, in papers, and on television.The story went viral.

The public’s response to the story was overwhelmingly in favor of McLean being allowed to wear his Santa suit.

The outcry was so loud that the Bellevue post office had to perform some rapid damage control. This past Thursday, postal management rescinded its earlier edict, saying that McLean could wear his Santa hat on Friday and the entire Santa suit on Saturday, Christmas eve.

And so it was that this story, just like the one about the Grinch stealing Christmas, had a happy ending.

Said Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson: “The decision to allow Mr. McLean to wear the Santa suit on Saturday was the right thing to do. Wearing the Santa suit was not causing any problems and was creating a lot of good will during the holiday season.”

When asked by the Bellevue Reporter if the public’s reaction had anything to do with the decision, he said he wasn’t sure.

But those of us who know how postal management ticks know, don’t we?

(Photo credit: Chad Coleman, Bellevue Reporter file photo)


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