It’s easy to envy Santa Claus. He has a heavy workload just one night a year, but he has help from magic reindeer to get the job done and gets to fly all over the place in a sleigh. There are a lot of toys to make in his North Pole workshop, but he has elves to do the heavy lifting there. Plus, I hear Mrs. Santa makes some mean sugar cookies.
Looks like the job pays well, too. I’m sure Tim Allen got a pretty penny for those three times he put on the red suit in the “Santa Clause” movies. He certainly got a lot more than Edmund Gwenn was paid for “Miracle on 34th Street,” but just think of all the fan letters Kris Kringle got in that film. I’d venture to say no one on Earth is more popular than Santa — not even Oprah or whoever happens to be People Magazine’s sexiest man alive this year.
Maybe that’s because Santa gets to give everyone what they want for Christmas (unless they’ve been naughty, of course, and even then, the “black coal in the stocking” trick seems to have gone out a long time ago).
As I write this, I’m struggling to figure out what to buy for Christmas, and my list is pretty darn small. Santa’s got a much bigger challenge, but he also has more resources, more cookies from Mrs. Santa to motivate him and more suggestions in the form of those thousands of letters kids send via the U.S. Postal Service every year.
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If I had those resources, here are a few of the gifts I’d buy:
▪ A new federal grant to pay for wood-chipping services, something the federal government won’t pay for when the current grant runs out in March.
▪ Somewhere to take all that extra wood. Santa can always use it for all those wooden soldiers and Lincoln Logs, which might not be as popular as an iPad, Guitar Hero kit or Smart Toy Bear, but they still have their fans. And remember, Santa has magic dust to make all the problems caused by rot and beetle infestation go away.
▪ While I’m at it, maybe I could spread some of that dust on the new seedlings I’d plant if I were in Santa’s shoes. If there’s anything that says Christmas (in a secular sense) almost as much as Santa himself, it’s pine trees. If I were Santa, I’d give Cambria a healthy Monterey Pine forest on Dec. 25.
▪ For Main Street merchants, I’d give them a better way to attract people to their businesses than those plastic fold-up signs that clutter up the sidewalks.
▪ Since traffic lights are the color of Christmas, I’d consider it Santa’s prerogative to pull out the stoplight at Pineknolls Drive on Main Street and move it a few hundred yards down the road to Cambria Drive. The stop sign that’s there now? Well, I’d move that to the East Village and plop it down at Bridge and Main.
▪ I would have arranged for this past Tuesday’s Republican debate and Saturday’s Democratic debate to be magically pre-empted by showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s not even Election Year yet, and I already feel like I’ve seen these candidates more than I’ve seen George and Mary Bailey, Mr. Potter and Clarence in all the times the movie’s appeared on TV since 1946.
▪ I’d have my elves fashion a nice, big, round table where all the environmental, tourist, retail, arts, education and other interests in Cambria could sit down and discuss their differences. I’d sprinkle this with some special magic dust I have in a little sack labeled, “willingness to compromise.” Then I’d make a second table just like it, which I’d drop down the chimney on Capitol Hill. Come to think of it, I’m not sure there is a chimney in the Capitol; but if there isn’t, I’d make one. Santa can play hardball too.
▪ And finally, every toy or sweater or television or computer would come with a special voucher. If you didn’t like what you received, you could exchange it for a year’s supply of free hugs, a merry Christmas — or happy holiday of your choice — and a happy new year. That’s a return policy I’d use any day of the week, wouldn’t you?