How strange it feels to be writing you again after all these years. I stopped writing not because I don't appreciate your annual distribution efforts but because, like many adults adrift in this technology-besotted society, I considered myself too sophisticated for the childish delights of magic and whimsy. But I also ceased correspondence a couple of decades ago, quite frankly, because I got frustrated with the organizational inadequacies at your end of the business.
Remember the year you left the Lawrence Welk albums and the double- knit leisure suit when I asked for a lava lamp and a gross of Zig-Zag papers? Or the year I wanted a Radiant Bliss Home Tofu and Macrame Kit and you stuck an Uzi and two incendiary devices in my stocking? I'm aware of the difficulties you face sorting out all the cultural differences among your vast global clientele, but after that I just gave up.
I'm ready to try again, however, now that you've made some technological and managerial upgrades in your operation. I'm sure, for example, that abandoning an antiquated filing system staffed by elves for a computerized product/recipient tracking system like the Santa Letter Electronic Database (SLED) will certainly help sort out matters. So will your new 24-hour toll-free consumer hot line (800/GIMMEE-2).
I'm also pleased that you've heeded the National Transportation Safety Board's advice and installed an approved transponder and advanced celestial piloting system on your sleigh, including ultra-high-speed Geosynchronous Interstellar Focusing Telemetry (GIFT) and a Navigational Orbiting Enhanced Laser (NOEL). It's unfortunate you've received some criticism for this from conservatives who think your circumnavigation of the globe should rely on ancient wizardry instead of microcircuitry.
The media have also whipped up a considerable furor because you purchased this sophisticated equipment after accepting a grant from the Pentagon's Strategic Defense Initiative, the so-called "Star Wars" research program. Worse yet, the news hit right after the revelation that you allowed the CIA to examine your enormous file of confidential letters. You can understand the controversy: Many of these candid documents were written by naive children who now hold sensitive positions in government and industry.
Still, I'm astounded that people would actually believe that Kris Kringle, of all people, could be politicized, compromised by the military-industrial complex or otherwise use his unique international status and miraculous powers for covert operations. I find it equally outrageous that self-styled children's advocates have lately cited you as a poor role model for youngsters because of your excessive weight and poor abdominal muscle tone.
Don't they realize that finding time for regular aerobic exercise must be devilishly hard given the inclement weather at the North Pole, your hectic schedule of year-round toy-making and your moral obligation to consume prodigious amounts of milk and cookies on Christmas Eve? And how painful it must have been for you and the now- estranged Mrs. Claus when your son, Kris Jr., inflamed the controversy by doing the talk-show route to plug his book, Santa Dearest, revealing your high cholesterol levels and long struggle with substance abuse (chocolate chips, right?).
God knows, you've had enough trouble just keeping up with your labor relations problems since the International Wee Workers of the World (IWWW) unionized your workshop, requiring you to hire leprechauns, sprites, kelpies, trolls and other supernatural employes in addition to elves. This contingent has been particularly litigious, I understand, demanding equal access ramps for gnomes and climate-controlled work spaces for the more temperature- sensitive wood nymphs.
Well, I don't have to tell you that times have changed, Santa, and it's no longer enough in this world to be merely a rotund, kind-hearted thaumaturgical entity with a flowing white beard. But though I empathize with you, I feel I must also address some issues that concern me directly.
I'm uncomfortable, for instance, with the convention that your delivery of gifts to me is wholly dependent on whether I've been "good" or "bad" as determined by subjective and arbitrary standards. While I've made every effort this year to adhere to socially acceptable behavioral norms, my personal life is clearly beyond the purview of your organization. Further, I find the notion of "good" and "bad" used as absolutes to be an archaic concept given the lack of cultural universals.
But I'm particularly disturbed by the traditional notion that Santa, as a corporate entity, knows -- as the song attests -- "when you've been sleeping and . . . knows when you're awake." Such intimate knowledge is -- and I'm sure the courts would agree -- an invasion of privacy at the very least and strongly indicative of electronic surveillance at the worst. Must I have my house swept for bugs before and after your annual visit? Of course, while I realize your omniscience may be attributable to your status as a semi-divine being, I think using these powers in an invasive manner may be cause for legal action. This isn't a threat, dear Santa, only an observation.
I'm also concerned that your visit this year may place me or my loved ones at risk. My homeowner's policy, for example, specifically excludes airborne rooftop arrivals and/or entry to my home through the chimney. There is also a county ordinance against maintaining farm animals in a non-rural zone and a local anti-noise law that your reindeer and jingle bells might violate.
Aside from that, your clandestine arrival would trigger my security system, automatically alerting the police and my pit bull. Therefore, Santa, please park the sleigh at the curb, ring the doorbell, stand squarely in front of the video camera and be prepared to show adequate identification. A papal edict or major credit card will suffice.
My four-page gift list is attached. You'll note I haven't made any unrealistic or complicated demands such as asking for peace on Earth. I've merely requested the latest in consumer electronics. I realize this makes me party to the continuing outrageous commercialization of Christmas and Hanukah, something we really should do something about someday. But until then, Santa, I still want my share of the goodies. ::