He'd Better Watch Out!

Rough Draft
By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dear Mr. Kringle:

Let me first express my sincere appreciation for your long, arduous and selfless service to children around the world. That you are a genuine hero and a beloved global icon makes our current challenges all the more dismaying.

As you know, since our corporation acquired Christmas, we have sought to preserve this cherished cultural institution while making it more competitive in the global economy. As a world traveler, you don't need to be told that we are losing market share to holiday icons produced with cheap labor in China and India. Simultaneously, we must grapple with the Internet, which has scrambled the toy acquisition and distribution paradigm as more and more children find it (to quote from our recent survey) "inefficient" and "time-consuming" and "a little bit weird" to sit on your lap at the mall.

Thus we have been reviewing our entire holiday structure, top to bottom, inside and outside, North Pole to South. In so doing, we have turned up a number of troubling quality-control issues, none of which, I should note, is explicitly your fault, so far as our attorneys have determined to date. But please consider the following:

1) Jason Yagnebbler, 7, asked you on December 12, 2005, for, and this is a direct quote, "a Raytheon C-295 military transport plane." Our records indicate that you delivered to the residence of Master Yagnebbler a 12-inch plastic toy airplane at 1:05 a.m. on the subsequent December 25. But the young man explicitly wanted a real aircraft, full-scale and fully operational. He complained to his parents, who consulted their lawyers, which is why we are now facing protracted litigation. Our generous settlement offer -- of a functioning F-117 stealth fighter -- has been rejected by the family.

2) Shellie Scabworth, 4, asked for "Accountant Barbie," yet somehow received a Bratz doll dressed in thigh-high boots, hot pants and halter top. Again, the parents have sued, citing, and this is exact language from the court document, "irreversible psychic scarring from the very moment she opened the box with the whore-doll."

3) Lawrence Tweg, 3, appeared on the list of boys who had been good, even though a subsequent investigation showed that he is a chronic yanker of pigtails and a recidivist paste-eater.

4) Blitzen, the reindeer, failed a random drug test for the 17th consecutive year. Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that Dasher and Prancer have taken their chummy relationship to a level that is more appropriate to San Francisco than to a highly conservative community such as the North Pole.

5) We have taken note of a widely circulated poem about your exploits, largely favorable, but with a troubling line: "He was dressed in all fur, from his head to his foot." We fear a PETA-led boycott.

6) Another line from the same poem: "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth/And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath." Obviously, we're not in the business of inspiring young people to take up a carcinogenic habit.

7) Chimney destruction rates show an alarming rise -- from 2,378 chimneys in 1977 to 38,991 chimneys in 1992 to an astonishing 4,127,645 chimneys in 2004 -- that can plausibly be attributed to your well-documented weight gain.

8) Recognizing that your gesture was well-meaning and big-hearted, we must note the failure of your effort earlier this month to resolve the Iraq civil war with an airdrop of candy canes, sugar cookies and Christmas cards. As we've told you before, that part of the world is not projected to be a growth area for the brand.

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