The Naughty List
The phone rang and he picked it up, cradled it in his shoulder, and kept working.
“This is Santa.”
“Wow–really? Wow, I thought–wow, I can’t believe I got through. I thought I’d be on hold for, like, at least two hours or something. OK, sorry Santa, here I am rambling and I know you’re super busy. Um, my name is Terry Means, and, um…I was wondering if–um, if you…maybe could…tell me if I’m on The Naughty or Nice List? I mean, if you’re not too busy, I–”
“Sure, no problem. I actually have the lists right here in front of me. Terry, can you spell your last name for me?”
“OK, and date of birth?”
“All right…aaand, your mother’s maiden name?”
“OK…let’s see…well, good news, son: You are on The Nice List!”
“OK…um, well, that’s why I was calling…the thing is–you can probably see this if you’re looking at your records–the thing is…I have never been on The Nice List before. Ever.”
“Well–I guess this’ll be a Christmas to remember, then!”
“Yeah, it’s just…this is going to sound weird, but I was…was wondering if you could maybe put me on The Naughty List instead?”
“The thing is–sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt–but the thing is, I just found out recently–after trying my best to be good all year, of course–that if I’m on The Naughty List this year I will break the World Record for Most Consecutive Years On The Naughty List, and…well, I just think it’d be cool to be a World Record holder, so…you know…”
“Well, Terry, I can tell you from experience that it is pretty cool to be a World Record holder. I hold two of ’em myself.”
“Seriously? Cool! In what?”
“Well, one is for Most Global Toy Deliveries Completed In One Evening…”
“OK, yeah. I can see that, that makes sense.”
“…and the other is for, um…Most Chicken Wings Eaten In One Minute.”
“Way. Yeah, I don’t normally enter those eating contests, but I do love me some hot wings.”
“Thank you…but I digress. To answer your question: Unfortunately, no. I can’t simply move someone from one list to the other. And I always get lots of requests to do so–although it’s usually the opposite of what you’re asking.”
“The thing is, The Naughty and Nice List is a strictly merit-based system; one we’ve used, well, forever. Because it works. If we started arbitrarily moving people from list to list, then the system would lose all meaning, I’d be stripped of my authority, and–well, it’s a slippery slope. I hope you understand. But look at it this way–on the plus side, you’re getting presents this year!”
Terry sat there listening to Santa’s spiel. He didn’t understand. He was livid, and he decided at that moment to give Santa a first-hand taste of the temper that was responsible, in large part, for him never having been on The Nice List until this year.
“You know what, Santa? Maybe I didn’t make myself clear, or maybe you didn’t bother to listen to me, but I don’t want presents this year–I want a World Record! You would think, after years–DECADES–of no presents at Christmas, so many years because of ONE slip-up sometime during the year, you would think that after all those years of denial, the fact that I went out of my way to be good this year–the hardest, most miserable year of my life, by the way–you would THINK that finally earning my way onto The Nice List would get me THE ONE AND ONLY THING I WANT!
Oh, but NOOOOO, of course not! Terry’s finally been good, but he STILL doesn’t get what he wants because of some…some…LAME-ASS NORTH POLE POLICY! And on top of that, in case you weren’t bright enough to figure this out, putting me on The Naughty List makes things easier for you! I’m saying DON’T give me presents, make one LESS stop on Christmas Eve! It’s not rocket science, Santa!
But you know what? You keep your, your–integrity, and your authority and whatever. I don’t care–I’m done with Christmas, and I’m done with you. You can BITE ME, SANTA!”
“Well, Terry…I’m sorry you feel that w–”
Terry hung up and hurled his phone across the room.
It was Christmas morning, but Terry hadn’t changed his mind about being done with the holiday, so he slept until 11AM. As far as he was concerned, Christmas was nothing more than an extra day off work.
He eventually forced himself out of bed, shuffled downstairs, and began to make his way towards the kitchen. He was about three steps past the tree when he stopped and turned to look again at what he had seen out of the corner of his eye just a moment before.
It was what he thought. A single present under the tree, a smallish box wrapped in shiny green paper, topped with an equally shiny red bow.
He headed to the tree, bent down, and picked up the box. He lightly shook it; he could hear something rolling around, knocking against the sides of the box.
He turned it over, looking at every side. There was no tag on it.
Terry sat on the floor beside his tree–his sad, undecorated tree that he’d purchased and put up but had not yet decorated when he had decided to boycott Christmas–and untied the bow.
He tore off the paper and opened the box. Inside: A single small lump of coal and a carefully-folded piece of paper.
He unfolded the paper and read:
That was a close one–thought you weren’t going to make it! But nothing gets you on The Naughty List faster than telling Santa to “bite me”!
P.S.–Took the liberty of contacting the Guinness people to confirm you made The Naughty List. They should be contacting you in the next few days.
Terry beamed. He was blown away. Of course that was the answer–Santa couldn’t just move him to The Naughty List, and it would’ve been cheating if he had just plain told Terry how to get on it–but if he did something to earn his way onto it…
He pumped his fist thinking about his World Record, then started laughing. Santa was a genius! He laughed some more.
He got up and set the coal and his note in the center of the fireplace mantel, then spent most of the rest of that Christmas day staring at them, re-reading the note, shaking his head in disbelief, and laughing even more.
He never forgot that record-breaking Christmas, never forgot how Santa totally did him a solid, even after Terry had been a total douche to him.
And for the rest of his life, the name Terry Means never again appeared on The Naughty List.