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Boldly Going Nowhere

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Santa Dimension

When I was about 5 years old, I was real excited to learn that Santa Claus was going to appear at my house early on Christmas Eve to personally hand Christmas presents to my little brother and me. My parents explained that Santa was doing this as a special treat for us since we didn't have a chimney.

Sure enough, Santa showed up. Although he was over an hour late, according to my mother, I was thrilled to see him. I rushed outside in the cold Wisconsin night but stopped several feet short. Santa was clearly wearing a mask on his face. I asked him why he was wearing a mask and he told me it was to keep warm.

Later that holiday season, I learned it was my grandfather pretending to be Santa and that my mother was very upset with him for showing up late and drunk. My mother explained that Santa had so many houses to visit that evening that he didn't have time to make special stops and that my grandfather was just pretending to be Santa to make us happy. Naturally, I bought the explanation. My grandfather was always a great guy, drunk or sober, and I appreciated him for stopping by on such a cold night just to please my brother and me.

A few years later, in the second grade, I was hanging out with a couple of my buddies during recess. Usually we would shoot marbles behind a big oak tree so our teacher, Mrs. Pringle, couldn't see us. Mrs. Pringle didn't like it when her boys would participate in games of chance, especially when marbles would change hands.

Instead of playing marbles, we got into a discussion about Santa Claus. There had been some speculation that Santa Claus didn't really exist so the three of us tried to figure it out logically. Duncan Jones was the brains of the group, Vinny Gagliardi was ever so inquisitive, while I was more action oriented, preferring to play marbles rather than attempt to fathom the unfathomable.

It all started when Vinny came up with a series of intriguing questions. How does Santa visit so many houses on a single night? How can he get all those presents in his sleigh? How can reindeer fly? How does a hefty guy like Santa manage to slip down a chimney and get back to the roof? What does Santa do when there is no chimney? How does Santa know whether you were naughty or nice? And so on and so on.

Duncan made some quick calculations. He figured if there were a billion houses and Santa took only a minute per house, or 60 houses per hour, it would take about 17 million hours, not counting flying time. Then there was the flying reindeer problem. Duncan and I were fairly certain reindeer couldn't actually fly, but Vinny wasn't so sure. He had seen an elephant fly in a Disney cartoon and it looked feasible to him.

Soon a light bulb went off just above Duncan's head. Suppose there was a parallel universe. Santa could pop in and out of our reality almost instantaneously while doing most of his work in a parallel dimension. This would impose an anomaly in the continuum of time and space whereby a few seconds of our reality could be a year of Santa reality.

This could also explain the reindeer problem. They don't actually fly; they're merely transported to our reality directly onto the roof and disappear the same way. Santa makes his way into the house in the same manner. It's simply a matter of hyper-dimensional travel between simultaneous planes of existence.

The bell rang and we had to go back inside where Mrs. Pringle made us print the alphabet all afternoon. She wanted to make sure we slanted our letters at the proper angle. Mrs. Pringle always emphasized penmanship and seating posture, but had a phobia about teaching math. Numbers greater than 20 made her nose bleed.

It's strange how so many parents are unaware of parallel dimensions. They tell their kids the most ridiculous tales to make up for their lack of knowledge about the anomalies of the continuum of time and space.

I left a plate of cookies out for Santa last year. The next morning the plate was empty. I'm not exactly sure what happened -- but my dog had some cookie crumbs on his whiskers and didn't eat much that day.

Merry Christmas.