Monday, December 20, 1999
Getting Educated, Turning Sweet
Today was a big day here. Shortly before 8 this morning two elves
came knocking on my door. They asked to use my phone. Something
about needing a jump start for a Gremlin. They were cute. I
let them in. Big mistake. Before I knew it, I was being given
the talking to of my life.
The first thing they did was make clear that I was not Santa Claus.
Seems they both knew Santa. Santa was a good friend of theirs.
If there was one thing they knew above all others, it was that I was no
Santa. The fact that I had been mistaken for Santa by an anonymous
fellow restaurant patron just yesterday only made them giggle.
The second thing they stressed was that bad things tend to happen to people
who say Santa is an ex-con. Although they took great pains to assure
me they were not making any threats, they said they felt morally obliged
to inform me that the last three on-line journallers who had mentioned
more than once that St. Nicholas had spent time in a Roman jail had come
to sudden, unfortunate ends. While I might go on to lead a long and
happy life if I ever again made mention of the good Saint's stay in the
slammer, they were of the opinion that the odds were against me.
The third thing they wanted me to know was that Santa had actually been
tortured during his incarceration and that it was unseemly to make fun
of anyone who had endured such an ordeal. I must admit, however,
that I didn't follow all the points they made in this regard due to the
extreme queasiness I began feeling as visions of Santa being tortured filled
my head. Did the Romans deny him his figgy pudding? Use Easter
egg dyes to color the white cuffs of his suit sickening pastel shades?
Force him to sit through yet another running of "It's A Wonderful Life"?
When I regained consciousness the elves were well into their fourth point:
The Santas we see in malls and parades are merely Deputy Santas but still
have nearly all the powers of Santa Himself. As it turns out, only
The Big Red One (as he's known to the Secret Service) has the power to
perform weddings, officiate at ship launchings, and dress up in Mrs. Claus'
Finally, they got to their fifth point: If I didn't get into the
Christmas spirit soon, they were going to come back and kick my ass.
There was something about the way their scowls crinkled up the scars on
their faces as they said this that made me take them very seriously....
Not wanting my ass kicked, I spent the rest of the day doing my best to
get into the "peace on earth, good will towards men" thing.
And as luck would have it, my first opportunity to change my grumpy ways
came at the very same restaurant I had been mistaken for Santa yesterday.
Usually when I go there, or to any other restaurant, I'm a rather tough
customer. First I ask for a menu that doesn't have grape jam smears
on it, then I ask the waiter or waitress to bring me a list of the various
styles of silverware they offer. It's a little known fact that most
eating establishments have complete sets of a wide variety of silverware
styles and patterns but you have to know enough to ask to see the utensils
menu if you're going to avoid getting stuck with the very plain default
fork, spoon, and knife.
Our waitress today acted as if she had no idea what I was talking about.
Some do that, just to be ornery. You have to be persistent - or,
as my imaginary friend, Hans, puts it so memorably, "It's the squeaky wheel
that gets the cutlery." For once, however, I chose instead to slip
into the Christmas spirit and demurred. Not only did this serve to
make our waitress' job easier, it also amounted to a tacit acknowledgment
on my part that it didn't matter in any case. Although I often request
a better style of silverware when I dine out, I never use it - it's just
for show. For actual eating purposes, I always draw upon my own supply.
Why? Because restaurant silverware, however fancy, has probably
been used by other people. And because I use a vast amount of
it and few restaurants will accommodate me. In point of fact, I draw
a new fork out of a coat or pants pocket for every bite of food I take.
Why? To avoid auto-contamination, that's why! Someday
it'll be mandatory. If you're smart, you'll beat the rush and start
Anyway, my dining while still under the influence of elves served to brighten
the holiday season for at least one waitress in the world today by making
her job just a little bit easier (whether she knew it or not), and I feel
good about that.
So good, in fact, that maybe I'll brighten the life of another fellow human
being next year, too.
Oh, what the heck - I think I'll go make a note to do so right now.
(All Material ©1999 by Dan Birtcher
using a different pen for each word
in hopes of keeping this entire document
as intellectually sterile and free of
permanent value as possible)