12/21/09 — A view from the North Pole

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A view from the North Pole

By Laura Collins
Published in News on December 21, 2009 1:46 PM

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Laura Collins, the reporter turned temporary elf, stops to pose for a picture in Santa's Workshop.

The Job: Temporary elf

The Company: Santa Claus's toy workshop

The Location: North Pole

First off, before we go too far into this tale of Christmas cheer, don't worry -- Santa's workshop is still intact and his Christmas Eve trip is still on schedule.

If you have followed my explorations in the world of work, you know, they do not always turn out to be picture-perfect performances.

But this time I am certain that this boss will call me back next year.

But, you might ask, how did this come about?

How did Santa decide that he needed my help above all others to keep the Christmas delivery schedule on track?

Well, here's how it began.

The phone rang last week and I set aside my candy cane long enough to pick up the receiver.

"Are you the Laura who is available for odd jobs?" a deep, gravely voice said.

I hesitated before answering -- you never know what that sort of question could mean, but I decided to take a chance and answered in the affirmative.

"This is Santa Claus," the voice continued.

"Right," I said. "Let me put the Easter Bunny on hold and I will be happy to talk with you."

After a few more minutes of "yes I am" followed by "no way," I decided to demand proof that I truly was speaking to the jolly, old elf.

All it took was a hearty laugh and a camera phone picture -- didn't know Santa had an iPhone did you -- for me to finally get it.

This was the real thing.

Santa told me that he was a little behind this year -- the economy and the snow were really starting to worry him -- so he asked if I could come spend an afternoon helping out the elves.

Thank goodness he did not ask for references.

I jumped at the chance and prepared to head by reindeer express to Santa's North Pole workshop.

When I arrived, I was greeted by Santa's head elf for production and operations, Stan. Yes, I was surprised by the name, too.

"I thought all elves had names like 'Happy' and 'Jolly,'" I said.

Stan gave me a look that told me that he did not fit into either category.

Unfortunately, even though Santa had given me the benefit of the doubt, Stan was a tougher nut to crack -- he had talked to a couple of my previous employers and already knew my good points and my bad points.

Needless to say, I would not be in charge of bagel production -- and the station that makes toy bugs was also off-limits.

"I think you would be best in teddy bear production," Stan said, a worried look still hovering behind his eyes. "After that, maybe you could help put the finishing touches on the nice list."

I eagerly donned my elf attire -- coveralls and a pointy hat -- and headed off to the teddy bear line.

It wasn't hard at all stuffing those bears, especially with all the other elves around to help me make sure they had just the right amount of fluff to make the perfect squeeze.

And everything was going really well until the bell sounded.

"OK," one of the floor supervisors said, "she's ready. Let's go full-speed."

Have you ever seen the famous "I Love Lucy" where Lucy and Ethel are at the chocolate factory and the production line gets away from them?

Let's just say fluff flew everywhere -- and very little of it ended up inside the teddy bears.

When the fluff flurries stopped and the elf panic was back under control, I was moved to the bear-testing area. Hugging the bears was a lot easier than stuffing them.

After my bear experience, it was time to head to the nice list area.

It wasn't hard, really. Santa keeps everything on computers these days. All I had to do was sit at the computer and check all the emails from the Elfs on the Shelf from across the country who have been charged with watching all the children for Santa this holiday season.

I am proud to say that most of the Wayne County children are being really good -- and the Elfs on the Shelf are having a pretty easy year.

It was easy for me to mark "Nice" on almost all the names on the Excel spreadsheet that covers this county.

The problem came when the reports starting coming in for some of the adults.

It seems this Christmas has been particularly stressful for many of you out there -- and more than a few of you are letting the stress of the holiday interfere with your Christmas spirit. There were quite a few of the usual suspects bouncing between the naughty and nice lists -- all the county commissioners and city council members as well as a few teachers and principals from the local schools. You know who you are.

And then there was Mayor Al King. Tsk, tsk. The elves tell me he almost always just makes it on the nice list by the skin of his teeth.

I managed not to delete anything important or to press any buttons I shouldn't have, so it looks like Christmas is still on schedule.

I did check to see before I left if I was on the nice list -- and so far, so good.

As I prepared to head home, I poked my head into Santa's office to say good-bye.

He was busy deciding on the Christmas Eve meals for the reindeer and shining up the bells for their reins.

"Everything on schedule, Laura?" Santa asked.

"I have everything working like a well-oiled machine, Santa," I said.

Stan rolled his eyes.

"Call me a little earlier next year and I can clear my schedule to help you pack for your Christmas Eve trip," I said.

Stan got a look of panic on his face.

"We really need you for more bear-hugging next year, Laura," he said.

"I will pencil you in," I said.

Santa gave me a big hug -- and even Stan made sure I took home a magic bell to commemorate my trip.

And as I got back into the reindeer express, I heard Santa call out one more message -- this one for the people back home.

"Tell everyone in Wayne County not to worry, my GPS will have me there in plenty of time before Christmas. Wish all the boys and girls and their moms and dads a Merry Christmas for me."

And so I am, as an official Santa's helper, wishing all of you and yours a happy, happy holiday season.