Present and Accounted For
2022: The year Santa’s gift delivery process changed
Santa has always been a Do It Yourself-er. From the earliest days, he believed in doing everything on his own: making the gifts, building his sleigh, feeding the reindeer — even stuffing the bag to the brim was something he insisted on overseeing personally.
But as the years became decades and then centuries, he had to loosen the holiday reins, little by little.
The presents (which had become, in his rush to fill all of the orders, little more than popsicle sticks with one or more googly eyes pasted on) were eventually taken over by a growing crew of elves.
Santa’s sleigh (which could barely make it to the next county without a roadside repair of duct tape, wire, and reindeer fat) was taken over at the insistence of Mrs. Claus. The “overhaul”, which consisted of junking the old vehicle and building a new one from scratch, resulted in a sleigh which could not only travel the distance needed, but could do it in the air, saving hugely on both time and sled-runner wear-and-tear.
The reindeer are now cared for by professional stables. No more last-minute firedrills with Blitzen calling in sick, Donder having another hangover, and Santa having to ask some rookie to take over the lead. The team is fit, trim, and ready to go when needed.
Many other changes have happened along the way, and Santa has the best in the business handling all of the business of creating and distributing all of the gifts for Christmas. This is no small feat, since this operation is second only to Amazon for sheer volume of “giftribution.”
But there was still one task that Santa insisted on doing himself; hand-delivering the presents. Mrs. Claus would annually ask him to let someone else do this job; she could see how much more effort it was for him every year, as he grew older and the Nice List grew longer. But every year Santa would downplay her reservations with a simple, “Ho, ho, ho—Shut up, I got this!” as he’d clamber awkwardly into the sleigh and take off for another infinitely long night of delivering presents under trees worldwide.
And thus he continued, every year getting slower as the job kept getting bigger. Until 2022.
It all started in November. Santa came down with a seasonal flu. This is pretty much expected at that time of year in the North Pole, and he was no stranger to it. But this year, he managed to also pick up COVID during one of the surges this Fall (mask mandates had come down just before the season of holiday parties started). But just as he was coming out of all of that, he caught that strain of RSV going around, on top of a whopper of a fever. Last time Mrs. Claus checked, he was running a temperature of 104, and his “Ho, ho ho!” sounded more like a junkyard dog with whooping cough.
But still he was intent on doing the job, because, well, because he always had. He told Mrs. Claus, “The children are expecting me. And I can’t let them down.” Though what Mrs. Claus heard was something more like, “Zzzz-klthffrft. Ack.”
The final straw came in the regular Rehearsal Run on December 23rd. Santa managed to get on all of his standard gear and he made his way out to the sleigh. But climbing up to the cockpit didn’t go quite as planned. He caught the tip of one of his boots on the underside of a step, lost his grip on the icy railing, and went tumbling into the snow. The bag of presents went flying in one direction, his hat, coat, and pants (nobody is sure how that happened) flew off in another, and a cold, mostly naked Santa went in a third direction, dunking headfirst into a snow drift so deep that only his right pinky toe could be seen sticking out of the top.
When they finally dug him out, he was shivering, hallucinating, and unable to move. Worse still, both hands had sustained wrist fractures, like an awesome black-diamond snowboard wipeout with a very old, very overweight snowboarder.
The rest of his maladies he could have worked around. But without the use of his hands to guide the sleigh, grab the bag, shimmy down the chimneys, drop the presents, and snarf up the cookies and milk, he knew Christmas wasn’t happening for him. Or the children.
But just as Santa realized what this meant, Mrs. Claus was right there by his side. “Don’t you worry, dear. I’ve got it taken care of.”
Sad to lose this last element of control, but happy that the presents would be delivered, he let go and allowed himself to drop into a deep, healing sleep.
Two days later, on Christmas Day, Santa finally woke up. His wrists, immobilized and padded in layers of cotton, gauze, wrapping paper, and ribbons, looked like they’d take a while to heal. But he felt much better after the long rest. Mrs. Claus, sitting by his bedside, looked up from her book. Her eyes twinkled.
“What did you do? How did the presents get delivered?,” he asked. Mrs. Claus heard something more like, “Whadidodiprsvrd?,” but she understood.
She said, “I hired professionals. It’s all going to be alright. I thought, `Who knows how to get everything to where it needs to be, all over the world?` And then I realized: airlines. So I contracted out to an airline, and it’s all going to be okay.”
Santa paused, then asked, “Which one?,” which sounded more like an aborted sneeze.
Mrs. Claus said, “Southwest Airlines. I’m sure it’ll work out just fine.”