It was the third or fourth day of Christmas. Santa wasn’t sure which. He’d been mixing a lot of brandy with his eggnog; got to do something to appear fat and jolly, you know. And he got to thinking about his job.
“365 days in the year, and all I do is spend one day going around the world delivering presents. It used to be two days, one for the servants, but there are so few of those that I can finish my Boxing Day run in under an hour.” Santa was feeling a bit maudlin, and was remembering his second run with a romantic glow, forgetting just how wretched servants’ living quarters often were.
Thinking of servants reminded him of his other job. “All the rest of the year, I’m supposed to be toting up who’s naughty and nice, but, hey, I’ve subcontracted that job to the American NSA.” It bothered him that the NSA thought he was an interstellar alien. Maybe making Dinky the Elf his liaison had been a bad idea.
But the big guy’s heart was in the right place, and he shucked the self-pity and got down to brass tacks. “There are supposed to be twelve days of Christmas, and I’m only busy on one, two at most. I should be doing something on the other ten days.” He scratched his head, thinking of what else he might do. To tell the truth, Santa hadn’t gotten the position based on his intellect or creativity. And what little he had of the latter quality had been swamped by the toy companies and their mass-marketing campaigns.
But there’s one thing Santa knew for sure, and that was how to make out a list. So he got out a pencil and a sheet of paper, left-over wrapping paper to be sure, and sat down to make out a list.
“Let’s see. Christmas: presents.”
“Boxing Day: Presents for servants. Hardly any of those. Let’s branch out, add in slaves. Thought they’d gone extinct after the Brazilians had abolished the practice, but there are always people trying to take control of the lives of others.”
“The third day of Christmas. Crud, this is hard. Wait, I’ve got it. Time-and-a-half for everyone who worked on Christmas and Boxing Day. No, double wages. Give the poor working stiffs a lift.”
“The fourth day. Well, what do I do after Christmas? No, besides get drunk. Sleep. That’s it, sleep! Three extra hours for every parent, and anyone else that works two or more jobs.”
“Fifth day. Oh, I’ve got one. Everyone gets to be sweet-tempered and like it for a day. None of that fake Christmas cheeriness, people will actually want to be good for a day. And because they don’t think the fifth day is all that special, won’t it be a surprise!”
“The sixth day of Christmas. Well, after what happened on the fifth, they’ll be in a bad mood. Sorry, but that’s human nature. So drop them off a list of all their good points. It’ll make some of them happy, a few thoughtful when they see how few there are, and the ones with no good points? Hah, they need to know it!”
“Goin’ on seven. Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here, because I don’t know if I have the authority or power for this one. Make every person sit down and talk with someone they dislike, not because of what that other person is, because because of what they imagine about that other person. That may be a violation of free will, and I may not have the authority for it, but hey, wouldn’t it be great for toleration and open-mindedness?”
“Eight. Again, human nature means they’ll be upset after yesterday, if I can pull it off. So how about a day spent with their loved ones. I mean the ones they really love, of course. And people who don’t have loved ones should be able to find one on this day.”
“Ho boy, the ninth day of Christmas. Well . . .” And there Santa fell asleep. Too much eggnog, if you ask me. But don’t be too hard on Santa. He just proposed more than nine-tenths of all the prophets and politicians have ever done. And that though he was a few sheets to the wind and isn’t much of a thinking man.
Still, he did make up the list. And it’s there on the table in front of him. He’ll wake up in a day or two. Maybe he’ll have forgotten all about this, and just crumple up the wrapping paper and toss it in the wastebasket (which, at the North Pole, is shaped like a squat polar bear). Or maybe, just maybe, he’ll remember, and go about trying to do something about it next year. We can hope.