It was so much easier to keep my name off The Naughty List when I was a kid. My mom was there every year like clockwork to remind me that Santa was watching. This perennial prompting was more effective than even candy bribery to shape me into a please-and-thank-you, turn-taking, hand-raising model citizen. The Nice List was practically a lock.
Using the “Santa’s watching!” line on my jaded children never packed the same punch as it did on me. Knowing that Santa was trailing my every move took my mind off the more mundane, seasonal concerns, such as why Santa always reeked of nicotine and summer sausage and only hung out at Otasco. Products of the times in which we live, my own kids practically scoffed at the notion that Santa was watching them, asking instead why Santa gets to be a professional peeping tom whose motives are never questioned.
Knowing I can’t save the others, I can only hunker down and focus on keeping myself off The Naughty List. Exactly how Santa figures the math, I’m not sure, but I try to keep a running tally in my head of points scored for either side of the Naughty/Nice ledger, especially as the big day gets closer.
For you, fair readers, I offer this Holiday Rubric for staying off The Naughty List:
Holding door for strangers entering Starbucks, knowing this will put three people in line ahead of me as a result of the courtesy: +2 points.
Not shouting, “You’re welcome, you ingrates!” when said strangers (obviously raised by wolves) refuse to acknowledge the gesture with a simple, “Thank you!”: +5 points.
Boring holes with my now-twitching evil eye into the backs of their ungrateful heads from the end of the line and entertaining thoughts of them slipping on the ice and chipping several of their front teeth that they’ve just whitened for the holidays: – 5 points.
Net: +2 points.
Letting an idiot cut in front of me during busy Christmas traffic: +2 points.
If I miss the light, thanks to the Einstein who should have known he couldn’t turn left out of that 7-Eleven at any time of day: +3 points.
Not gesturing, honking and yelling, “You’re welcome, a******!” after the pinhead scoots in without so much as a friendly nod: +5 points.
Watching the (obviously wolf-raised) driver sail through the yellow light with a dismissive sense of entitlement and then flooring it through the red light and driving 20 mph over the speed limit to get even with the jerk’s car and flip him a holiday bird: -10 points.
Seeing that the jackass is too busy texting while driving (-5,000 points for jackass) to look up at both my bird and my raging, spasmodic gestures, and then swerving toward him while honking and screaming: -25 points. But totally worth it.
Net: -25 points.
Motioning to a motorist in a crowded parking lot that I’m getting ready to back out and she can have my prime real estate-caliber parking spot: +4 points.
Noticing that the motorist, who should be thanking me on the longest day of her life (read: any weekend shopping day in December), does not acknowledge this gift of the season, but politely freeing up the parking space anyway: +6 points.
Noticing that the motorist does not acknowledge that she has clearly hit the cosmic lottery of the entire holiday season, and then taking a few moments to balance my checking account and work a quick Sudoku while Ants-in-Her-Pants honks: -30 points.
Potential net: +10 points.
More likely net: -20 points.
Hating Dirty Santa parties on the principle that someone always gets the shaft – that someone being me – but accepting an invitation anyway: +3 points.
Buying a fabulous Dirty Santa gift that I’d love to keep for myself, but for once, putting someone else’s holiday joy before my own: +4 points.
Going $20 over the pre-established Dirty Santa budget of $10, because this thing is hilarious/gorgeous/just too perfect and everyone will fight over it: +10 (possibly karmic) points.
Stopping by Walgreens to pick up a card on the way to the Dirty Santa party and spying one of those godawful mounted fish that sing, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” for $9.99 and using the Dirty Santa budget of $10 as an excuse for keeping the fabulous Dirty Santa gift for myself because the idiots at the Dirty Santa party would never appreciate it anyway: -30 (indisputably karmic) points.
Net: -13 points