Hi. Santa Claus here.
Do you ever wonder what I do on the 364 days when I’m not delivering toys? Mostly, I try to figure out what kids will want for the coming Christmas. It’s hard; kids are so picky. Why do you think I come in the middle of the night? Because they’re asleep, that’s why. That way I won’t have to listen to their whining if they didn’t get exactly what they wanted.
So what if it’s figure skates instead of hockey skates? They’re skates. Be happy you got something. So what if it’s the wrong color? It’s still a dump truck. Now, if it were a fire engine, I’d understand. Still, be happy you got something.
Well, those days are gone. Kids are much more demanding now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the job. I’m my own boss, and I get to set my own hours. Besides, what else would I do at my age? Become a barista at Starbucks? A personal trainer? A life coach?
But like any other job, it has its problems. Maybe you heard about the flooding at my place this past summer? No ice at the North Pole for the first time in, like, oh yeah – history! Thanks, guys. I’ve had to move my whole operation to the South Pole just to be safe. It’s horrible. I keep tripping over those “March of the Penguins” people filming all the time. Do you know how long it takes to get a penguin to act cute? Weeks.
The North Pole still will be my mail drop for the next several 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 say “batteries not included” and “some assembly required.”
Then the elves threatened to go on strike until I coughed up health insurance and a shorter workweek. They also wanted a free cafeteria. Who do they think I am? Google? Facebook? Amazon? Who do they think is going to pay for all that? The tooth fairy?
Speaking of which, we had the tooth fairy over for dinner last week, and trust me, she’s got her own problems. You leave a kid a quarter for a tooth nowadays and they stop believing in you. They want $2, minimum – for a baby tooth! She’s going through cash faster than Elon Musk on a rocket ship. Her expenses have gone through the roof. Plus, she’s dating a real creep. Somebody she met online, Harvey somebody.
I’m telling you all this because I want you to know that when Santa’s got a problem, you’ve got a problem. And here it is: I can’t predict what kids want anymore. I usually base this year’s presents on what was hot last year. Sure, it’s not an exact science, but I pretty much know that if every kid wanted a hot video game last year, I’m going to need a lot of the sequel game this year. Sure, every now and then some Tickle Me Elmo or Cabbage Patch fad comes along that I didn’t see coming, but by and large, I get it right.
But things have changed. I couldn’t believe what children wanted for Christmas this year. One 9-year-old asked me for an American Express Platinum Card, a 50-inch plasma TV for her room, a weeklong spa vacation for her and her three best friends, an iPhone X, a pony and a fake ID that said she was 11. Trust me, she wasn’t the only one. What ever happened to asking for a bike? Or a baseball bat? Or new shoes? And I have a feeling that if I don’t get this stuff for her, her parents will.
I liked it a lot better when most of my letters said things such as, “Dear Santa, I don’t need anything, but could you please give my Dad a job?” or “Dear Santa, my Mom says she wonders where all the money will come from. Could you please tell her?”
If I knew, I’d brave a long, fiery chimney to help.
• Jim Mullen is a syndicated columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.