Times Square’s Puffy Hustlers.

One nice thing about my current workload is the chance to see Times Square at its Christmassy finest. There are lights, trees and blaring Christmas music at every turn, and I’m always reminding myself to stop, look around and soak it all in. And then, when I do, someone bumps into me and calls me a fucker.

Christmastime has also brought out Times Square’s best-ever assortment of costumed hustlers. Half a dozen or more on every street corner, ready to trade Kodak moments for a dollar a pop!

I shouldn’t have to tell you that this isn’t entirely on the up and up. It’s not like Disney strategically placed Mickey and Minnie on the corner of 42nd and 7th in an effort to raise fifty bucks a day. Doesn’t bother me at all. Compared to how aggressive or downright nasty some of the area’s other hustlers can be, these costumed weirdos are a-okay.

These photos were taken last night. Keep it mind, this doesn’t at all represent the total number of costumed characters lurking around Times Square, which I’m betting is over 50. These were just the ones I saw on the short walk to the bus. Two Mickeys (one in a Santa suit, another in something shinier), a Minnie, the Statue of Liberty, and even Santa Claus himself were among the highlights.

To give you some idea of how bizarre and wonderful this phenomenon can get, here’s a photo I snapped a few days ago:

TWO Super Marios in the same spot. Plus Dora! And Puss in Boots!

The great thing is how the people in these costumes seem to share a camaraderie. I imagine them as one “team,” pooling their money at the end of each day and splitting the profits. I’m sure that isn’t the case, but considering how ugly things would get if these guys had no respect for each other (picture two Elmos paw-fighting over who gets Tourist Mary’s dollar), I’m glad they’re so cordial.

I feel strangely fortunate to end my workdays with glimpses of these creatures. Santa Mickey, I’m sorry I didn’t give you a dollar last night. It’s not that you didn’t deserve it. I’m just shy.