Claus for alarm

I don’t worry at all that my six-year-old daughter will soon learn that Santa isn’t real. As of Sunday, she still believed him, and this article of faith has been most expensive to her mother and me.

No. That is the least of my worries. Frankly, there are a million other questions about Santa that I dread more.

“Papa, is Santa obsessive-compulsive?” That should be difficult to answer. He makes lists and checks them twice. Normal men don’t make lists, and never check anything twice. Santa, on the other hand, would seem to obsess.

“Papa, wouldn’t you say that Santa has a rather Manichean view of the world?” I would not go so far, my child. But to the extent that he sees everyone in terms of “bad or good” and “naughty or nice”, and acts on the basis of those judgments, let’s just say George W. Bush comes to mind. There is only black or white. The grays don’t get gifts either.

And I will save you the need to ask the question: Yes, my child, it would seem that there are no clear-cut standards of what is “bad” or “good” or “naughty” or “nice”. Santa’s discretionary powers to grant or withhold a bequest do not seem to be, as Justice Cardozo puts it, “canalized within banks to keep them from overflowing”.

Santa Claus, his agents, successors-in-interest and assigns, and all those acting for and in his behalf, such as, but not limited to, Vixen, Blitzen, Pranzer and Dasher, always run the risk of being challenged on the ground of due process.

“Papa, is trespassing illegal in the North Pole?” This is a trick question. This is what lawyers call “laying the predicate”. You know there’ll be a follow-up, and you’ll have to think of a convincing defense for Santa’s rather unconventional means of ingress and egress. “Down the chimney, broad and black, with his pack he’ll creep,” reads rather like the charge sheet in a criminal indictment.

“Papa, under fairly standard stalking laws, wouldn’t Santa be in danger of prosecution?” You would have to clear your throat. How long can you continue defending this man? He sees you when you’re sleeping, and knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good. He’s a menace, for goodness’ sake.

So you better watch out.

“Papa, why doesn’t Santa outsource his toy-making?” Ah, but, my child, he already uses little people and makes them work round-the-clock, free from scrutiny in the North Pole. Nike and Wal-Mart never had that advantage.

Such difficult questions. You never thought Christmas carols would bring so much anxiety. And not just about Santa, either. It’s the whole Christmas “thingy” that seems to raise so many questions in our kids.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly/ ‘Tis the season to be jolly,” the song pipes in, innocently enough, or so you thought.

“Papa, did they have Queer Eye for the Straight Guy makeovers in ancient times?” What? Where did this come from?

“Don we now our gay apparel. . .” the song continues.

Hey, kid. We don’t say “gay apparel” anymore. These days, it’s called “metrosexual”.

SunStar Cebu
23 December 2004

Fair warning

In the first place, why should a pack of condoms come with accompanying literature? That’s why they’re called literature. Men don’t read them unless they’re required reading.

And if they don’t stop men from plugging appliances straight into sockets, anyway, what makes condom manufacturers think situations requiring the use of prophylactics should be any different? It is a superfluity heaped on something that men, deep inside, feel is a superfluity, in the first place.

Maybe the world is just getting so complicated. Manufacturers feel the urgent need to warn everybody about their products, to protect themselves from liability. I once bought a car freshener that carried the warning: “Do not eat!” So I didn’t.

On the manual that came with a flat iron, it said: “Caution: Do not iron clothes on body.” “May irritate eyes,” said the can of self-defense pepper spray. The Christmas lights were tagged: “For internal or external use only.”

And on a box of rat poison, the thoughtful warning: “Warning: Has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.”

In all fairness to manufacturers, there must be some segment of the population that doesn’t already know these things but is smart enough to read, and another one that is smart enough to read but don’t already know these things. It may be that twilight zone that is a rich source of tort liability.

Because we are told by several Internet sites, and are assured that this is not apocryphal, that on the body of a Boeing 757, it is written: “Fragile. Do not drop.” Pilots are busy people; they need to be constantly reminded.

So when I heard that condom manufacturers were catching on, I bought myself several packs of different brands. Solely — if I may just make it clear — for research purposes. For column material. Not to be used for its intended purpose. I have kept them in their unused state, for evidence.

The most helpful instructions were those of this hip new line of condoms that seems, from its packaging, targeted to the young market. So you can understand the high sense of social responsibility that underlies the thoughtful tip: “How to use: Wear condom before intercourse.”

On the instruction manual that accompanied a Malaysian-manufactured condom that prides itself in being “ultra sensitive” is written: “Don’t return used condoms to the distributor through the mail.”

I will, due to the condom’s “ultra sensitive” nature, withhold this incredulous snicker. Perhaps, in Malaysia, there is this phenomenon we don’t know about. People everywhere returning used condoms by mail. Something we should guard against.

Which leaves me with just one question. What does it say about a condom manufacturer that feels the desperate need to implore people not to return used condoms by mail? What kind of marketing pitch is that? Why advertise the fact that apparently unsatisfied users are resorting to their own return policy?

Let’s just say it doesn’t really inspire much consumer confidence. “Dear Manufacturer: As you can see from attached product…”

But maybe they’re banking on the fact that nobody really reads these things. Me? But I just bought them for research purposes.

SunStar Cebu
16 December 2004

%d bloggers like this: