As a child, I had an unusual knack for encountering mythical creatures. I caught a leprechaun in a hole on the school playground once, and I stayed up all night to catch the Tooth Fairy in the act—twice. But to the best of my knowledge, I have never had a substantial conversation with Santa Claus.
This year, I decided to change that.
The trick to meeting any supernatural person or being is always convincing the creature to come to you. You’re never going to be able to track them on their own turf, where they’ve honed camouflage techniques for centuries. But every one of them has a weakness that will draw them out. A child’s tooth, for example, will summon the Tooth Fairy.
Santa Claus is more difficult, so I assembled the whole team here at the Transcript-Bulletin to help draw him to our office. Someplace to put presents—a Christmas tree with lights or stockings hung in a row—is a must.
Foodstuffs can be helpful, especially baked goods like cookies, or hot chocolate or milk. My mother recommended that we leave something out for the reindeer as well, such as a carrot or a little bowl of oatmeal.
We turned off all the lights and pretended to be asleep—another essential part of attracting Santa, because he never arrives until everyone in the house is fast asleep—and at about 1 a.m. we heard prancing and pawing of hooves on the roof.
Santa was, as you might expect, somewhat surprised to find a team of journalists waiting for him inside. But he took the discovery in stride and agreed good-naturedly to a short interview.
Penrod: Santa, so good of you to join us tonight. How was your flight?
Claus: A little breezy in the open sleigh. At the speed we go wind chill is a big factor, but that’s what long underwear is for.
Penrod: I know you’re very busy, so I’ll keep it to just a few short questions. Is it true that you and your elves live in a castle at the North Pole?
Claus: There’s a little girl at the next stop who is still awake, so I can spare some time. The Claus castle isn’t actually located exactly at the pole. The Earth’s magnetic fields shift over time, and the castle doesn’t move with the pole.
Penrod: So where is it?
Claus: I’m not at liberty to disclose that.
Penrod: On another subject, then. What of the practice of giving naughty children coal? I hear you’ve discontinued that.
Claus: The EPA requires me to use sulfur-free coal and with the number of naughties on the rise, the coal bill gets very high, plus some kids thought they were a pet rock, I’ve been substituting with fruitcakes for a few years now.
Penrod: But you still have the Naughty and Nice List?
Claus: Yes. The elves help me keep tabs on children all over the world. Occasionally a child’s status on the naughty list might be a factor in the number of batteries I deliver with their presents.
Penrod: Say you got yourself in some trouble over the summer that may have landed yourself on the naughty list. Isn’t there anything a kid can do to be listed as nice again?
Claus: Well, if you wait until the very last minute—you could always clean your bedroom. Cleaning your room without being asked has all sorts of redemptive power.
Penrod: But say it’s already Christmas Eve. Do you accept bribes?
Penrod: What is your favorite kind of cookie?
Claus: I like a good old fashioned chocolate chip. If they’re still warm and the chocolate still gooey, I’ll take you off the naughty list. Oh dear, look at the time—I best be off.
Penrod: I certainly don’t want to keep you. You have a tight schedule tonight. Safe flying!