You ever wonder what I do the 364 days between Christmas Eves when Iím not delivering toys? Mostly, I try to figure out what your kids will want this Christmas. Youíll notice that Mrs. Claus and I donít have any kids. Tell the truth, we donít even like them that much. Why do you think I come by in the middle of the night? Because theyíre asleep, thatís why.
Donít get me wrong, Iím not complaining about the job. I pick my own hours, and Iím my own boss. Besides, what else would I do at my age? Become a barista at Starbucks. A greeter at Wal-Mart? But just like any other job, it has its problems. Maybe you heard about the flooding this past summer? No ice at the North Pole for the first time in history. Iíve started to move the whole operation to the South Pole just to be safe. The North Pole is just going to be a mail drop for the next few years until I can send out the change-of-address forms. To make up the cost of the move, every present I deliver for the next 50 years will read, ďSome assembly required.Ē
The elves threatened to go on strike until I ponied up health insurance and a shorter workweek. Who do they think I am? Google? Someoneís got to pay for all that. Money doesnít grow on Christmas trees, you know. Milk and cookies donít pay the bills. If it werenít for the ďdonationsĒ I get from parents, I couldnít afford to buy all the presents. Of course, some people say Iím just running a high-class protection racket aimed at keeping retailers in cash. I know the people who are saying that. A word to the wise: Your kids will be getting ďShiv Me ElmoĒ dolls if you donít drop that kind of talk.
I prefer to call it fee-for-service operation. Parents give me the money; I buy the gifts. I take 5 percent, maybe 6 percent off the top for expenses. OK, maybe itís 10 percent or 12 percent. Twenty-two percent, tops, but itís a good value. When the kid doesnít get exactly what they want, who takes the blame? Thatís right, your old friend Santa.
Iím telling you all this because I want you to know that when Santaís got a problem, youíve got a problem. And here it is: I base what presents I buy this year, mostly on what was hot last year. Sure, itís not an exact science, but I pretty much know that if every kid wanted a Wii or Guitar Hero last year, Iím going to need a lot of similar stuff this year. Yeah, every now and then, some Tickle Me or Cabbage Patch fad comes along that I didnít see coming, but by and large, I get it right.
Last year, I couldnít believe what children wanted for Christmas. One 7-year-old asked me for an American Express gold card, a 50-inch plasma HDTV for her room, a weeklong spa vacation, a Jonas Brothers performance in her bedroom for her and her three best friends, a saddle horse and a fake ID that said she was 11. And that was just the over-the-top stuff. If I didnít get it for her, her parents would. So this year, I loaded up on expensive stuff for this Christmas: video games, iPhones, cameras, Blu-ray players. You name it Ė I got warehouses full of it at both poles just waiting for the asking. So what happens this year?
I got my first letter of the year today. The kid doesnít want anything for herself; she wants me to give her dad a job. That, I ainít got. The next one says, ďDear Santa, my mom says the way things are going, we wonít have a roof over our heads. Could you get us a roof? Thanks, Tracy.Ē
Canít you talk her into a Hannah Montana backpack or something I do have?
Jim Mullen is the author of ďIt Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple LifeĒ and ďBabyís First Tattoo.Ē You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.