Santa might end up getting more than just milk and cookies this year. It seems that by the time Christmas is over, the jolly old elf could also end up with a nasty case of Swine Flu.
It still seems a little early to be thinking about Christmas, but considering that stores have already had their Christmas decorations out for months and companies have already started rolling their Christmas commercials, like it or not, the holiday season is officially upon us.
That means that it’s that time of year when older guys cash in on their beer guts and bushy gray beards and earn some extra cash dressing up as Santa at their local malls. And while sitting in a chair while a bunch of snot-nosed kids drool and sneeze on you while begging for presents must be tough on the immune system to begin with, this year the added risk of contracting H1N1 has made things even more daunting for these Santas. Making matters worse, Santa’s bowl full of jelly-esque stomach could increase the risk of contracting the disease, since research suggests obesity is a factor.
To lower the risk of contracting the disease, several Santa groups have held seminars offering tips. The Amalgamated Order of Real Beard Santas recently had a conference in Philadelphia to offer strategies on how to lower the danger of contracting the disease; things like taking vitamins to boost the immune system and frequent use of hand sanitizer. What worries me most is the fact that they were willing to travel to Philly for this conference, a godless place that has made its anti-Christmas sentiments well-known by loudly booing Santa at a Philadelphia Eagles game a few years back.
But while hand sanitizing and vitamins are helpful, they are really only a first step in protecting our men in red. That’s why Ernest Berger, president of Santa America, spoke with Alabama congressman Jo Bonner last week in hopes of getting Santas considered a top priority to receive H1N1 vaccines. A spokesman for Bonner said staff members were currently considering it. Hopefully they will reach a decision soon, since even if they did make Santas preferential treatment, they would still have to make a list of Santas who needed the shot and check it twice before they could actually administer the vaccine.
Of course, moving these hardworking Santas up to the top of the line is a tough call. You certainly don’t want to show favoritism to a particular group, especially one that has around 200 members who volunteer to visit sick and grieving children every year. After all, their doses could cut into the supply of H1N1 vaccines already being sent to prisoners, Guantanamo Bay detainees and Wall Street executives.
So while members of Congress figure out whether or not to give Santas preferential treatment (a decision which, given their track record recently on health-related issues, should be made sometime around September 2010), Santa America is looking for other ways to keep their members healthy. They said members will be washing their red suits daily instead of weekly and will leave off the white gloves so that they can frequently wash their hands.
But even that may not be enough. The director of health services at Dartmouth College, Dr. Jack Turco, went as far as to suggest that Santas should consider making coughing children stand in a separate line or actually having children stand a few feet away when talking to Santa, rather than having them sit on his lap.
I say why stop there? We could take advantage of the tech-savvy nature of today’s youth and have them text their gift requests to Santa while standing 50 feet away from him. Or we could have one of the elves dressed in a bio-hazard suit go up to the children, ask them what they want and then relay the message back to the big guy.
If those methods seem too impersonal, we could always lock Santa in an airtight chamber and have the children speak to him the way Clarice interacts with Hannibal Lecture in Silence of the Lambs. I’m sure the kids would love that. Besides, Santa’s new quid pro quo policy would help them learn the importance of giving this holiday season.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.