santa's rota or the downfall of the zero-hour contract by Cory Haas

Despite the nightstand clock reading 04:15 and the loud snoring coming from the warm body next to him, Santa can’t help but enjoy the glowing sun streaming in through the little wooden hut’s window. It’s the middle of June and the sun is no longer setting in the North Pole. Midnight sun they call it. Whoever thought of that was brilliant, chuckled the old man with the white beard, to himself. Soon enough the night would slowly come back and thus would start the long and tedious preparations towards the Christmas holidays. He’s not going to worry about that today though. The last five months have been filled with such gratifying moments that the thought of looking ahead is terrifying. Instead, he’s tried focusing on the little things he can do with his time off. And whatever the case may be, he’ll sign the same Zero Hour contract he’s gotten every year for the past 100. It’s a matter of routine now, he’ll know what to do when the times comes. 

No need to think about December. Today is going to be a good day, one of productivity and positivity. First off, a short jaunt to the bathroom to pee. The bladder is a young man’s game he thinks to himself while struggling to get rid of that burning sensation from below. As he waits for the last drops to make their way out, he awkwardly grabs the toothbrush and paste from the holder next to the sink. The toothpaste tube is empty. Literally. It has been squeezed flat. Despite the little shudder of irritation, Santa knows not to let this sensation overtake him. Productivity and positivity. Morphing into another awkward shape, he opens the drawer searching blindly for a new tube. Candy Cane flavour. No. Eggnog flavour. No. Turkey dinner flavour. No. No. No. He shouldn’t have thought about Christmas this morning. Once he’s definite about the hose being empty, he leaps towards the kitchen to make coffee. 

Inside the cupboard is rows upon rows of ground up coffee beans bags. They are all lined up in an army parade configuration, the symmetry is striking, the organization impeccable. This impressive display of structure is clouded over by the fact that these coffee beans are all of the ‘Christmas Blend’ variety, putting a further damper on today’s beginnings. A few moments later, careful as not to disturb the coffee soldiers, Santa locates a rogue bag at the back. It is a simple, organic, some might say boring, Italian Roast, but this morning it will more than do the trick.

After splashing an ounce of oat’s milk in the morning elixir, the first sip feels divine, restoring balance on this sunny day. Santa chooses to settle in at the desk. The sound of the new MacBook turning on, a Christmas gift, from himself, remains a highlight every day. His work email is relatively empty. A few early requests from kids who think they can get ahead of the curve. Some junk. But one email immediately pops out at him. It’s a unbelievable deal from Jack’s Flight Club. The contents of which seems impossible. He clicks on the link. The airlines have fucked up, the deal is that good.

Santa and the missus have not had a lot of chance to travel for leisure. Obviously, they travel for business two days a year, but the layovers are so quick, sometimes under a minute, that there is no real opportunity to enjoy the locale or the people. Something happened at that moment, which if you’d ask him, he wouldn’t be able to recall. Excitement, joy, thrill, happiness, danger, revenge perhaps? Not but a minute later, a new email. Ping. 


It was booked. At the bottom of the email, a link to ‘add to calendar’. MacBooks really have it all. After this elation, it’s time to take a shower. His body tingling at the prospect of having some real time off. I deserve this holiday he thinks to himself as he washes out his hair with the new all salt and pepper Head & Shoulders. The guilt tries to creep in. For someone who works once a year to take a holiday is a slap to the face to all those other people who work round the calendar. He lets the image slip away. He seldom sees the rest of the world, careful not to spend the surprisingly little money he makes on frivolous things. But this was really a deal he could not pass upon, no person in their right mind would.

The rest of the day is similar to the other 363 a year he has off. Cleaning, tidying, conversations with the neighbours, a walk with Mrs. Claus, and some reading. Except today’s read is not the latest thriller to indulge in but a travel guide to start thinking about his next great destination. A full week of holidays. How exciting.


The next day, after his morning routine, slightly out of order since he started with a run, then a shower, coffee and finally, only now, the email check, the ping is striking. A new email.


Timing has never been a strong suit for Santa and this new email, which he should have seen coming, has put him in a difficult position.

‘Hi Santa,

Hope you’re well. Obviously nothing new here, we’ve put you on the rota, 24th and 25th, just need you to confirm so we can sign off on it. Details are the same. 3% increase this year and a new sled being put into commission too, you’ll be the first to use it. It’s a treat!

Talk soon,


Suddenly he’s caught between his personality and his celebrity. He doesn’t want to let people down, obviously, but it’s June, they’ll surely be able to find someone else, or even better yet, just shift the Christmas dates by a few weeks. This deal includes checked luggage and seat selection, come on!


‘Hi Mark,

Hope you’re well too. Unfortunately, I’m not available this year. I’ve attached the rota with an X next to the dates, I can’t work. All the dates really, since there are only two. 



Santa thought that would be the last of it. After all, he’s really the big man on campus, the one everyone waits for, so they should be able to work around this with him. It’s also worth mentioning that legally this type of contract doesn’t engage him to do anything, it also doesn’t require human resources to hire Santa. Win-win. It’s not the new sled that’s gonna to make him double guess this all-inclusive holiday. Ping.


Hi Santa,

Thanks for your email. 

Okay. This is delicate. Do you have a doctor’s appointment? Is there a reason why you’re not available? I know you’re not obligated to work, but as you know, the marketing department shapes its campaign around you, and you know how it is, all of this starts months in advance now. They’ve already printed the Coke bottles.

Hope you can reconsider or re-schedule, the office can put in some calls to help you out.



The guilt Santa felt after booking his holiday returns in waves. His conscience takes him down various roads of excuses and scenarios. Two lists, CHRISTMAS +/- – CABO +/-, materialize in front of him. After hours of quiet deliberation, where he ended up eating all but one of the cookies left over from last year’s work, his resolve is still murky.


Hi Mark,

Hope you’re still well. Thank you for your support and for your determination in having the office put in a few calls. I know this is not ideal but I am just not going to be available. I will be around January 3rd onwards, any chance we can push back?

Let me know,


Santa tried to recall how the last staff Christmas party went, which ironically was held in March. Did he say something mean to anyone from management? Could they hold it against him? Is there any real action they could take against him? Ping.


‘Hi Santa,

Thanks again for the email.

Look, think of the children.



PS: No, we can’t push back.’

Wow. That was a rather short email. The HR team must be pissed off. They really aren’t putting the effort Santa wished for in finding a solution or pushing back Christmas this year.


‘Hi Mark,

Hope you’re well. I know this is awkward, but there’s no reason to become short with me. I am sorry you can’t work around these dates. If it helps, I can suggest a friend of mine who may be able to help us out. He does children’s parties…superheroes that kind of thing. His name is Richey. His email is  

Hope this helps.



When Santa told Mrs. Claus about the idea, she was discouraged by the fact that he had to do management’s job. Despite this unfortunate email exchange, Mr & Mrs. Claus went for lunch. Ping.

“Re: re: re: re: re: re: re: AVAILABILITY REQUEST – SANTA CLAUS – CHRISTMAS 2019”

Hi Santa,




By September, the email chain had hardly been sustained. A few meagre attempts to get Santa to reconsider but they all ended with a hint of sadness knowing that they would fail no matter what they offered him.

By October, Santa had run into to some of his colleagues who work in the workshop. They all seemed happy for him. They were going to miss him while the new replacement learned the ropes of delivering gifts across the world in under 48 hours (allowing for time difference).

By November, Santa still ran into his face wherever Christmas was advertised. He heard through the grapevine that management made the decision that changing something that’s worked so well for the past century wasn’t worth the hassle. Deep down, he wished they hoped that he would return next year. He hoped that they would look pass this inconsistency and send him availability for 2020.

In December, three weeks away from the big dates, he got a new email. Ping.

“Re: Advice”

cc: HR

‘Hi Santa,

Hope you’re well. My name is Pete, I’ll be taking over this year. I have experience in covering important holidays. I have worked on the Tooth Fairy shift (she says hi by the way) and sometimes help out during Easter. It is my understanding that I should be especially furtive this year while delivering the presents (something about keeping you the face of the holiday), any advice would be appreciated. I’ve CC’d HR, in case you wanted to go through them.

Talk soon,



Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.


He would not. He’s off to Cabo. Pete will be though and it will be fine.