Interview With Santa’s Reindeer Wrangler
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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: Final question: the reindeer are on the job one night of the year.
Q: What are they doing the rest of the year?
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?
Q: Maybe he could make Holy Infant Cheddar, whose selling points would be that it’s tender and mild.
Q: “Ho Ho Havarti!”
A: I’m going to have Vixen stab you with an antler now.