The teenager in the red hat said something to the woman, who shied away in surprise, exclaiming, "Oh, what's that for?"
"That's mostly what I've been getting," said Alex Berry, 13, a Comstock Junior High 8th grader whose red hat had a fluffy white fringe and was topped with a fluffy white ball.
He dropped a coin in the parking ticket machine on Fourth Street, outside Barnes & Noble, and handed the receipt to Theresa Weber, a shopper from American Canyon who happily stuck it on her dashboard.
"It kind of just brought back the spirit of what Christmas is about," Weber said.
Berry was one of six "Meter Beater" elves employed by G&C Autobody to feed parking meters, buy parking space tickets and generally spread good cheer — and earn some pretty decent public relations points — around Santa Rosa's downtown this week.
"Dude, you rock," a hip young shopper getting into her car shouted to Enrique Mora, 12, a Slater Middle School 7th grader who was working the other side of the street.
Mora would later surprise another parker, Manisha Hall, of Santa Rosa. A minute after his offer, she was still reeling.
"I just thought, &‘Is this a joke?'" she said, holding her receipt. "Am I being taken? I'm still a little confused."
G&C spokesman Peter Bizaca said the company has been feeding holiday meters (and, this year, buying parking receipts) for 15 years. It spends about $1,500 a day on the meter beating operation.
""When money is tight the last thing you need is a ticket," he said.
Technically, feeding parking meters can be a violation of city codes, but the G&C holiday event is not being challenged by enforcement officials.