[An office adjoining a workshop at the North Pole. An elderly gent in a red union suit is behind the desk. He has a pencil behind one ear and is holding a red land phone to the other. His back is turned to the computer screen.]
SC: Heck no, I'm not thinking about retiring. No way! I'm as healthy as a horse.... Actually, it's getting easier, because the toys are so much lighter. In the old days, the stuff weighed a ton. The old Radio Flyer wagons would give you a hernia. And some kid who deserved a record player would break your back. Nowadays, we do most of the stuff in plastic, and geez, a JuiceBox hardly weighs a pound or so... No, I never get tired of it. [Enter Elf.] It gets better every ye -- hey, Safire, my computer guy just walked in. I've got to go. I'll catch up with you after the New Year.... Give my love to that babe Maureen Dowd, will ya?... Atta boy.... Merry Christmas to you, too. [Hangs up.]
Fascist old coot. Hey there, Bruce, did you get my message?
Elf: I got here as soon as it came across my Blackberry.
SC [turning to computer screen]: Well, it's Excel again. I had both the "Naughty" and "Nice" sheets open, and I was having trouble. The Ferguson kids hid their grandfather's toupee the other night, and I was trying to move them all from one sheet to the other all at once. I tried to click and drag, but that just screwed everything up.
Elf: O.k., let's do this together. Highlight the rows with the Ferguson kids in them.... Good. Now right-click. No, right-click there. Click on "Cut." Now go over to the "Naughty" sheet -- no, wait! You don't want to put your cursor there. That will erase the row you're on. Go down to the bottom of the sheet. Wow, that's a long list for "Naughty."
SC: A lot of Republicans on there.
Elf: You might want to think about using Paradox for this next year. O.k., there. Now paste it.
SC: Then can I hit the A-to-Z to [phone rings] -- wait, I've got to take this.... Hello? Oh hi, Heather.... About the homecoming on Saturday afternoon. Yeah. Two whole chickens, they've got to be hot. Irish soda bread, that's right. The real stuff.... A case of Heineken, four cold bottles of Moet.... Yes. And make sure the hot tub is running at 105.... Fine.... Hey, is Shirley there? I want to make sure she's got the travel all set up.... Well, have her call me when she gets back.... Great, see you then. [Hangs up.]
All right, so where were we? O.k., then I hit the button A-to-Z and it reshuffles it? There. What a pain. All right, thank you, your geekiness.
Elf: Santa, while I'm up here, we need to talk seriously about the situation down in I.T.
SC: Now? Twenty-four hours before Christmas? For cryin' out loud, Bruce, we've jacked up your budget higher than anybody else's around here. At some point, we've got to draw the line on the cash flow out.
Elf: I know, sir, but I don't think we're getting enough bang for our buck. Whenever we work on one part of the system, some other part falls out of date. Every time something happens, it seems like we have to get the same information out 10 different times and 10 different ways. Your blog is getting stale, the subscriber list is out of date, we've got to file reports with all the charity regulators -- we can't do everything at once with the setup we've got now.
SC: So what should we do, then? I can't handle this kind of decision. It's what I pay you for --
Elf: I've been looking into subscribing to some software -- [Phone rings.]
SC: Hold on, this could be Shirley.... Hello? Shirley? Have you got itinerary set yet?.... No, it's got to be Max's place on Flamenco Beach.... Ten nights should do it.... I don't care what it costs. Tell him I want the upstairs unit.... Just me and Mrs. Claus.... Great. And tell them to keep the lights on so that we can find that confounded airstrip. That hairpin turn right at the end is a doozie.... Great. Thanks a lot, Shirley. Merry Christmas to you, too. [Hangs up.]
They don't make them like that any more, my friend.
Elf: There's been a marketing guy hanging around from an outfit called Marqui. They say they have communications management software that could help us.
SC: Wait. Break it to me gently -- what are they going to charge?
Elf: They say maybe five grand to start, then maybe a grand a month.
SC: Huh. And I suppose they're paying you to make this pitch to me?
SC: Tell you what. Let's meet with these Marqui guys. But not until I'm back from Culebra. In fact, let's make it after the Super Bowl. Can you hold it together with gum and scotch tape 'til then?
SC: Great. Now if you'll excuse me, son, I've got to get ready for tomorrow night. It's going to be one of the craziest routes yet. Thank goodness for Mapquest.