Friday, December 13, 2013

All I Want for Christmas is Queue

Greetings Santa,

I know it's been a long time since I last penned a letter to the North Pole, and I'm far too old to be putting in requests for my Christmas stocking, but I have a few things on my mind that I would like to share with you.

As you know, I popped in to your local headquarters the other day to see you for the first time in nearly twenty years (shhh, please don't repeat that too loudly) to chew the proverbial fat, and to introduce you to my little girl on the eve of her first silly season.

While it was lovely to catch up on old times, I couldn't help but notice that there have been some significant changes in your department since we last smiled in front of the magical Christmas camera together.

As I stepped through the snow covered gate that separates the white goods from your enchanted woods this year, the stripes on my observational candy cane of change started zinging out of control.

First up, I noticed that your normal contingent of elves was missing from the action -
not a single pointed shoe or elfin ear in sight. Your beloved elfin friends appear to have been replaced by a small army of helpers of an unidentifiable magical creature origin, wearing perfectly average human ears and sensible polo shirts.

Mrs Claus was also conspicuously absent from the fanciful festive proceedings, although I can extrapolate that's probably because she has a sweet empire of her own, and has far more pressing things to do than watch you fulfill your merry commitments in suburban shopping malls each December.

While pondering Mrs Claus' possible whereabouts, I noticed that your personal letter box has been switched out for a computer covered in fake snow, where children can take advantage of your free Wi-Fi and email you a Christmas wish list, complete with model numbers and instructional graphics to seal the deal.

Just watching the little wizards clicking away on the track pad and selecting holly covered template backgrounds made me feel like a relic from the Land before Time - and that reference probably consolidates my ancient status.

It's not just the mail box though. The traditional film camera that snapped our mugs years ago has been carted off to the museum, replaced by a sleek digital number with a suite of impressive options and an attached viewing screen.

I'm all for converting over to the the digital photo medium, but I was shocked to discover that the rushed one-shot-one-expression has disappeared into the back paddock and made way for an impromptu professional portrait shoot.

The non-elfin-helpers now snap, resnap, and snap photos again, allowing mums to rule out unfortunate facial freeze frames and smooth down wayward cowlicks before they are immortalised in the yellowed recesses of family photo land. 

Another seismic shift in proceedings is that your photos are now available for immediate collection from the magical photograph kiosk outside the gates, with online packages and USB copies available to complement the physical prints.

There is no more agonising wait for the postman or the expensive twenty-four hour express pick up option to see if you have conquered or destroyed the annual family photo, and no more being sent to your room for spilling juice on the only enlarged copy (sorry, Mum).

The miniature candy canes and milk bottle lollies have also been retired to the back paddock - and while I know there are plenty of dental concerns and food allergy issues and food safety and handling procedures in play, my nostalgic taste buds want to throw a tantrum of naughty list proportions. 

Your big plush seat surrounded by empty gift-wrapped boxes and life size candy canes has disappeared, and the proscenium arch style centre stage concept has been thrown out with the reindeer water.

Instead of sitting in the middle of your kingdom sharing belly laughs and big-hearted waves with all the true believers, you now spend your late November and early December days tucked away out of sight in a cubicle with a large prohibitive door and a handful of protective helpers.

The icing on the change cake, though, is that you now take official appointments as well as casual visitors seeking a spontaneous chat and photograph (pending availability, within the allocated casual visiting hours, on certain days of the week). 

When one of your efficient helpers asked if I had an appointment, I almost slipped on the imaginary reindeer poo in shock. An appointment. To see you. For a two minute chinwag and catch up.

Seriously, what gives Santa?

I get that you're a popular guy, and that I'm just one (really overgrown) kid out of oodles and noodles of excited kids across the globe wanting to catch a moment of your time, and I understand you need to protect your regular toilet and meal break entitlements with stringent work hours - but did it really have to come to this? 

A significant chunk of your charm has always been your accessibility - anyone and everyone could approach your awesome velvet covered shopping centre chair and have a catch up, a happy snap and a quick run through the wish list.

Sure, there were queues, and sometimes there were really really long queues, where you would almost melt down into your rubber thongs and overdose on Mintie freshness and Fantale stickiness waiting to get through the wooden gate and to the front of the line.

The wait was just part of the tradition though, and even though it seemed a little incongruous to the occasion - much like leaving out a saucer of milk in Australian summer heat to refresh the reindeer or roasting a turkey in a heatwave - it was worth every calve muscle cramp and frustrated parent sigh.

Of course, you and I both know that these changes are not universal across your famous chain. I am (well and truly) old enough to understand logistical purposes require you to have different magical headquarters in shopping centres across the world, and that each Santa HQ hotspot has a unique set of helpers and daily operating procedures.

Chances are that if I had a sleigh of my own and visited you in all your different enchanted setups this year, Santa, I'd find Mrs Claus and some pointy elfin ears and even a lifetime supply of free candy canes in every flavour of the rainbow.

I get that there are variations on the standard theme, just as I get that big changes can happen in the lofty space of twenty years - goodness only knows I've lived from childhood to parenthood and every other stop in between over the course of the two decades just gone.

But when Santa moves to streamline his shopping centre operations and boost efficiency, well, the warning bells really should start ringing at high volume from the tip of the North Pole to the bottom of the South.

The world seems to have lost it's funny bone since I was kid, and replaced it with an increased push to streamline efficiency and maximise productivity while following a complex web of regulations and posing for obligatory duck face selfies.

The last thing I want for Christmas is the see the magic of the season and the dreams of my childhood drowning under the weight of appointment times, online booking regulations and the pressure of taking the perfect Santa photo.

If my name does chance to appear on the nice list this year, Santa, please just give me a miniature candy cane, a hilariously bad photo and a twenty to thirty-five minute wait to hang out with you in person.

I'll be the happiest big kid in town.

M x

P.S Best regards to Mrs Claus and the elves 

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