A short story by Mark Oakeshott.
The boss is not in a good mood thought the elf as he looked through the office window and unloaded the last of the packing materials into the storage facility, not sure that the new-fangled recycled cartons were quite as sturdy as the old days.
While the elf had hoped that the time of year would have lifted spirits at Santa Moving & Storage, it had been a difficult year. To think that only a short time ago we had more business than we could handle, he reflected. Flushed with cash saved during the pandemic, parents went on a spending spree with bigger and better presents for their children. Christmas lists were so long that our only problem was hiring enough elves to handle the volume. All the elves even got pay increases to stop us crossing the road to Amazon!
The elf finished his task and went over to plug in the new electric sleigh, unconvinced that it would have the mileage range necessary to get from New Zealand to Australia, let alone travelling to Europe and beyond. Sure, the new design looked great he thought to himself, but the charging infrastructure is just not in place. Imagine Santa waiting in line at a service station on the autobahn chewing on a bratwurst behind a BMW i7, while the minutes tick by to sunrise he laughed.
It had indeed been a difficult year. Instead of moving home and throwing away old toys, high mortgage rates had meant that people had stayed in place and children had carried on playing with the presents from the previous year. A far cry from the post-pandemic relocation boom from the city to the countryside when all the kids had climbing frames and swing sets on their lists. As a result, average shipment volume was going to fall dramatically this year and bulky outside equipment would be replaced by iPhones, Barbie dolls, and Taylor Swift t-shirts. Whose idea was it to release a movie about a plastic doll anyway thought the elf, scratching his head.
The silence in the half empty warehouse was interrupted as Santa stormed in. “Where’s Mrs Claus?” demanded the boss. “It’s Wednesday,” replied the elf. “She works at home Tuesday to Thursday.” “Working from home!” exclaimed the red-faced old man. “I knew it was a bad idea to allow it in the first place,” he shouted and regretted the day he had ever approved of hybrid working.
Santa returned to the office. Ignoring the “No Smoking” sign on the wall, he lit his pipe and reflected on the year. The decision to diversify into other holidays had not gone well. Easter had been particularly problematic with multiple claims for damaged eggs and his traditional red coat had not gone down well on the 4th of July when he was making firework deliveries. Then the clean air zones introduced in many cities had forced him into unwanted capital expenditure and corporate customers had been more cautious in their investment.
As he reached for the bourbon carefully hidden away from Mrs. Claus in his bottom drawer, he heard a truck pulling into the yard. It was Charlie from Polar Moving in the next town, who had faced the same business challenges this year. A lump came to his throat as he watched the elves help unload a large donation of toys and clothing for children who were not so fortunate this holiday season.
Charlie came shivering into his office, brushing off the snow, with a big smile on his face. “Compliments of the season to you, Santa,” said Charlie as he warmly shook his hand. Santa poured a couple of glasses of Jim Beam and handed one to his old adversary. “You know what Charlie?” he proclaimed. “No matter what anyone says, this is the greatest industry in the world!”