Last night I watched the Lewis Black special on surviving the holidays. People talked about believing in Santa Claus, and it reminded me of a call I once got.
The newsroom phone had been ringing, and no one was around, so I answered it. It was a news tip call. The rule on these was the receiver had to type the tip into the computer on the Newstips document.
The caller was an old man. His news tip was a Christmas memory. I knew they wouldn’t use it, but I set to typing his story.
When he was a little boy in New York, his family was poor. They lived in a tenament apartment on the third floor, and he went to sleep Christmas Eve with only a couple of gifts under the tree — nothing big enough to be the train set he wanted.
It was a one-bedroom pad, so he slept on the living room couch.
He woke up as a man in Santa garb clambered through the window.
He watched the man crouch under the tree and reach for the two sorry packages under the unadorned limbs.
“What are you doing, Santa?”
The man swore. He hadn’t noticed the child on the couch. “Just making the rounds.”
The little boy began to cry. “I didn’t think you were going to remember us. I’m so happy you came.”
“Tell Santa what you want for Christmas.” Softie.
The burglar rummaged through his booty for a train set and left it under the tree before going back through the window with another curse.
The caller said his parents were thoroughly confused the next day when he pulled the set out of its box.
He told me a string of burglaries was later reported on the news. Among the items reported stolen was an expensive train set.
I feigned outrage. “You’re reporting this NOW?”