A dangerous lunch with Santa?

Published 7:14 pm Thursday, December 3, 2009

It’s a situation that the average 5-year-old would sell his sister for, a chance to spend some quality time over lunch with Kris Kringle — maybe compare favorite cookies, talk a little about toys, brag about video game scores, perhaps even drop a reminder or two about the most important items on your wish list.

And it will all be possible on Dec. 12 for kids younger than 12, when the Jolly Old Elf himself visits the Northern Shores Recreation Center for a Lunch with Santa event. There’s every reason to expect the rec center to be crawling with kids hoping for one last chance to see Santa in person before he heads back to the North Pole for the last couple of weeks worth of preparation before his annual nighttime sleigh ride.

Parents, on the other hand, might find reason for pause when they see the form they have to fill out in order to reserve seats at the event.

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In addition to requiring the name, address and phone number of those children who will be attending (doesn’t the city realize that Santa already knows this info?), there is a half-page worth of consents, releases, waivers and indemnifications that parents must agree to before their children can see Father Christmas.

For all the legalese that appears on the city’s registration form, parents might wonder whether, instead of lunch with Santa, they’re sending little Jenny off to have dinner with the troops in Iraq.

Parents must agree that nobody who ever even considered turning in an application for a job with the city of Suffolk will ever be held responsible for “causes of action of whatever kind resulting in, but not limited to, bodily injury, personal injury, accident or illness (including death), and property damage sustained by” the parents, their children or the children their children’s children might have one day.

Who knew a visit to Santa carried such risks? Surely our lawsuit-addicted culture has something to do with this hysterical “Release and Waiver,” but it almost sounds as if city officials are expecting something to go wrong. And does anyone involved with creating this crazy form really believe that it will protect the city if it turns out that someone gets hurt because of the gross negligence of one of Santa’s (city-employee) helpers? If some poor child gets dropped on his head by an “elf” who’s spent too much time with the eggnog, no amount of legalese is going to keep the case out of court or keep the parents from walking away with a fistful of dollars to invest in next year’s Christmas Club.

Still, forewarned is forearmed, they say. If I were going, I think maybe I’d avoid the chicken salad.