Here & Now with S Sorrensen
North Pole, Tuesday, 10.15am: Santa Claus is holed up in his factory at the North Pole.
Behind him, stacked on pallets, are 400,000 iPods, a million DS-X Nintendos and half a million mobile phones in cute kiddie colours.
Bent over his computer, Santa punches in an email to his shipping agent.
It’s nearly Christmas and the pressure is on.
Santa needs a drink. His rosy cheeks have faded as the long hours in front of his computer reconciling value-adding and down-balancing to synergise the actualities of shareholder returns take their toll.
There’s little time for a tipple and a bit of ho ho ho.
Not only is he branding this seasonal consumer splurge and project-managing the delivery of toys for all the world’s kids, he’s desperately worried about his workplace environment.
The ice is melting. The summer melt is increasing each year and the winter freeze just isn’t making up the lost ground. (Or sea.) And Santa doesn’t want to be a canola farmer. (Or a fisherman.) His skills are specific. He delivers presents to kids. Simple. Or, at least it used to be.
Santa’s got problems. (Apart from his roof melting.) His original brief was that only good kids got pressies. That way beneficial social norms were reinforced and the number of presents was limited. But now the market demands every kid, good or bad, must get a pressie. (What?! Only one?) If they don’t, it means their parents are bad. And of course, parents overcompensate because no parent wants to be bad so then Santa’s workload goes through the ice roof. Santa Inc’s viability depends on parental guilt and the consequent up-selling.
“It was never meant to be like this,” Santa moans as a drop of ice melt plops on his head.
And don’t talk to him about the nature of presents. Hmmff.
Gone are the days when the elves could knock together a spinning top (without batteries) or make a simple doll (that didn’t wee itself and ask for stuff), while humming a happy Christmas tune.
Oh no. These days, Santa has upscaled and is importing plastic crap with an embedded chip from China. The elven workforce has been downscaled (completely) and has relocated to higher employment areas. Like China.
Sometimes the elves write sad little messages to Santa on their yearly day off – their elegant elven handwriting smudged with tears.
But Santa hasn’t time to reply. Christmas is business, and the shareholders are very demanding.
These are tough times to be CEO of Santa Inc. Sure, he’s rich, but lonely. The elves are gone. The reindeer are gone. (Santa abandoned the low carbon footprint of reindeer travel for international couriers after Rudolf and Prancer were injured by missile fire when Santa and his sleigh entered a foreign country’s air space.)
“Maybe Jesus was on the right track,” Santa muses, thinking of his pre-corporate predecessor. He opens a bottle of wine. “Showing love and wishing peace for everyone seems a lot more important in this world than credit-carding expensive toys to grumpy, unappreciative kids.
“You can’t buy love,” Santa mumbles. (Well actually, you can buy love, Santa. Check out late night TV and have your mobile handy.)
Santa turns back to his computer, spilling red wine on his suit. You can’t see the stain. He stares at the screen for a long while.
He drains his glass. His cheeks flush red.
He pulls the tie from around his neck and throws it onto a nearby pile of bubble wrap and styrofoam.
He slams the computer shut and picks up pen and paper.
“Dear Elves,” he writes. “Please come home.”