As most of you are aware, Santa is a slacker. He lives at the North Pole, which has a high unemployment rate, and he works one day a year, when he delivers toys to all the good boys and girls around the world. It is true his day is longer than most, since he crosses all the times zones. But still: that's maybe 48 hours of labor a year. Most out-of-work actors work more than that. In addition, many households leave him snacks, so essentially he is taking all the law-mandated breaks for the year during that 48 hours of intense labor. The rest of the work is done by elves.
Long ago, Santa used to supervise the elves. He's read off his list: "Billy wants a pair of skates, Susie wants a dolly, hohoho..." And the elves would hop to and make said pair of skates and said dolly. But face it. Anyone can read off a list. So Santa handed that task over to the elves, as well. As for making a list and checking it twice? You guessed it. More elf labor.
The along came swine flu. You'd think, at the North Pole, germs wouldn't have a snowball's chance of surviving. But think about it. All the children write letters to Santa. They use big fat pencils, which they chew on. They sneeze of the lined notebook paper. And then, when their germy letters are finished, the put them in an envelope and lick the flap shut. Stamps are self-adhesive these days, but more than one child has sealed his letter with a big fat kiss. Make that one germ-infested kiss.
Most years a few of the elves come down with the flu, and many come down with tiny head colds. (They are elves, after all.) But this year, swine flu hit them like a ton of, well, pigs.
There were only a few weeks until Christmas and the elves were all sneezing and coughing and using all the fake snow as handkerchiefs. It was a mess. Santa was forced to consult the lists himself. He had to read letters himself. And he needed help.
But where does a legendary world figure go for help in a time like this? Duh. Craig's List.
So Santa checked the ads. And there it was, right next to "girl's who know how to use apostrophe's" and the person who will teach you how to walk your cat on a leash. Small creatures who bring good fortune and happiness, willing to work all around the world, in any climate. It sounded like the answer to Santa's dilemma. He did, after all, need small creatures who didn't mind the cold (-16 degrees F today) and didn't mind hard work 24/7, no breaks until December 25th).
In truth, the creatures in the ad were Maneki Nekos. Known for their work in Japan, where they bring good fortune when they raise their right paw, or business to an establishment when they raise their left paw. They had been working on a marketing campaign of world-wide recognition, and were willing to do most anything to attain their goal.
Their statues could now be seen in front of Japanese restaurants world wide.
And more had been appearing on jewelry, and desktops.
Still, they were not as widely known as they would like. To gain greater visibility and to market themselves more effectively, they applied for the job of Santa's elves. It was only a short gig, after all, and their visibility at the North Pole was close to zero. (In fact, visibility at the North Pole was close to 0.)
Santa, having no other options, sent his sleigh to pick them up.
You might have caught the NASA reports on the news about an airborne sleigh pulled by eight reindeer (Rudolph had the night off) and no driver. Since the sleigh normally was filled with toys, packing it with maneki nekos was not a problem. It picked them up in Hawaii and Australia, Canada and Guatemala, Lapland and Greenland and Russia and Mongolia. It did a worldwide sweep and collected every willing maneki neko on the planet. Then, with all of them waving wither their right paw, their left paw, or both paws, off the went to Santa's Workshop.
Santa was a bit distressed when he realized his new workforce didn't have opposable thumbs.
This slowed the nekos down a bit. In fact, they started to suffer from lowered elf esteem. They soon felt overworked, under-appreciated and like they didn't exist to others during the holidays while in actuality, the season's success depended on them.
But they were maneki nekos, after all. They had magical qualities on their side, or so the legend goes. By waving their right paws and their left paws, and forming an assembly line, they set to work on the toys, whistling as they worked. (They thought that was part of the job description. Actually that was a job for dwarf miners.)
Bruno was in charge.
Harrison, Kiko, and Maribell were in charge of dolls and stuffed toys.
Bernard, Noriko, and Kyoko handled building toys.
Jesse was in charge of puzzles and games.
Masako handled CDs, computer games, and DVDs.
Ken oversaw sporting goods.
James took care of story books.
Then everyone pitched in. The wrapped the gifts and and loaded up the sleigh.
And away they all flew, like the down on a thistle. And I heard them exclaim, as Santa drove out of sight, "I hope the kids of the world like maneki nekos, because that's what's in every one of those packages!"
Someone even got some earrings and charms.
And to all a good night.