At 6 o'clock on Christmas morning, I was the only one left in The Washington Post's newsroom. Even Martin Weil, the late man on the city desk, had gone home. So I was understandably startled when I heard a voice ask, "Are you Bill Gold?"

I turned and saw a little fat man in a red suit. He was reaching into a large sack that had been slung over his shoulder. "I've got 143 letters for you," he said, "and 82 of them contain $3,024.50 for Children's Hospital from individuals. There are 26 from groups, but I didn't have time to tally them for yoy. The rest of the letters don't contain checks, but you might get some good stories out of them. They're about traffic lights that aren't synchronized, and a lady who lost her wallet and had it returned to her, and stuff like that".

"Thanks," I said. "I'm kind of surprised to find you working on Christmas when everbody else is off."

"If I didn't wprk holidays and collect all that time-and-a-half pay," he said, "I wouldn't be able to afford all the presents I give people."

"I see," I said. "Care for a cup of decaffeinated coffee?"

"I'd love to rest for a while and shoot the breeze with you," he said, "but I got a late start and I'll have to move along."What delayed your start?" I aksed.

"I had to fill out an environmental impact statement and install an antipollution device on my sleigh before they permitted me to set out," he explained. "When I get back, I'll have to file a mileage estimate with the Transportation Department - so many miles on the highways and so many in the skyways. If they pile any more red tape on me, I won't be able to finish delivering this stuff until the Fourth of July. So long, kid. See you around."

What I can't figure out is how he slipped past our security people and got into the building. On, well, let's see what's in those other envelopes.