Exercising the craft—December 9, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

I love Christmas, and while watching The Polar Express with the kids I got the idea for a fun story.  This is the first time I’m attempting a story specifically revolving around the holidays.  I hope you enjoy it, readers!

No one knows this, but Santa is nothing more than a glorified chauffeur.

Oh, sure, all the cartoons and books and movies portray him as a jolly guy who spends Christmas Eve going around the world to distribute gifts to children.  That description isn’t far off.  I mean, Mr. C. definitely has a big heart.  He treats all us elves fairly, and even though he works us hard (especially once Thanksgiving hits) he isn’t a slave driver.

But all that stuff about him riding a sleigh with reindeer?  Please.  Has anyone stopped to think about the fact that a sleigh can’t even support that much weight?  And how are eight reindeer supposed to pull a sleigh that heavy?  So what if they the reindeer and the sleigh are magic?  Come on, people, use your common sense!

He does go around the world, but it isn’t in a sleigh.  It’s in a Concorde.  And he uses the reindeer—there are way more than eight of them—to shuttle supplies between buildings in the compound.

You didn’t think we actually made all those toys in one gigantic building, did you?

The reindeer also pull the sleighs (again, more than one) that we load up with completed gifts, and then they drop the finished packages at the hangar where another group of elves load everything.  And the elves have shifts and assigned tasks.  Those of us assigned to Gifts only build toys and all the other things kids and grownups ask for; then there’s Loading, the elves who take care of making sure everything gets packed on the plane the way it needs to.  It’s way more complicated than people probably realize.  The gifts get split up by country, then region and so on, and they all have separate containers.  The rest of us work the Night Of shift.

It’s not really my favorite shift.  You spend a lot of time on the ground trying to be discreet and make deliveries at the same time, and unless you were lucky enough to draw a Southern Hemisphere country (and those run out pretty quick, let me tell you,) you spend a lot time trying to stay warm.  And then, of course, you’re constantly keeping an eye on your watch, because you can’t miss the pickup rendezvous.

I’m sure you’re wondering, so here’s how it really goes on Christmas Eve.

Mr. C. spends most of the day checking all the containers on the plane.  He usually goes through his lists about four or five times.  It’s tedious work, and by the time midnight rolls around you can tell he really needs a break.  But he doesn’t let it show.  He’s always smiling, always happy and has a nice word for people.

The stories definitely got that part right.

At midnight he fires up the engines, takes off, and starts the fly-bys.  He slows down just long enough over each region for the Night Of team to push their containers out the plane and then jump out after them, and then he jets—literally—to the next area.  About the time he drops the last team of Night Of elves off, it’s time to make his way back to the first Drop Site to start the fly-by pickups.

Those are always a little trickier.

I’m not a huge fan of the Night Of shift, although I’ve put in my time like everyone else.  My goal is to be Shift Supervisor, but I’ve still got some time before that.  Or so I thought.

This year I was assigned to Gifts, so I didn’t spend much time at the hangar or the buildings close to it.  I’d just finished wrapping a Blu-Ray player, when I heard someone.

“Curtis!” one of my buddies called.  “They want you upstairs!”

I frowned at the tape and scissors as I put them away, but I knew I couldn’t put going up off too long.  Going upstairs meant someone close to Mr. C. wanted to see me, and I didn’t know what to think about that.  I knew I couldn’t be in trouble.  I finished my work on time—sometimes ahead of schedule—and I always tried to give my friends a hand.  Once November started I’d even worked overtime a few nights.  Pretty easy when you don’t have anyone to go home to.

I put everything away in their designated spots—that’s another thing that makes us work so efficiently; Mr. C. is practically obsessed with organization—and I went to one of the sinks on the far side of the room.  I took all of about three minutes washing up, and then I tried to look nonchalant as I walked to one of the elevators.  Taking a deep breath, I punched the Up button.

The elevator didn’t take too long to come down to meet me.  I got in, and when the doors shut I pushed the button for the highest floor and then collapsed against the back wall.  The higher the elevator went, the faster my heart beat.  I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I had a hunch that something drastic was coming.

When Mrs. C. met me just outside the elevator, I knew I was right.

“Curtis, hello, dear,” she said in that sweet voice of hers.  She smiled, and once again I thought of my grandmother.  Yes, the stories got that image of Mrs. C. right too.

“Hello,” I said, trying to make my voice come out without cracking.  If she was coming to receive me herself, I knew something big had to be coming.

“Don’t be nervous, dear, you’re not in any trouble.  Quite the opposite, actually.”

I couldn’t help it; the relief came out in an audible sigh.  “I’m so glad.  But then why am I here?”

“I’m afraid my husband may have some trouble with his Christmas run next week, and he’ll need your help completing it.”

To be continued…

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