Wednesday 16 December 2009

My Day As A Factory Supervisor

I love this time of year. The drizzle, the crowds of gimps squeezing into Debenhams to buy an overpriced packet of gobstoppers for someone they vaguely know, the slightly creepy animatronic figures in shop windows, and of course, that constant sense of wonder and excitement coming off of children everywhere.

I’m also reminded of the time last year, when I found myself on a plane to Lapland with my head in my hands, muttering that I really did have to find a better temp agent than Bjorn.

Landing at Lapland International airport, I was greeted by a two foot tall elf in a green felt outfit, holding up an A3 piece of card with my name across it in magic marker. “Hi,” I said, when I reached him. “That’s me.”

“Hello there.” said the elf in a surprisingly bass voice. “I’m Ingrid, one of Santa’s toy makers. You must be the new factory overseer.”

“Uh, yeah, sure.” I replied. I had actually been told I was to be attending to the Herculean task of cleaning out the reindeer stables. Whilst that wouldn’t have been the worst job I’d ever had, working in a factory sounded a lot warmer, easier and a lot less faeces heavy than the original position. So, who was I to argue?

Ingrid led me out into the car park. I was expecting to see some kind of sleigh, pulled by a team of reindeer, but I was actually walked to a neon-pink Smart car.

“Hop in!” smiled Ingrid. I climbed in, smacking my forehead on the sun-visor.

Ingrid dashed us through the snow, in a one-horsepower urban vehicle. Through the fields we went, Ingrid laughing maniacally all the way. “So,” I said. “What’s the job like here?”

“Oh, you’ll love it!” said the demented dwarf. “It’s mostly a case of making the bootleg packaging look as much like the original as possible, and keeping the conveyor belts from clogging up.”

“Bootleg packaging?” I asked, alarm bells going off once again.

“Did I say ‘bootleg packaging’?” asked Ingrid, blushing. “I’m sorry, I have a speech impediment that makes ‘festive gift-wrapping’ sound like ‘bootleg packaging’.”

“But you just said it.” I pointed out.
“Oh...I mean I have a speech impediment that makes ‘bootleg packaging’ sound like ‘bootleg packaging’”.

“Oh. Me too, I think.” I said.

We finally arrived at our destination. A cutely decorated cottage in a winter wonderland, that looked like every cartoon drawing of Santa’s home I had ever seen. Ingrid led me up to the front door, and showed me in. There, sitting in the front room, was the big guy himself.

“Hey, Big S!” called Ingrid, slapping Santa Claus a hip-hop style weird hand-shake. “This is the new guy, the one who’s overseeing the packaging production.”

“Ho-ho-ho!” laughed the big man. “Good to see you, little boy!”

“I’m not a little boy.” I replied. “I’m twenty-six.”

The old man ignored me and went on with his spiel. “Well, come, let me show you around.” I was led into the main work room, where lots of people like Ingrid were packing toys into cardboard boxes.

“The recession is biting deep everywhere,” said Santa, “so we’re having to downgrade some of the toys. For example, young Jimmy Pugh here has asked for a Ben 10: Alien Force Omnitrix watch. Our budget doesn’t stretch that far, so we’ve given him some left over Robot Wars stuff instead.”

Robot Wars?”

“Yeah, well,” muttered Santa. “Craig Charles looks a bit like Humongousaur, doesn’t he?”

I conceded. “But this packaging here says Gobot Wars.”

Santa smiled at me. “Ah-ha! I see you’re going to be good at this job already. Pick one of the elves and give him a beating. They’ll learn quick enough.”

“A beating?”

“Sure. They respond best to corporal punishment. Here, use this.”

Santa handed me a genuine Toronto Maple Leafs hockey stick. “Wow! Thanks, Santa!”

After sending a Nintendo DS flying through the air, concussing a nearby elf, I continued to study the racks of toys moving through the factory...Go-Go Guinea Pigs, various films from a chap named Walt Sidney, WCW action figures. I counted them off, slinging a variety of pucks into the bloodied frenzy below.

As I took a break for lunch, Ingrid sidled up to me. “Hey, have you noticed anything suspicious going on around here?”

I looked him up and down. “You’re two foot tall, dressed in green felt, and sound like James Earl Jones. I’m just flown over 2,000 miles to be paid five-seventy-five an hour to criticise toy box art and fire hockey pucks into a busy factory. No. Nothing seems suspicious to me.”

Ingrid ignored my protestations. “I mean, with the toys.”

I nodded. “Indeed, I have, Ukko.”


“I plan on confronting the old man today.”

When Santa arrived in the workshop that day, my eye was drawn to the rather suspect Dino-Bot Riders box under his arm. I decided to strike. Placing a Go-Go Guinea Pig down on the floor, I took a slapshot that Wayne Gretzky would have been proud of. The motorised rodent spat down the corridor, cracking Santa Claus square on the temple.

“Wank!” cried the old man. “What the fuck was that for?”

The elves all turned to look at me as I called out to the jolly red clothed man. “The game’s up, Bin Laden. I suggest you come quietly.”

Santa tore off his hat and beard, revealing himself as the evil leader of the Taliban. “Curse you! How did you know it was me?”

“Easy, Bin Laden. Santa Claus would never stoop to using bootleg toys. He prides himself in his handywork. You siphoned off the money to fund your evil schemes, whilst distributing bootleg toys to the children of the world.”

“How did you spot them as bootlegs?”

“Some were hard to spot... TNA action figures, for example. Those were nothing more than old WCW wrestlers re-packaged as...oh, no, wait. These are kosher. But this, was your biggest mistake!” I brandished the hockey stick high. “You did your job a little too well with this. I haven’t missed a shot all day...and everyone knows that the hockey sticks wielded by the Toronto Maple Leafs are unable to hit a fucking thing. Apparently.”

Bin Laden let out a scream and ran from the building, into the night. “I’ll get you, Harmer! Next time! Next time!!!”

I turned to Ingrid. “So, what did that douche do with the real Santa?”

Ingrid chuckled and seemed to magically grow in size. “Ho-ho-ho! Didn’t you guess? I am the real San...”

“Yeah, all right.” I said. “I was only asking to be polite. I’m not actually interested.”

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