Claus and the Consultant ©
“You folks are cutting edge. I’m anxious to hear the results of your study.” The fat bearded man stroked his long white whiskers. His rosy cheeks, potbelly, and jovial disposition drew a cynical look from the Armani clad man sitting across Santa Claus’ disorganized desk.
“Pleased to hear that. We’re not old school.” A poorly disguised smirk flitted over the young fellow’s sharp features as he adjusted his $400 silk tie.
Santa hoped to avoid looking obsolete. “We want to modernize.” Claus paused, eagerness showing on his face. “What did you think of my operation?”
“San, baby.” The man hesitated. “Mind if I call you that?”
“Ho, ho, ho. No, that’s fine.”
The consultant’s eyes became intense. “I can level with you…not hold back, right?”
“I’ll do anything I can to make Christmas better for the kiddies.”
“Okay…In all my years as a consultant for Vishnu, Stein, Hussein, Buddha, and Popesworth, I’ve never seen an organization that needs our help more. I hate to tell you, but Claus and Company is in bad trouble.”
“You’ve only been a consultant three years.” Santa waved his index finger, but retained his good-natured countenance. “Remember young fellow, I keep lists.”
“Yeah, we’ll discuss that later.” The man tapped his fingers impatiently. His other hand opened a notebook computer. “Shall we get right to the core issues?”
“Go ahead,” The old man’s smile was apprehensive. ‘Ho’ left his vocabulary.
“Two words. Costs and efficiency. Your costs are too high. Efficiency. You don’t have any.” The consultant was grim-faced and threatening. “A Jack Welch you’re not. San baby, a couple more years the way you’re operating and,” he snapped his fingers, “you’re out of the brat joy-bringing business.”
“No!” Claus was alarmed. “What can I do?”
Ivy League fingertips stroked the computer keys. Riveted on the monitor, the consultant’s pupils transformed to shrewd, unfeeling instruments of condemnation. His shark eyes moved to transfix Claus’. “First, you need a new work force.”
“New work force?”
“Those damn elves have to go. They’re a bunch of prima donnas. All I got from them were excuses. I asked them to multi-task…to make each other’s toys. They cried they didn’t know how. I explained we’d have to cut their ale allotment in half, they screamed. They talked about all the years of faithful service.” The consultant sneered. “Lame excuses. Today is today.”
Santa was dismayed. “But, we’ve always depended on each other. Could we retrain them? I could talk to—.”
“Ah, ah, ah.” The consultant showed Santa a photograph of a young boy and girl sitting beneath a Christmas tree, bereft of presents. Their sweet, innocent, unhappy faces were drenched with tears. “Want this?”
Claus recoiled in horror. “My goodness, no!”
“Those elves are a lost cause, Claus.” He smiled evilly. “The answer: outsourcing off-shore. It’s awesome! Awesome! We’ll get your shit made for a third of the current cost. Reverse engineer all the stuff your crew’s been making. Screw them!”
“By shit, do you mean toys?” Santa looked incensed.
“Whatever. I’m telling you this is a cool solution. Of course, you have the alternative.” The consultant’s face showed disgust. He held the picture up again.
“Okay. Okay.” Claus looked away, unable to bear the sight.
“Do some out-placement for the little bastards. Maybe a little severance pay…a bone or two will keep the firm’s public image out of trouble.”
“Are you sure outsourcers can produce everything we need? There’s a huge—“
Smiling, the consultant interrupted. “San baby, you’re going to give away a lot less presents. We’re cutting off all the little bastards that are bad-actors.”
“Bad-actors? I’ve haven’t dropped off anything for Alex Baldwin in years.”
“San, Baby. All the sorry rug-rats that dodge your bad list now, will be toast with the new computer controlled, remote observation system Panafony is designing. We’ll even know if one of those little suckers gives a parent a dirty look. That’s going to cut costs in half.” The consultant’s face displayed a smug, superior look. “How cool is that? You know you can’t be everywhere at once. We’ll blacklist—”
“But, I like to use my judgment…some common sense.” Claus was appalled.
“Come…on! You think you can see more than all those cameras?”
“San, baby, you want to reward bad performance? Do you want to contribute to the delinquency of minors?”
“Certainly not, but—”
“No buts, no buts. Don’t worry. Just do what the computer says. Do you believe today’s managers and public officials would have time to get everything done if they took time to think? No way! Forget thinking. Go with RAM, nano-seconds, real-time. Swap flash drives for lists.”
“What about the cost of coal?” Santa was defensive. “The bad lit—”
“Got a great answer for that.” The consultant’s computer changed. “Forget coal…Think sheep manure.”
Santa looked as though he’d just grabbed a bare electrical cord. “Oh! No! I couldn’t—”
“Keep an open mind. Visualize the message you’re delivering. If you do shitty things…well, you get the drift. And, before you bring it up, it will be dried and sanitized. The company providing the product, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama, guarantee it. That group has produced massive amounts of manure for years.”
“Isn’t there something else we could substitute?”
“We’ve had our best analysts look at this.” The consultant held his hands out, palms up. “Bull, chicken, horse…they all have their drawbacks. Sheep is the way to go. Think positive. You’re getting green. You’re conserving fossil fuel. Awesome message! Awesome!”
“I still have to deliver it.” Santa looked resigned.
“Glad you brought delivery up.” The consultant braced for Claus’ negative response. “Your delivery system is a problem. The Reindeer have to go.”
“Not the reindeer! Never!” Santa’s cheeks could have lit a cigar.
“San baby, chill! It’s got to be. Let’s get real.”
“Not the deer!” Santa’s eyes flashed and teeth clenched. He half rose from his chair.
The consultant held up the picture of the two heart-broken children and thrust it in Santa’s face. The old man slumped back into his chair, totally defeated.
The consultant laid the photo on the desk, face down. “I hated to do that, but San Baby, you have to listen.”
“Yes,” Claus responded limply.
“Okay. Answer my questions. Is it taking you longer to deliver presents every year?”
“And, is it true you almost didn’t get everything delivered last year?”
Claus was furious. “Who squealed?”
“Not important. Claus, its numbers. We humans keep making babies faster and faster. You can’t keep up with all the screwing we do using old technology. The deer are maxed out. Not cool! Your efficiency is compromised. You have to cut your chimney-to-chimney times. If you don’t—” the consultant reached for the picture.
“No! Not again!” Santa’s tortured voice responded. “What do I have to do?
“I’ve already got it started. Visualize! Hueys!” The young man looked pleased. “They’re awesome!”
“One of Donald Duck’s nephews doing delivery? I don’t understand.”
The consultant rolled his eyes. “Not ducks, choppers. You know…helicopters. They’ll buzz you through the night in half the time those broken down deer do.”
“What do I do with Dancer, Prancer and the rest?”
“I hate to say this, but it would be best to donate them to the Hungry World Foundation.”
“Absolutely not!” Santa reached his limit.
“Okay, okay. I understand you think of them as pets. Retire them. Put them out to pasture.” He slid a contract toward Claus. “The rest has to be done. Sign this and we’ll get started. Just remember, I don’t want you cursing me every time you pay the deer’s hay bill.”
Claus dropped his head as he signed the paper.
* * *
Thirty days after the Christmas holiday the consulting firm of Vishnu, Stein, Hussein, Buddha, and Popesworth received an invoice returned to their accounts receivable department from Claus Inc. It had a letter attached. A clerk read it, checked her procedures, found none for dealing with the problem, so she forwarded it to her supervisor. In turn, he sent it to the Coordinator for Customer Problem Resolution. The coordinator didn’t feel his policies covered the problem, so he sent it to the Governmental Assistance Department. That manager believed the Department of State might reimburse the company, but determined the cost of completing the government’s documentation for Payments to Dictators and Hostile Nations would cost more than the $1.2 million dollar invoice. He sent the package to the assistant to the assistant to the Assistant Controller. The accounting department wanted nothing to do with offending a high profile customer, so they sent the invoice and letter to the Customer Service Manager, who delegated the decision to one of his managers entitled, Director of Satisfying Customer Requests Economically without Warranty, or the SCREW department. After reading the documents and considering the problem carefully, he stamped “Bad Debt” on the invoice and returned them both to the controller. The Controller sighed, but approved the write-off after reading the following letter.
I’m surprised you had the gall to bill me for your firm’s services. Lest you’ve forgotten or haven’t heard of your company’s performance in regard to this invoice, let me refresh your memory or inform you of your representative’s recommendations and the results.
First, the offshore companies you contracted to build my toys delivered my products to the South Pole, not the North Pole. This created substantial costs and inconvenience to rectify the problem. In addition, we had to reprint all instructions and manuals because those furnished were written in Latin, a language most of the world’s children can’t understand. It was a costly hassle.
Those mistakes were secondary when one considers the manufacturing errors. I’ll mention just a few. Making the Barbie and Ken dolls so anatomically correct was a mistake, particularly in light of their positioning in the see-through packaging. The worst screw-up was the chemistry sets with bomb making instructions, though producing a game similar to “Monopoly,” providing risqué game pieces and changing the board’s name to “Polygamy” was unspeakable. The “Do not go to Bed, do not get any” cards were particularly distasteful. It was fortunate there was little demand for the item. Would you like your son or daughter to land on “Porno Place?” Perverse, not reverse, engineering is an appropriate description of the work done.
There were the problems created by the observation program you christened RRSS, or Rug-Rat Snitch System. The computers were a nightmare. Nothing worked. The hardware people blamed the software people. The software people blamed the hardware people. Neither helped me separate good children from bad. I ended up using last year’s lists and hoping the kid’s behavior was consistent. The misplacement of the observation cameras is a continuing disaster. Incensed parents are suing us because technicians from your firms sold films made in a number of the adult’s bedrooms.
The manure makes me steam every time I think of it. Your representative assured me it was a “cool” solution. It was down-right cold! First, the stuff wasn’t dried properly. In fact, it wasn’t dried at all! I felt sorry for the kids even though they were on the bad list. What made me maddest was that Mrs. Claus wouldn’t let me in the house when I returned. I smelled so bad Rudolph’s red nose turned green. It took six days of scrubbing to get the smell dissipated. Have you ever had to take a bath on an iceberg?
Finally, there’s the damn helicopters. The first thing was the price of aviation gas. I had to take a 2nd, then 3rd mortgage on my place up North. Then the pilots, luggage handlers, and stewardesses all went on strike. I don’t understand why. The pilots called in sick. The baggage folks just stood around. Hell, I didn’t even have a stewardess on board. I sold the film rights of my life to pay those settlements. After all that, we got grounded because of snow. Snow mind you! Snow at Christmas? Who’d a thunk it! As your man would say, “Awesome!” Thank goodness for my trusty reindeer that came out of retirement without so much as a headshake. I’m glad I didn’t listen to your man when he suggested making venison stew from my friends.
I don’t intend to pay you one cent. I’ve burned the computers and gone back to thinking, sold the cameras to the CIA, donated the leftover toys to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, contributed the helicopters to the Minute Men, cashed the gas back in at a profit, rehired my elves at double their previous pay, and purchased stock in a coal mine. However, I have arranged for the left over sheep manure to be delivered to your office…concurrent with the next rain. By the way, I couldn’t believe your representative had the nerve to ask for a yacht. Inform him to be sure to wear the bulletproof vest I left. After telling a few organizations and couple million parents of his recommendations, everyone from the Toy Manufacturer’s Association to the Santa Barbara PTA are after him.
Never the less,
Santa Claus, Esquire
To learn more about DL Havlin and his writing visit:
www.dlhavlin.com (web page)
www.sandysays1.wordpress.com (a dog’s blog for humans)
www.dlhavlin.wordpress.com (DL’s blog with writing tips, news, etc.)
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