Interview With Santa’s Reindeer Wrangler

Photo by bisongirl, used via Creative Commons. Click picture for original.


Q: Your name and occupation, please.

A: I’m Naseem Copely, and I’m the Reindeer Corps Manager for Santa Claus.

Q: What does that title mean?

A: Basically I’m responsible for recruiting, outfitting and caring for the reindeer who pull Santa’s sleigh on Christmas. If it has anything to do with the reindeer, I’m the one in charge of it.

Q: Why would you need to recruit? We already know who the reindeer are. Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and so on.

A: Well, that’s the first misconception. The canonical names of the reindeer aren’t of the reindeer themselves. The canonical names describe the role of the reindeer.

Q: I’m not sure I follow.

A: So, it’s like this: You have a football team, right? And a football team has a quarterback and full backs and half backs and centers and such. And in the role of quarterback, you could have Eli Manning or Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers or whomever.

Q: Okay.

A: So on a reindeer team, there’s a Dasher and a Dancer and a Prancer and so on. They’re roles. They’re positions. And the position of Dasher, as an example, is currently held by a reindeer named Buckletoe McGee. And before her, it was held by Tinselhart Flaherty, and before her, Ted Cruz.

Q: Ted Cruz.

A: Yes. No relation.

Q: All right. So the canonical names are the role of the reindeer, but this leaves open the question of why there are roles at all.

A: Because of varying the weather and various atmospheric conditions, basically. Depending on the weather, one or another of the team will be in lead position.

Q: So, for example –

A: So if the weather is clear, then Dasher is in the lead, because she’s fast and good with straight lines. If there’s a lot of turbulence in the upper atmosphere, then Dancer’s in front, because she’s good finding pockets of calm air for Santa to navigate into. “Donner” is the German word for “thunder,” so our Donner’s up when we have thunderstorms, and so on.

Q: Okay, but what about Cupid?

A: In the lead when we have to sweet-talk our way out of a moving violation citation.

Q: That really happens?

A: Lots of little towns have speed traps, man. They don’t care if it’s Santa. You see Santa, they see a wealthy traveler who won’t come back to town to contest a ticket.

Q: How does that even work? A reindeer mitigating traffic violations, I mean.

A: It’s technical. Very technical. I’d need graphs and a chart.

Q: And Vixen? What role does Vixen play?

A: Uh, that role’s currently in transition.

Q: What does that mean?

A: It means I’m ready for your next question.

Q: All right, what about the Rudolph position?

A: (Sighs) There is no Rudolph position. Never was. Never will be.

Q: You seem annoyed by this question.

A: None of us up here at the pole are big fans of the whole “Rudolph” thing.

Q: Why not?

A: Well, it makes us look like jerks, doesn’t it? A young reindeer is discriminated against up to and until he has marginal utility. I mean, really. Who looks good in that scenario? Not all of the other reindeer, who come across as bigots and bullies. And not Santa, who is implicitly tacit in reindeer bigotry.

Q: I have to admit I never really thought about it that hard.

A: You know, here at the pole we work hard to make sure that everyone feels welcome – it’s not just a legal requirement, it’s the whole ethos behind the Santa organization. And this one song craps on that for a reindeer who never even existed? Yeah, we’re not happy.

Q: You could sue for defamation.

A: No one comes out ahead when you do that. Anyway, Santa has his way of dealing with things like this.

Q: What do you mean?

A: Let’s just say a certain songwriter received lots of coal one year. In his car. The one with the white bucket seats.

Q: Okay. The next question: Why reindeer?

A: Why not reindeer?

Q: Generally speaking, they don’t actually fly.

A: Neither do sleighs, generally speaking, and yet here we are.

Q: We could talk about that. I mean, the general violation of physics that goes on around the whole Santa’s sleigh thing.

A: Look, I don’t pretend to know the science of the flying sleigh thing, okay? That’s not my job. You can ask Santa’s physicists about it if you want.

Q: Santa has physicists on staff?

A: Of course he does. He’s one of the largest recruiters of physicists outside of NASA. What, you thought all this happened because of magic?

Q: Well, now that you mention it, yes. Yes, I did.

A: See, that’s just silly. It’s not magic. It’s technology. Highly, highly advanced technology.

Q: So technology makes the reindeer fly.

A: No, that’s genetic.

Q: Oh, come on.

A: You’ll have to interview some of Santa’s biologists about that.

Q: Leaving aside the questionable physics and biology of flying reindeer, how do you recruit them? The reindeer, that is.

A: Craigslist.

Q: You’re telling me the reindeer can read.

A: Of course not. That’s just ridiculous.

Q: Unlike them flying.

A: It’s not the reindeer, it’s their owners. Laplanders and Canadians have access to the internet too.

Q: So the owners of the reindeer show up with their deer, and then what?

A: Well, the genes for flying in reindeer are recessive, so we have to test for ability.

Q: With a DNA test?

A: With a catapult.

Q: Wait, what?

A: We chuck ‘em into the air and see what happens.

Q: That’s… that’s horrible.

A: Why?

Q: What if they don’t have the flying gene!

A: Then they come down.

Q: And you don’t see a problem with that?

A: It’s just gravity.

Q: There’s that little part at the end! You know, when the reindeer who have been chucked into the air hit the ground at 32 feet per second per second.

A: What? No. We put up nets, dude.

Q: Nets?

A: Nets. To catch them. Jeez, what do you think we are, monsters?

Q: I didn’t know!

A: PETA would be all over us for that.

Q: Maybe you should have mentioned the nets earlier.

A: I would think they would be implied.

Q: Sorry.

A: Anyway.

Q: Okay, so you sorted the ones who can fly from the ones who can’t. What then?

A: Then we take the new reindeer and start training them, using various tests and exercises to see which role they would be best at.

Q: The fabled Reindeer Games.

A: Right. Once we know who is good at what, we slot them into the role.

Q: So how many reindeer are in each position?

A: Roughly a hundred.

Q: That’s… a lot of reindeer.

A: What did you expect?

Q: I don’t know, I thought maybe two or three for each position. Like a football team.

A: That was just an analogy.

Q: No, right, I get that, but even so.

A: Look, these are animals. They get tired. And the sleigh crosses the entire planet. You can’t have a single team of eight physical animals pull a heavy object that entire distance. That’s cruel. You got a swap ‘em out at regular intervals. So the couple of days before Christmas we truck them to various places around the world, and when Santa lands, we make the swap.

Q: Where do these swapouts usually happen?

A: Typically mall parking lots. They swap out and Santa can take a bathroom break. He’s drinking lots of milk that night and eating a metric ton of cookies. He’s gotta make space.

Q: And no one notices Santa landing and swapping out the team.

A: We’re quick about it.

Q: How quick?

A: Let me put it this way: NASCAR pit crews?

Q: Yes?

A: Slackers.

Q: Final question: the reindeer are on the job one night of the year.

A: Correct.

Q: What are they doing the rest of the year?

A: Leipäjuusto.

Q: Gesundheit.

A: I didn’t sneeze, you numbskull. It’s a traditional Scandinavian cheese originally made from reindeer milk.

Q: Santa’s a cheesemaker on the side, is what you’re saying.

A: And a damn fine one. His Leipäjuusto did very well at the International Cheese Awards this year.

Q: Did he say “Merry Curdmas” when he won?

A: No.

Q: Maybe he could make Holy Infant Cheddar, whose selling points would be that it’s tender and mild.

A: Stop.

Q: “Ho Ho Havarti!”

A: I’m going to have Vixen stab you with an antler now.

66 Comments on “Interview With Santa’s Reindeer Wrangler”

  1. Luvvit! That’s really funny, and I do enjoy your takes on different aspects of Christmas :). Might Vixen be used when you need a particular sort of charming bad temper?

  2. Best Santa interview ever… he came across far more worldly and up-to-date than the usual ho-ho-ho-hum PR schtick.

  3. Holy Infant Cheddar, that’s great. This is right up there with “Santa Clause and his old lady” :D

  4. Um, they wouldn’t be hitting the ground at 32 feet per second per second. That’s acceleration, not an absolute velocity. At some point during their fall, they’re going to impact the ground and their velocity at that instant will be applicable. But then, it’s not the fall, the acceleration, or the velocity that kill, it’s that sudden impact at the end that results in rapid, instantaneous deceleration that kills. But I quibble. Merry Christmas, John…..

  5. Is it really the deceleration that kills you? If every single atom in your body rapidly decelerated at the same rate relative to, oh, say, the ground, but due to some kind of magical accelerotron rather than due to actually impacting anything, would you be perfectly fine?

  6. I just showed this to my boss, which then devolved into a discussion of NORAD’s role in Santa’s journeys. You really don’t want a drunk hunter, someone with a mad on for Santa, or a military guy with an itchy trigger finger taking pot shots, so NORAD has to give them clear air space, not unlike air traffic control. Might could be that that’s also where Blitzen comes in; he’s the one who can make that quick evasive maneuver just in case.

  7. Oh. My. Lord. Funniest thing I’ve read in an age. This will join Dogs in Elk and Beyonce, the Giant Metal Chicken as things to read on very bad days.

    Thank you, Mr. Scalzi. I think I sprayed Diet Coke all over my new keyboard but it was so worth it.

  8. sojournerstrange: Yes, you’d be fine. You wouldn’t even feel it. What gets you is the differential deceleration, when parts of you decelerate and other don’t quite yet. Or, even more precisely, what gets you is the relative motion that happens as a result of the differential deceleration.

  9. I love when you do these. Thanks so much for the laughs.

    @Chuck and The Mad Librarian: yours made me lol too. Thanks!!!

  10. Whee! This is wonderful. I foresee rereading this on Christmas Eve for many years to come. Thank you!

  11. Bravo, Mr. Scalzi! A badly needed smile — nay, an outright laugh — for a gloomy day. (Yeah, we need the rain here in California, but gloom is still gloom.)

  12. Hey Scalzi, no fair making me spew tea all over my monitor! And then of course, I had to share it with everyone I know. Love it. Thanks for all the grins and giggles!

  13. Thnks, buddy, I just got busted reding Whtever t the office. Normlly I cn keep it under the rdr but the guffws gve me wy. Plus I’m gonn hve to explin to Tech Support tht I need a new keybord to replce the one that I just spryed iced te ll over becuse the key beside the S is stuck, nd they re NOT going to be hppy bout tht.

  14. Man, there are a whole bunch of reindeer he didnt even mention.

    Millie the millimeter radar reindeer. Turns out that turning on a big bright red nose in a snowstorm or fog just blinds you. Millie runs the front slot now.

    Bat21 is now certified in countermeasures capabilities so Santa can safely deliver in war zones.

    Emily leads a flight of escort reindeer who provide an air superiority role while Santa is conducting ground operations.

    And Gunther leads another flight that deals with flak, hunters, and other direct arms.

    Its a huge mission, but only the ones who pull the big sleigh ever get any credit.

  15. It is well-documented that reindeer get their flying ability from eating magic acorns, not from genetics.

  16. It sounds like maybe Vixen is in black ops. Disappearing people who ask too many questions, and making it look like a random animal attack.

  17. That’s really, really cool.

    Sorry about that; I couldn’t resist it but yes, instant classic and thanks for the joyful contribution to the season.

  18. Emily leads a flight of escort reindeer who provide an air superiority role while Santa is conducting ground operations.

    So whenever a country says that a military pilot died in a training accident, it’s really to cover up craft downed by Emily?

  19. Brooks writes:

    sojournerstrange: Yes, you’d be fine. You wouldn’t even feel it. What gets you is the differential deceleration, when parts of you decelerate and other don’t quite yet. Or, even more precisely, what gets you is the relative motion that happens as a result of the differential deceleration.

    I was about to write that yes indeed it is the acceleration that gets you, but I would have been wrong and Brooks is right. You wouldn’t even feel it if all of your bits accelerated at exactly the same rate. The fluid wouldn’t slosh past the hairs in your inner ear, so it would feel like you were still.

    On the other hand, note that acceleration is what happens when you actually impact something. Solid objects are solid because electrostatic forces repel their atoms, and those forces acting on atoms cause them to accelerate. So when your atoms hit a brick wall, your atoms are repelled by the atoms in the wall, and you decelerate rather suddenly at very high Gs.

    The problem comes because your atoms touching the wall are decelerating and the ones inside your body, like the ones in your aorta, are still moving .

  20. Delightful! And more delight from the the contributors above.
    I am going to do a reading when I join my family later this week!

  21. Despite all the people saying “he” above, Naseem is a unisex name. Dreaded SJW Scalzi just created another ambiguous-gender protagonist!

  22. Hilarious! Course I am thinking about the hundreds of reindeer who fell into the net. They won’t be able to approach the edge of a cliff now without PTCS. (Post Traumatic Catapult Syndrome)

  23. Grins. Thank you. Needed a good laugh today.
    Rudolf – I think they won’t talk about him because he has Stealth flying reindeer technology now. Some sort of advanced sleigh team test pilot. I mean, sure, a couple of generations ago, there was that whole Rudolf discrimination thing, but Rudolf had that fancy tech light-up red nose thing going on, and he was really a leader in reindeer civil rights issues as well as an early aerospace reindeer flight technologies pioneer. So now the Rudolf position has gone so hush-hush, they won’t admit he’s really there, just techno-magically invisible. This is why he doesn’t show up in some of the depictions of Santa’s reindeer, you see. Or rather, you don’t see, ’cause he’s invisible and all that….

    Rudolf. Red nose. Red light for special aerospace navigation. Cupid and Vixen, the special love team. You probably don’t want to know about them. Or maybe you do. Well, everybody needs a little some-somethin’ now and then, don’t they? And there are those rumors about Rudolf and….

    …eeeeeepppp… Transmission interrupted. Kringle Global Communications apologizes for the brief interruption in service and is working on the problem. It’s those darned weather balloons, you see. Couldn’t be rumors about the reindeer. Or outer space aliens. Or techno-magic. Oh, nosirree, Bob.

    …Service Restored. Thank you for using Kringle Global Communications!…

    Bob? Why is it always Bob? And why are they always firing at Will?

    Is Will the position for the Catapult test subjects? Inquiring minds want to know!

  24. Nicely done.

    However, the position of Olive, the other reindeer, was left out. Olive handles psyops – laughter and name calling, especially – as well as drug testing and guarding against chemical enhancements for reindeer games contestants.


  25. @fuzznose: Haven’t you ever seen a net at an amusement park, or a circus? They have a lot of stretch, so you when you come into contact with it, it moves basically at your speed and slows you down over a distance. It’s not at all like hitting a brick wall, or water.

  26. Best served very rare. Good with rosemary and blueberries.

    Caribou (aka Reindeer) is good eats! Having some tomorrow at a community feast. Way better than fermented walrus.

  27. Thanks John! That was hilarious! Can’t wait for the interview of Santa’s Physics Team!
    Happy Christmas to you & the family.

  28. Very nicely done! If I had a time machine, I would love to hand it over to Bob & Ray to read on the air.

  29. A reminder to readers: Flying reindeer are female. That’s why they still have antlers in December and Santa can make cheese the rest of the year.

  30. Any tips as to where a biophysicist interested in working for Santa should submit his application?

  31. Always felt the same way about how awful the Rudolph story is. Now that I think about it, the reindeer ‘coach’ encouraging the young reindeer to treat Rudolph badly in the TV version probably is the basis for how much I detest high school and collegiate sports to this day…

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