"We're trying to bring in some non-unionized elves. They're hard to find, though," he answered.
I was surprised. "Elves have a union?"
Santa nodded grimly. "They're all unionized now. First the dwarfs, then the pixies, now the elves. It's not like the good old days. You just can't find good help anymore," he grumped.
"I'm sorry about the elves, sir. How are the reindeer?"
He sighed. "It looks like I'll have to get rid of them They don't meet the new mileage standards. Even the best only get 12 miles a prance. I'm thinking of buying a Datsun."
I decided to change the subject. "Have you been receiving many gift requests through the mail this year?"
"Oh, yes. I get many letters, but I'm getting tired of the late mail delivery."
"When does it usually arrive?"
"Not until May."
Trying to avoid discussing Christmas, I asked, "How is Mrs. Claus?"
Santa frowned. "Don't let her hear you say 'Mrs.,' young man. It's 'Ms.' now."
"Well, how is Ms. Claus doing?"
Santa shook his head. "She's gone on a health kick. She jogs every day, and she's already lost 120 pounds. She's also become a vegetarian. I can't stand it!"
Suddenly Ms. Claus ran into the room wearing a candy-striped sweatsuit, sweatband and Walkman. "Nickie, it's time for your kelp juice," she called.
"Thank you, dear," Santa replied with a grimace. Then he whispered to me, "My doctor says egg nog is too high in cholesterol."
My presence, I thought, was depressing Santa, so I stood and said, "Well, sir, I'd better be going."
"When you get home, send me a big, juicy steak, will you?" Santa pleaded.
"Will do," I promised as I left the house, Outside, the elves were still protesting.
"Merry Christmas," I called as I closed the door.
As I walked away, I thought I heard a faint "Ho, ho, humbug!"