BRETTnews, in its unceasing efforts to inform its readers, retained my services to travel up north to interview the big S. himself. I was picked up on the roof of my apartment building on the West Side by a stretch sleigh pulled by no less than 12 reindeer and as I enjoyed a coctails from the hard bar and reruns of Christmas specials on the VCR/TV, I was whisked away beyond the Great White North.
Two North Pole Plaza is a far cry from the gingerbread and candy-like houses depicted on television and in plastic snow bubbles. It's a shining needle of glass and steel rising from the northernmost point of out planet and reflecting the cold glare of the snow so that one needs not only sunglasses but a good thick iron skillet to look through at the building. The stretch came down to a perfect landing on the sleighpad on the roof. The door was opened by my driver, a curious fellow in the black attire of the livery, with boots that curled up at the toe. As I followed him to the door leading inside I looked things--I need a thousand gross Robo-assault patrol cars. Get them for me!
[He pushes a button on the speakerphone and cut off the other end mid-sentence.]
SC: HO HO HO! And Who have we here? Come sit in my lap.
CW: Uh, okay. I'm from BRETTNews. I'm Chris, Sir.
SC: Oh, I remember you. Have you stopped fighting with your sister?
CW: Yes sir. Actually we get along pretty well.
SC: Good. So what do you think of our little operation?
CW: Well I haven't had much time to look around, but it certainly is... different from what I expected. I mean, it's so... modern.
SC: Yes, well Christmas has certainly changed in the last forty years, hasn't it? We have to keep up with the times.
CW: How so?
SC: Remember when you were eight and you wanted that Space: 1999 Eagle Moon Lander? Now when you got it, who did you think made it? Me? My Elves? Why no, my boy. We ordered it from the Dinky Model company. As modern toy manufacturing developed, and as licensing of popular media characters as toys increased I realized that we needed to change our focus. We are no longer in the manufacturing industry--we are a service organization now. AND we get kickbacks from the toy industry which helps finance the , er, operation.
CW: Meaning you have contributed to the commercialization of Christmas?
SC: No, it means we saw it and an inevitablility. Or I should say *I* saw it that way. The elf union had a fit. Think about it--some of these guys had been making dolls and puzzles and chinese handcuffs for hundreds of years. And there I was telling them that they had to retrain. The talks went on and on and we barely had time to get the Christmas of 62 out on schedule.
CW: Ninteen sixty two? That's really ahead of its time...
SC: Yes, well Christmas is a demanding holiday and I had to be on top of the latest management strategies in order to get things going. Look at the population for instance. With the explosion we've experienced in the latter half of this century we have more information to tally--Christmas wishes, naughty-nice lists, addresses... I tell you it's been tough, but necessary. I like to run a tight ship.
CW: Okay, so the workshop is gone--and replaced by a skyscraper?
SC: Of course. Look, I can't micromanage every little detail here. I had to set up a corporate structure. There are task forces, vice presidents, board meetings, semi-annual reviews, health insurance, a gym, and a 401(k) plan. And we guarantee our employees a lifelong job--well, not in writing, per se, but it's in good faith that as long as there are no strikes and all negotiations are completed by June, we find something for everyone to do. I've even developed an area outside of Christmastown just for the elves. There's Christmas Heights, Jolly Acres, Frostbite Falls...
CW: And do you feel that this approach has helped?
SC: Yes. Absolutely. We have brought in the last three Christmases ahead of schedule and under budget. And now that we keep all our records on computer--
SC: Yes, let me show you. [Santa walks me over to computer workstation and starts pointing and clicking with a mouse] See? Here's a relational database that keeps track of every kid--his or her name, address, Christmas wishes, naught/nice rating. It's all handles by the Information Services Elves. Every kid is in here set to the default--nice. As we receive calls on our 1-900 line from parents, we doc them points. We used to just change them to naughty but the accountants said we should up the number of offenses needed to mark a kid naughty so they will call our number more often. Guess the two dollars a minute adds up to them.
[At that time the building begins to shudder and a load roar is heard in the distance. Santa jumps from his seat and runs to his intercom]
SC: [To intercom] What in Blitzen's name was THAT?.... Well tell them to test it at the SOUTH pole or something. No, YOU listen to ME I have had... [As Santa dresses down a hard working employee, I reach over to Santa's mouse and call up the naughty/nice list. I look myself up. Naughty. Must have been either my mother, sister or girlfriend. As Santa is vowing to send gifts Fedex this year I tool around with the file. One particular menu item--RESET LIST--catches my attention. Just As Santa hangs up, the screen flashes DO YOU REALLY WANT TO RESET LIST? (ALL RECORDS WILL BE RESTORED TO DEFAULT). I click OKAY just as he returns. Merry Christmas everyone.]
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