In the warm spirit of the season, Santa Claus dropped by Th Baltimore Sun yesterday afternoon, and boy, was he angry with some people around here.
"Do you know how long I've been up on the roof?" Santa asked.
"Not as long as the Drifters, I'll bet," said I.
"Don't get cute with me, sonny," said the not-so-jolly old fellow. "Don't forget, this is still my season for finding out who's been naughty and who's been nice."
Adopting a somewhat less smart-alecky tone, I inquired, "Why were you up on the roof?"
"Looking for a chimney to slide down," Santa thundered, causing his belly to shake like a bowlful of Sun cafeteria reindeer cutlet. "And there is none. Whoever heard of a great big building like this without a chimney to slide down with gifts?"
"It's the old management," I explained. "They were never very big about gifts."
Santa paused for a moment, wondering if that last line would survive all editors' cuts.
"Anyway," he said finally, "I spent so much time looking for a chimney up there that I'm already running behind schedule. I'm afraid a few of my little friends are going to wake up on Christmas morning and notice I didn't get to their homes. That's where you come in."
"Me?" I asked humbly.
"You," declared Santa. "I want you to run a list of gifts that I would have delivered, if only I'd had more time to reach everybody."
"But won't all these people be disappointed that they're not getting any actual presents?"
"Nonsense," said Santa, handing over quite a lengthy computer printout with names and presents that might have been. "Everybody knows it's not the gift, it's the thought that counts."
And, with that, Santa slipped out the fifth-floor window near my desk, and as he climbed to the roof and his waiting reindeer, the last thing I heard him say was:
"Make sure you print the list tomorrow morning."
Thus we bring you, exclusively, Santa's list of gifts he would have given if only he hadn't wasted so much time looking for a chimney on the roof of The Baltimore Sun building.
Santa would have given Gov. William Donald Schaefer a state athletic summit, but actually would have spent the money on drug abuse. Why not? The state's always holding drug abuse summits, but it turns out money geared for drug abuse was actually being spent on athletics.
Santa would have given Adele Wilzack, state health secretary, some money for fighting drug abuse and alcoholism that doesn't actually enrich her closest associates.
Santa would have given James Narron and John Staubitz a supervisor who was paying attention. (See above.)
Santa would have given Eli Jacobs a bigger checkbook. The Orioles' owner is starting to look like the Harry Weinberg of baseball, a man who bought a terrific property and then just lets it sit there while everybody around him makes improvements.
Santa would have given Bruce Bereano a new wardrobe. The state's biggest lobbyist already has so many legislators in his pocket that he may have to start wearing coveralls to fit everybody in.
Santa would have given the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. a road map. That way, they could take a hike, instead of getting one.
Santa would have given Mayor Kurt Schmoke a quicker trigger finger on Dr. Richard Hunter. The time to fire the city school superintendent was more than a year ago, after Hunter sneered at Barclay Elementary's parents and staff.
Santa would have given Northwestern High Principal Boyse Mosley the ability to talk out of only one side of his mouth. Weeks ago, Mosley said he might run for mayor because Kurt Schmoke didn't have the courage to fire Richard Hunter. When Schmoke fired Hunter last week, Mosley said, "This could lead to the defeat of the mayor in the upcoming election."
Santa would have given Hunter the grace to know when it's time to say goodbye.
Santa would have given James Lighthizer a new sweater, but he couldn't find one large enough to fit over Lighthizer's ego. The former Anne Arundel County executive
spent $73,000 in county money to produce a 96-page publication: "The Lighthizer Years," and mailed copies to 25,000 friends.
Santa would have given Cal Ripken three fewer errors in 1991 than he made in 1990. Apparently, that's the only way Ripken's going to win a gold glove. Some ballplayers make it look easy. Ripken made it look too easy for his own good.
Santa would have given Dennis Rasmussen a Yugo, to be used retroactively.
FTC Santa would have given Roger Hayden Rasmussen's shiny Lincoln. Or, for that matter, any car of his choice. Because, if he thinks Rasmussen's choice of car is the key to good county government, he's been taking campaign rhetoric much too seriously.
Santa would have given the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra another angel with Joseph Meyerhoff's love of music, and his money, too.
Santa would have given Maryland Insurance Commissioner John Donaho the right to keep his job based strictly on his record, not on his home address -- which is all that city drivers are asking when it comes to auto insurance: Rate us on our records, not on our geography.
Santa would have given the National Aquarium a victory party for the new dolphins. They could call it Win One For The Flipper.
Santa would have given troops in the Middle East peace on Earth in 1991.
In fact, if he hurries, Santa's still hoping he can leave that gift while there's still time.