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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

POST III: Santa Claus & Elves, 21st Century Style

(Re-use of a previous blog entry from a previous blog.)

Quite some time ago, way back in 2002, on an early Saturday morning in early December, I took my husband to the commuter train station. My granddaughter, all of three years, woke up and toddled out as we left the house. Rather than leaving her to the supervision of her mother, which was no supervision at all, I scooped her up, put on her coat, loaded her into her car seat, and took her with us.

We made the train with time to spare. I needed to hit an ATM for the day's cash purchases, so this child and I drove through a main thoroughfare of our rather large suburb.

The ATM in question is still, to this day, located in the front of a hardware of some vintage. The lights and fandangles from the Christmas tree window display, as well as the thin layer of snow on the parking lot, twinkled in the dawn.

It didn't occur to me the child was also viewing the scene. "Where's Ho-Ho?" she asked, her name for Santa. I replied, "In the back." She asked, "Is this the North Pole?" I replied, "No, just one of Santa's many branch offices located in better cities throughout the world."

So started Santa's unintentional sponsorship and lease agreement with Ace Hardware for his branch office in Kane County, in the western suburbs of Chicago.

In the 5 years that have followed, the children have asked me more questions about Santa, the elves, distribution of presents throughout the world, the reindeer, their likes and dislikes, and most recently, how elves die. (They don't. They retire to the Keys, Boca and several Caribbean islands. They do, however, hold dual US and either German or Dutch citizenship, and travel the globe, free of Christmas responsibilities. They eventually become smaller and smaller, microscopic, until nobody can see them.)

There are a minority of parents who do not appreciate fairy tales and folklore. They have their reasons for not liking the Jolly Old Elf. They feel Santa detracts from the message of Jesus' birth, which is, after all, the true meaning of Christmas. Santa should not get credit for presents the parents chose with great care. Santa is morbidly obese and a bad example, eating all those cookies and pawning the carrots off on the reindeer. Santa is the corruption of a saint, Nicholas. Santa has become a god of commercialism.

They can have their beliefs. They can send their children to school or out to play, carefully loaded with the facts on what is to them an archaic form of childhood, now so outmoded that it should be a crime for children to be told such lies.

Santa is not a fairy tale as long as there is one living person who believes in him and is willing to assist him in his work. I believe in Santa. I support his work.

I am his network engineer.

At least three times a year, I am transported to the North Pole, where I perform maintenance on Santa's servers, including changing and upgrading. Santa runs a Linux shop, with Ubuntu on the elves' boxes except in the print shop, where the elves run Leopard on Macs (they betaed it, of course). My friend Jeff designed the LAN and WAN, but I do the maintenance. One can never trust elves to do much with a computer, especially not servers. Elves are horrendous end-users, worse than customer service reps. For minor repairs, I either send out imaged machines or I use good old Citrix to repair by remote control.

The Naughty List is kept on its own server, in a PeopleSoft database. It is backed-up every hour. Yes, that is THE PeopleSoft, with Oracle.

Santa has a Blackjack, an iPhone and a Blackberry- just in case. The designs for Bluetooth earpiece products were based on the necessity to fit elves' pointed ears.

Santa used to make the run with a sleigh that was overburdened with presents, causing the many reindeer who pulled it (62, not 8 or 9) to strike for better working conditions. This caused Santa to adopt a JIT (Just In Time) model of service that included a plan for underway replenishment on December 24th throughout the world. He developed it with ISO (9001.52, exclusively for the North Pole), with the British and United States Navies as consultants.

Reindeer, in their union contract, are entitled to breaks every 4 hours. They are not forced to eat Santa's leftover carrots, but are replenished with high-quality Reindeer Chow by Purina, and bottled water. Reindeer are home-ported throughout the world. One of those places is Walter Peyton's Roundhouse in Aurora, IL, where the deer enjoy the courtyard and dine on hops and barley during their stay for the holiday season. Rudolph does not really pull the sleigh, but is spokesdeer Rudloph J. Reindeer IV. Reindeer do die, but have generous life insurance and benefits package for their survivors. Reindeer are not turned into venison- That's just plain old deer in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Elves are a peculiar race that reproduces by sneeze. Yes, if a Mommy Elf, or Melf, and a Daddy Elf, or Delf, sneeze in each other's proximity, there will eventually be a Baby Elf, or Belf. They must be married in order for this to happen- unlike humans. This is why married elves work in separate divisions, and do their sneezing at home on their own time. Santa is an equal opportunity employer. Melfs and Gelfs (girl elves) prefer the dress outift with tights, that's all.

Elves have this dreadful habit of trying to turn almost anything into a toy or present. Don't give them money, of any denomination, from any country, coin or bill. They will eat coins, and fold money into toys using origami techniques. Santa's plumbers have an incentive plan beyond union scale.

Elves should never eat pickles. They cannot handle sour food, and spit them at each other. For their health's sake, elves must have gingerbread cookies three times a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year (366 in leap years). Elves are bored with gingerbread by the time they are 106. That's about the time they start to take Centrum for Elves. Elves cannot drink carbonated beverages. It makes them float uncontrollably, until the carbonation wears off.

Elves' insurance plans only list AFLAK as an option, just the same as the reindeer benefits package. The AFLAK duck does not work for Santa. That's just a commercial. Some elves are independent gift contractors and have HSAs, just like Grandpa. Elves and reindeer pay income taxes to the United States, although they hold dual citizenship. Santa tried to create the North Pole operation into a not-for-profit 403(b), but no dice from the IRS. The elves contribute to Social Security and Medicare, but because they don't die, place a real drain on it. Reindeer counter this effect.

Santa leases space from many places throughout the world, in order to utilize JIT. Santa uses a law firm with international trade contacts to do the negotiations. The taller elves go to these places in early November, and stay until after inventory in January. Yes, some of them look a lot like teenagers. If you look very carefully at their ears (quickly, don't be rude and let them see you stare!), you will see they are elves in disguise. Disguises include Ace Hardware smocks, Toy R Us vests, Wal-Mart polos, and Geek Squad ties.

Elves are not allowed out of the stores in which they are placed. If people see them, they will start to pester them with questions about Santa, and ask for favors, and even take their pictures without even being polite and asking to do so, first. Elves are small, so sleeping quarters- not a problem. They can sleep anywhere, including the Rubbermaid container aisle.

A few regular employees are trusted with this great secret, and go on missions for take-out and other needs. One of these is our friend, a Catholic school teacher who also works at that hardware store part time. She knows that when the elves want pizza, she has to go to both Ach 'n Lou's as well as Rosati's, to avoid fights (it's the crusts- elves are picky about pizza crusts). She knows all elves eat their McBurgers plain- and definitely no pickles!

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