Dan Murphy: Dear Santa, Skip the Coal This Year

Those storybook scenes of the North Pole don’t show the tension during the last hectic hours — especially when Santa has to choose ‘appropriate gifts’ for those who’ve been naughty. ( freeimages.com )

Those storybook scenes of the North Pole don’t show the tension during the last hectic hours — especially when Santa has to choose ‘appropriate gifts’ for those who’ve been naughty.

It’s Christmas Eve, and the countdown is on. Let’s listen in on Santa and his Personal Elf Assistant as they finalize plans for the most important day of the year:

Santa: [Frowning, rubbing the bridge of his nose; looks around]. “I thought we’d have this all done by now.”

Personal Elf Assistant: “What, you mean these letters?” [rapidly sorting a stack of letters, tossing them one way or the other] “Relax. We got a full 24 before you gotta shove off.”

Santa: “I’ll have a migraine by then.” [Elf keeps sorting letters; Santa looks up] “Would you stop with the sorting already? You’re making me feel like I’m running a Nike sweatshop here.”

Elf Assistant: “Hey, if the shoe — ”

Santa: “Okay, zip it. That’s about as fresh as that carton of ’nog over there — which has been sitting on the workbench since last Thursday. Besides, [gets a twinkle in his eyes] we’ve got to finish picking gifts for the lucky losers on ‘Santa’s Special List.’ Ho, ho, ho!”

Elf Assistant: [Tilts head, stares at Santa] “Can I tell you something? That ‘ho-ho’ schtick quit being funny when the sun stopped shining around here. And that was in October!”

[Elf gives Santa a silent stare]

“Nothing? Whew, rough room. All right, I’ll tell you what.” [takes a long swig from a small flask]. “Why don’t you march those pointy-toed slippers of yours into the workshop, and let’s do this thing.”

They both leave the office and enter the crowded North Pole workshop. Over the blaring of Christmas carols, elves are wandering around, poking through boxes of toys. One group is clustered around a big plastic punchbowl, laughing and drinking, while two older elves with long white beards are sitting on a couch fighting over the TV remote.

Santa: [looks over the workshop] “Uh, hello?” [clears his throat] “Excuse me.” [raises his voice] “Hey, you guys wanna pretend you’re on deadline, huh? Thank you!”

Elf Assistant: “Uh, everyone? We need to pay attention. You know … that meeting Santa mentioned?”

Santa: “Right.” [looks across the room] “Yo, could we get a little ‘silent night’ with the stereo? Great. All right, everyone. Listen up: I got good news, and I got bad news.”

Elf Assistant: “What’s the good news?”

Santa: “I’m gonna be saving a lot of money on your bonus checks this year.” [Elf stares at Santa with a shocked look]

Santa: [grinning] “Relax. I’m kidding! That’s what I do, remember? Jolly Old Saint Nick?” [looks around; nobody’s laughing] “Okay, okay, lighten up. Seriously, what I meant to say was that you can forget about stuffing all those stockings with coal.” [Elf assistant breaks into a big smile] “This year, I’m giving the buttheads who haven’t been so nice what they really deserve for the holidays.”

Elf Assistant: [He chugs down a cup of punch] “Sweet!! So they get what’s comin’ to ’em, right?”

Santa: [glares at him, annoyed] “What’d I just say?”

Elf Assistant: [hangs head] “Oh … sorry.”

Santa: “Okay, gimme those letters we pulled.” [Elf turns, hands Santa a stack of papers]. “Now, normally, demands like these are roasting on an open fire by now, but this year I decided to get creative instead. These are letters from people who totally don’t get the whole ‘peace on earth, goodwill to men’ thing. Even worse, they’re from adults.”

Elf Assistant: [looking confused] “Wait a second. Are you telling me you’re getting Dear Santa letters from … from adults?”

Santa: “No, doofus. They’re emails we intercepted. Same dif. Okay, here’s one from a vegetarian who writes that she wants [sing-song voice] ‘A world where people eat only good food that doesn’t come from exploited animals.’ ”

Elf Assistant: “So, what are you giving her?”

Santa: “I’m making sure that every present she opens on Christmas morning contains the only gift that’s appropriate for her: fruitcake!” [Elf grins, chuckles under his breath; hands Santa another letter]

Santa: “Here’s another letter. This one’s from a lawyer who’s spent all year filing lawsuits for millions of dollars against companies that didn’t include batteries in the electronic toys kids are getting as presents. ‘What I’m doing isn’t about making money,’ he writes. ‘I just want justice for the children.’ ”

Elf Assistant: “Whoa, what’s he getting?”

Santa: “A great big dose of justice: An IRS audit.”

Elf Assistant: “Ha, ha! That’s a good one, Santa. Make sure it’s gift-wrapped!”

Santa: “Uh, how about you making sure it’s gift-wrapped, wise guy?”

Elf Assistant: [looks chagrined] “Oh … heh, heh … yeah, right.”

Santa: [shuffles through some more printouts] “All right, here’s another one. Oh, this one is beautiful. This is from a disgruntled meat inspector who says he wants a new cellphone with faster wifi so he can go online and, as he writes, ‘At least be able to play some video games while I have to stand around this stupid plant all day.’ ”

Elf Assistant: “I’m guessing he’s not getting the phone.”

Santa: “No. I’m giving him the one gift he’ll appreciate.”

Elf Assistant: Which is?”

Santa: “A promotion. He thinks his job is frustrating now. Wait until he has to deal with dozens of people just like him!” [Elf nods his head in agreement]

Santa: “Oh, here’s a classic Dear Santa letter. This one is from someone who says he hates living in what he calls ‘a big, ugly, noisy city.’ He writes, ‘People shouldn’t have to live in some crowded urban neighborhood. I should be out in the country, where it’s quiet and peaceful.”

Elf Assistant: “What are you going to give him?”

Santa: “A nice piece of property, about 10 acres, with an old barn on it with a bunch of tools and a well that you pump by hand.”

Elf Assistant: “What, seriously?? Wow, that’s an awfully nice present for a guy who’s complaining like he is.”

Santa: “Yeah, but I’m also ‘arranging’ it so that he gets laid off from his job, and he actually has to live in the barn and try to survive with only a shovel, a rake and the water from that well.”

Elf Assistant: “Ouch. That’s harsh!”

Santa: “Yeah … so’s Nature [pulls out a pocket watch]. Whoa — will you look at the time? If I’m not mistaken, we’ve got a sled to pack up, boys.”

[Elf Assistant turns and starts to gather his papers … then stops]

Elf Assistant: “Hey, wait a second. What was the bad news?”

Santa: “Huh? What are you talking about?”

Elf Assistant: “You know … you said there was good news, and there was bad news. What’s the bad news?”

Santa: “Oh … that ‘Santa’s Special List?’ You’re on it.” 

 

Note: This commentary expresses the opinions of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.

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