The usual large flamboyant type face associated with the seasons greetings has been downsized this year commensurate with the trend toward corporate downsizing.
The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced, and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole.
Streamlining was appropriate in view of the reality that the North Pole no longer dominates the seasons gift distribution business. Home shopping channels and mail order catalogues have diminished Santa's market share and he could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture.
The reindeer downsizing was made possible through the purchase of a late model Japanese sled for the CEO's annual trip. Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer, who summered at the Harvard Business School, is anticipated and should take up the slack with no discernible loss of service. Reduction in reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has been cited and received unfavorable press.
I am pleased to inform you and yours that Rudolph's role will not be disturbed. Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole.
Management denies, in the strongest possible language, the earlier leak that Rudolph's nose got that way not from the cold, but from substance abuse. Calling Rudolph 'a lush who was into the sauce and never did pull his share of the load' was an unfortunate comment, made by one of Santa's helpers and taken out of context at a time of year when he is known to be under executive stress.
As a further restructuring, todays' global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps. Effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' subsidiary:
The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted. It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance.
The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. Their positions are therefore eliminated.
The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French.
The four calling birds were replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call waiting option. An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often and how long they talked.
The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for the institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of t-bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order.
The six geese-a-laying constitute a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of the decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it gets will be a good one.
The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. The function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retained to learn some new strokes and therefore enhance their outplacement.
As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the workplace is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching.
Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps.
Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work congressmen. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed congressmen this year.
Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line.
We can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and other expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved.
Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorneys association seeking expansion to include the legal profession ('thirteen lawyers-a-suing') action is pending.
Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. Should that happen, the Board will request the management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number.
Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck
How to live in a world that's politically correct ?
His workers no longer would answer to Elves,
Vertically challenged they were calling themselves.
And labor conditions at the North Pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.
Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.
And Equal Employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid
Were Replaced with four pigs, and you know that looked stupid !
The runners had been removed from his sleigh,
The ruts were termed dangerous by the EPA.
And people started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their rooftops.
Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur-trimmed red suit was called Unenlightened.
And to show you the strangeness of life's ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose
And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Demanding millions in overdue compensation.
So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she'd enough of this life,
Joined a self-help group, packed and left in a whiz,
Demanding from now on her title was Ms.
And as for the gifts, why, he'd ne'er a notion
That making a choice could cause so much commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,
Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.
Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.
Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.
Nothing that's warlike or non-pacific.
And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.
For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.
No baseball, no football, someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist and should be passe;
And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.
So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;
He just could not figure out what to do next.
He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,
But you've got to be careful with that word today.
His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.
Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people, every religion;
Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone, everywhere, even you.
So here is that gift, it's price beyond worth.
May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth.
Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
I searched for the tools to hand to my spouse
Instructions were studied and we were inspired,
In hopes we could manage "Some Assembly Required."
The children were quiet (not asleep) in their beds,
While Dad and I faced the evening with dread:
A kitchen, two bikes, Barbie's town house to boot!
And, thanks to Grandpa, a train with a toot!
We opened the boxes, my heart skipped a beat ...
Let no parts be missing or parts incomplete!
Too late for last-minute returns or replacement;
If we can't get it right, it goes in the basement!
When what to my worrying eyes should appear
But 50 sheets of directions, concise, but not clear,
With each part numbered and every slot named,
So if we failed, only we could be blamed.
More rapid than eagles the parts then fell out,
All over the carpet they were scattered about.
"Now bolt it! Now twist it! Attach it right there!
Slide on the seats, and staple the stair!
Hammer the shelves, and nail to the stand."
"Honey," said hubby, "you just glued my hand."
And then in a twinkling, I knew for a fact
That all the toy dealers had indeed made a pact ...
To keep parents busy all Christmas Eve night
With "assembly required" till morning's first light.
We spoke not a word, but kept bent at our work,
Till our eyes, they went bleary; our fingers all hurt.
The coffee went cold and the night, it wore thin
Before we attached the last rod and last pin.
Then laying the tools away in the chest,
We fell into bed for a well-deserved rest.
But I said to my husband just before I passed out,
"This will be the best Christmas, without any doubt.
Tomorrow we'll cheer, let the holiday ring,
And not have to run to the store for a thing!
We did it! We did it! The toys are all set
For the perfect, most perfect, Christmas, I bet!"
Then off to dreamland and sweet repose
I gratefully went, though I suppose ...
There's something to say for those self-deluded,
I'd forgotten that BATTERIES are never included!
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the ship
Not a circuit was buzzing, not one microchip;
The phasers were hung in the armoury securely,
In hope that no alien would get up that early.
The crewmen were nestled all snug in their bunks
(Except for the few who were partying drunks);
And Picard in his nightshirt, and Bev in her lace,
Had just settled down for a neat face to face ...
When out in the hall there arose such a racket,
That we leapt from our beds, pulling on pant and jacket.
Away to the lifts we all shot like a gun,
Leapt into the cars and yelled loudly "Deck One!"
The bridge red-alert lights, which flashed through the din,
Gave a lustre of Hades to objects within.
When, what on the viewscreen, our eyes should behold,
But a weird kind of sleigh, and some guy who looked old.
But the glint in his eyes was so strange and askew,
That we knew in a moment it had to be Q.
His sleigh grew much larger as closer he came.
Then he zapped on the bridge and addressed us by name:
"It's Riker, It's Data, It's Worf and Jean-Luc!
It's Geordi, And Wesley, the genetic fluke!
To the top of the bridge, to the top of the hall!
Now float away! Float away! Float away all!"
As leaves in the autumn are whisked off the street,
So the floor of the bridge came away from our feet,
And up to the ceiling, our bodies they flew,
As the captain called out, "What the Hell is this, Q?!"
The prankster just laughed and expanded his grin,
And, snapping his fingers, he vanished again.
As we took in our plight, and were looking around,
The spell was removed, and we crashed to the ground.
Then Q, dressed in fur from his head to his toe,
Appeared once again, to continue the show.
"That's enough!" cried the captain, "You'll stop this at once!"
And Riker said, "Worf, take aim at this dunce!"
"I'm deeply offended, Jean-Luc" replied Q,
"I just wanted to celebrate Christmas with you."
As we scoffed at his words, he produced a large sack.
He dumped out the contents and took a step back.
"I've brought gifts," he said, "just to show I'm sincere.
There's something delightful for everyone here."
He sat on the floor, and dug into his pile,
And handed out gifts with his most charming smile:
"For Counsellor Troi, there's no need to explain.
Here's Tylenol-Beta for all of your pain.
For Worf I've some mints, as his breath's not too great,
And for Geordi LaForge, an inflatable date."
For Wesley, some hormones, and Clearasil-plus;
For Data, a joke book, For Riker a truss.
For Beverly Crusher, there's sleek lingerie,
And for Jean-Luc, the thrill of just seeing her that way."
And he sprang to his feet with that grin on his face
And, clapping his hands, disappeared into space.
But we heard him exclaim as he dwindled from sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight!"
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Net,
There were hacker's a surfing. Nerds? Yeah, you bet.
The e-mails were stacked by the modem with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The newbies were nestled all snug by their screens,
While visions of Java danced in their dreams.
My wife on the sofa and me with a snack,
We just settled down at my rig (it's a Mac).
When out in the Web there arose such a clatter,
I jumped to the site to see what was the matter.
To a new page my Mac flew like a flash,
Then made a slight gurgle. It started to crash!!
I gasped at the thought and started to grouse,
Then turned my head sideways and clicked on my mouse.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
My Mac jumped to a page that wasn't quite clear.
When the image resolved, so bright and so quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick!
More rapid than mainframes, more graphics they came,
Then Nick glanced toward my screen, my Mac called them by name;
"Now Compaq! Now Acer!", my speaker did reel;
"On Apple! On Gateway!" Santa started to squeal!
"Jump onto the circuits! And into the chip!
Now speed it up! Speed it up! Make this thing hip!"
The screen gave a flicker, he was into my RAM,
Then into my room rose a full hologram!
He was dressed in all red, from his head to his shoes,
Which were black (the white socks he really should lose).
He pulled out some discs he had stored in his backpack.
Santa looked like a dude who was rarin' to hack!
His eyes, how they twinkled! His glasses, how techno!
This ain't the same Santa that I used to know!
With a wink of his eye and a nod of his head,
Santa soon let me know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, gave my Mac a quick poke,
And accessed my C drive with only a stroke.
He defragged my hard drive, and added a SIMM,
Then threw in some cool games, just on a whim!
He worked without noise, his fingers they flew!
He distorted some pictures with Kai's Power Goo!
He updated Office, Excel and Quicken,
Then added a screensaver with a red clucking chicken!
My eyes widened a bit, my mouth stood agape,
As he added the latest version of Netscape.
The drive gave a whirl, as if it were pleased,
St. Nick coyly smiled, the computer appeased.
Then placing his finger on the bridge of his nose,
Santa turned into nothing but ones and zeros!
He flew back into my screen and through my uplink,
Back into the net with barely a blink.
But I heard his sweet voice as he flew from my sight,
"Happy surfing to all, and to all a good byte!"
E-mail contributions to Rob Nelson.
Nov 1, 2001