The old man with the red suit and white beard trudged dejectedly into the psychiatrist’s office. The psychiatrist motioned him to lie down on the couch.
“What did you say your name was?”
“Claus. Santa Claus.”
The psychiatrist did a double take. It was indeed Jolly Old St. Nick himself lying before him.
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“Well, Santa, can I call you Santa? This is quite a privilege. What can I do for you?”
“Doc. I need help. I’m quite depressed.”
“Do you want to tell me more?”
As he began his sad tale, Santa sobbed, struggling to get his words out.
“It’s … it’s … Amazon.” The word caught in his throat.
“I hate it, and I hate Jeff Bezos.”
The psychiatrist was puzzled.
“Santa, please go on.”
“It started a couple of years back, but it got really bad this year. First, I noticed fewer letters coming in asking for things. Then, the wishes from kids began falling off. Suddenly, I found myself cutting back on inventory, you know, fewer things to deliver at Christmas.”
The psychiatrist nodded. He was beginning to see the problem.
“This year, first time ever, I started laying off elves. Let me tell you something, Doc. Elves don’t like getting laid off. You know what they do when you give them a pink slip?”
“They kick you in the shins, good and hard.” Santa pulled up his trouser legs to reveal hideous bruises all over. He continued.
“Anyway, I hauled out on my sleigh for deliveries on Christmas Eve. It was much lighter last year because I have fewer presents. And fewer houses to visit. That means fewer reindeer, but I still have to care for them all. Anyway, I had some spare time to investigate. I started going down chimneys and looking at where the stockings were hung with care. You know what I found all over just about every living room?”
“Amazon boxes. Everywhere I looked, Amazon boxes!” Santa was now sobbing uncontrollably.
“It was all I could do to keep from tripping over those Amazon boxes to get to the milk and cookies.”
The psychiatrist gave an understanding look and offered him a Kleenex.
“And you know what, Doc? They’re not even leaving me milk and cookies, anymore. I lost 10 pounds last Christmas. I’ve had to tighten my belt three notches to keep my pants from falling down.”
Santa continued, “It gets worse. Coming home, Rudolph and the other reindeer got buzzed.”
“You mean they had too much eggnog?”
“No, they actually got buzzed. By a drone. Drones! You know what drones could do? They could put me completely out of business. Santa and his sleigh would go the way of the covered wagon.”
Santa took the tissue and spoke softly. “Doc, I’ve already started taking department store temp work. Macy’s. Those kids don’t realize they’re talking to the real Santa. They think I’m too thin to be the real Santa.
“And Mrs. Santa is not happy either. Now every spring when I’m starting to gear up production, she is on my case.”
“It’s a funny thing. The snow is melting at the North Pole. I don’t know why. It used to be ‘Shovel the snow, shovel the snow.’ Now it’s ‘Mow the lawn, mow the lawn.’ Can you imagine? Mowing the lawn at the North Pole? This year I went into the warehouse. I had hundreds of snow shovels — I have plenty left over if you need one, Doc. But I gave my last lawnmower to a groundskeeper in Chicago. What am I going to do?”
The psychiatrist said, “I know where you can get a lawnmower, cheap.”
“They have them on Amaz … no, forget it.”
The doctor looked at his watch; Santa’s 45 minutes were up, a good time to end the session. He scanned his schedule book for Santa’s return visit.
“Santa, when would you like to come back?”
“Well, I have to be at this medical building next week to see the foot and ankle specialist.”
“I’m laying off another hundred elves.”
As Santa got up to leave, the psychiatrist, honored to be Santa’s doctor, said, “No charge, Santa. But could I ask you for something?”
“Sure, after all that’s my business. What would you like?”
“Your autograph for my daughter.”
More than willing to oblige, Santa took a Christmas card from his pocket.
“Now, whom should I make this out to?”
The psychiatrist said, “My daughter’s name is Virginia. I’ve always wanted to say to her, ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.’”
Santa smiled, signed the card and handed it to him.
“Doc, it’s nice to know some people still care. Is there anything I can bring Virginia for Christmas this year?”
The psychiatrist, forgetting himself again for a moment said, “Oh no, but thank you anyway, Santa. She already has Amazon Prime. Free, super-fast delivery.”
The doctor tried to take the words back, but it was too late.
Santa tore the card out of his hand, shot him a dirty look, stormed out, slammed the door behind him and said:
“And no! If I have any say in it, there’s not going to be any Amazon headquarters at the North Pole!”
Cory Franklin is a Wilmette, Ill., physician and author of the book “The Doctor Will See You Now.” He wrote this for the Chicago Tribune.