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Local Editorials

Yes, Newton, there is a ‘Santa Claus’

If you can’t tell by now, I’m slightly — maybe extremely — competitive.

My competitiveness is present in many aspects of my life, including my friendships. Zach Johnson, my friend and coworker, is the same way. He and I are always competing in various events, and some of them are pretty ridiculous.

A case in point took place last week. A mutual friend of ours wanted to celebrate “Half-Christmas,” which fell last Wednesday. We celebrated by wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, conducting a future Christmas card photo shoot, held a mystery gift exchange, enjoyed refreshments and competed in a series of six games called the “Half-Christmas Olympics.”

There were three competitors and a judge, but with Zach and I being, well, us, we decided to make a side bet in the Olympics. The loser of said bet would have to wear his ugly Christmas sweater and my Santa hat all day Thursday.

I’ll spare you the details of what the events entailed of, but just know that I loss very handily.

One week later, and I’m still in disbelief at how thoroughly Zach trumped me. Like, seriously, who can make a perfect replica of a Christmas tree blindfolded with a glue stick, construction paper and their bare hands? I may have insinuated that he was the arts and crafts versions of “Rain Man.”

As ridiculous as I felt his victory was, I am a man of my word, and on Thursday, I strolled up the ancient concrete steps that lead up to the Daily News’ front office prepared to “Deck the Halls.” Bright red Nike high top sneakers, red and white watch, blue and red cardinal T-shirt, my favorite jeans and the piece de résistance — the most hideous two sizes too small ugly Christmas sweater, complete with a single jingle bell, and my Santa hat.

To say that I looked completely out of place in the middle of June — heck, even in December— would be an understatement.

Sam and Jackie, who combined, run a number of the office functions of the Daily News, were both staring at me in disbelief as I strolled into work. And as per my usual morning routine, I greeted all of my colleagues with a boisterous morning and quickly began to explain my ridiculous ensemble.

As you would expect, they were pretty amused. After that, I started walking toward my desk, and there was Zach, ready, waiting and armed with a camera. He went paparazzi on me while fighting back laughter, and I knew what kind of day I was going to have.

Thankfully, softball was canceled (I owe you one, Mother Nature).

Work went well, just had to explain my situation a few times and endure endless Christmas puns. Once my duties for the day were done, I had to go to Des Moines for my bi-monthly haircut and Chipotle fix. The problem was I needed both gas and coffee, and so to Kum & Go I went.

For some reason, on that day, Kum & Go on First Avenue had the most eclectic mix of people ever assembled. There was the cowboy — boots, buckle, hat the whole shebang — at the pump in front of me, the guy with the world’s sweetest mullet one pump to the left, a cute girl with punk rock-style outfit and bleached blonde and blue hair inside at the counter, and there was my favorite paraprofessional/bartender: Melissa Strand and her son, Seth.

More much needed explanations, a full tank of gas and the biggest cup of coffee I could get my hands on later, I was on the road. But not before I took a “selfie”— the art of taking one’s own photographic portrait. I decided that as amusing as this day was, I should probably chronicle my every stop.

I walked into the barber shop and the jokes rained down harder on me than the drops from the thunder storm that was taking place outside did. One patron even insinuated that there wasn’t any bet and that I just wanted to “be black Santa for the day.”

After getting another top notch cut, I hopped out of the chair and took another “selfie” and couldn’t help but notice that this one kid, waiting to get his haircut, looking at me as if he were expecting a present.

As a penniless and childless man, I was not amused and did my best to ignore the longing for gifts I saw in his eyes.

Walking out of the shop, I was greeted with “Merry Christmas” by a woman one building over and who told me my outfit made her day. This made me feel better about my ridiculousness and I made it to Chipotle around 1 p.m., which was just enough time for me to catch about half of the lunch crowd.

I did my best not smirk at all the stares, however; I couldn’t help but laugh as I confidently strode up to the line and asked for a burrito. My “burrito artist” was far more interested in my attire than my burrito, so we had a pretty good conversation and he was trying to recruit coworkers to pose in the background as I took my Chipotle “selfie.”

The lighting was terrible and I almost gave up on my “selfie” when I kindly asked the person behind me in line if they could snap my photo? She agreed and after a quick tutorial, she snapped a great photo. My favorite part of this moment was that it turned out she was from Newton and was an avid reader of the Daily News — seriously, what were the odds of that happening?

After lunch, I made my way back to the North Pole (Newton) and began plotting my revenge on Zach. Don’t worry, he will get his, but I’m glad I got to spread a little holiday cheer last week — even if it took place of the middle of June.

Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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