Up on the rooftop
‘Tis the season to check the shingles and see if a jingling gentleman of northern extraction has arrived. The APB suggests a rather short fella with a red union suit and who has a proclivity for soot and animal smells on his outfit. Given the description, it’s probably an installation rep from either Teligent, DBS or ADT.
Oh, and yes – there’s that other holiday guy who shows up every year around the 25th. But, according to my last conversation with His Clausness, he might not be visiting every house.
“It’s a liability issue,” said Santa. “And with the problems involving nuisance suits, which have even reached the pole, frankly, I can’t take unnecessary risks that could cripple my operation.”
“Hold on, Nick,” I said. “We’ve kinda got an implied contract for delivery here. I don’t want to get all `lawyer’ on you, but you’re looking down the barrel of a bunch of suits for nonperformance from kids and their parents.”
“Tell it to the EPA and OSHA,” he shot back. He clamped on that famous pipe as his cheeks turned crimson from something other than the cold, and he continued. “In September of this year, all of the telecommunications operators were supposed to comply with OET 65 exposure limitations. If we’re talking naughty or nice, let’s just say the naughty ones are still in the lead.”
“Okay, Elf Guy, calm down,” I said. “Let’s take this one from the top. And let’s do it nice and slow over a cup of egg nog. There’s no reason to jump down my throat.”
Nick leaned back in his chair and let out a sigh that blasted over his belly like an arctic wind. Reaching over, he took a slug of the egg nog that was spiked with more than nutmeg, and he told his tale.
“Sorry,” he said. “But every season the problems just seem to compound themselves. I keep thinking back to the time when the only thing I had to worry about was peeking kids, rabid dogs, and whether the sleigh was going to get hung up on the lightning rods. You know, simple things.
“Well, those days are over. About 30 years ago I noticed that the elves in my workshop were getting a little vocal. First it was women’s rights. No problem. I just promoted some girl elves into management positions and kept going. There was a little grumbling about reverse discrimination and quotas, but we managed.
“Next thing I know, I’ve got the animal rights people after me. Some of the elves joined PETA, and since then I’ve got reindeer issues you wouldn’t believe. Picture me in a focus group with Comet on one side, Cupid on the other, while we’re all discussing our feelings about whether I’m letting them feel adequately empowered due to my rein usage.”
“Sounds rough,” I said. “But it seems to me that everyone’s heart was in the right place. I mean, I don’t think that a little awareness is necessarily bad.”
“Awareness?!” he shouted. “Who are you anyway? Is Phil Donahue hiring you to say this stuff? I thought you were a lawyer, not one of those huggy-feely liberals who wants to eat sausage, but will lead a protest against meat packers.”
“All right, all right,” I protested. “I wasn’t talking like a lawyer there. I thought that if I came on too strong that my spot on your `good’ list was gone. Sorry.”
“Nah, that’s all right,” he said. “I’m just a little edgy with all of this stuff. Anyway, I got past the ADA access questions when I proved that home entrance my way could be accomplished by chair-bound people with a little Christmas magic – same stuff I use.
“So then I think I’m in the clear. I’ve taken care of hiring practices, reindeer issues and the Disabilities Act. Then there was that small issue with the FAA and my flight patterns, but a little orange paint on the sleigh with Rudolph’s strobe going, and the problem’s solved. And, of course, I’ve got to deal with import/export permits every year to make sure that the toys I give aren’t confiscated by Customs. Nearly spent one Christmas Eve stuck in a bonded warehouse in Cleveland, but that’s another story.
“So, anyway,” he said noting my look of increasing impatience, “I’m doing all right for a few years. I’ve developed a separate system for all of the paperwork that keeps 10 elves busy all fall and winter, but at least I can go back to concentrating on the Season of Cheer. The ol’ ho-ho-ho is coming back, and I’m feeling pretty good. Then along comes OET 65, satellite dishes, low-height antenna arrays for high-frequency operation associated with mobile Internet use, RF exposure guidelines that take an engineer to figure out, and OSHA guidelines that say if me and my crew want to wander around rooftops, I’ve gotta get in compliance. But how?
“Just when I don’t think it’s gonna get worse, Rudolph’s lawyer wants to discuss whether his glowing nose problem is a result of RF exposure for many years. So, I had no choice but to beg off on every house with an antenna. And forget about apartment buildings leasing space on the roof to carriers. That’s a liability nightmare.”
“Gee,” I said. “I had no idea that you would be affected. What are you going to do, long term?”
“Beats me. So far I’m planning on publishing ads in the classified section of the major newspapers that say `Not Responsible For Non-Delivery due to Occupant’s Non-Compliance with OET 65 Regulations And Associated Requirements of the FCC And OSHA.’ Not very cheery, but I employ enough elves to fall outside of every exemption.”
“No offense, Nick, but that only covers you. It doesn’t do much for the kids that are waiting for toys and look forward to your generosity every year. They aren’t going to understand,” I said.
“I know,” he said with a look of defeat on his face. “You know, I could have filed for a waiver if I had agreed to go to auction on my right to continue my delivery service, but selling Christmas just didn’t seem right to me.”
“How about a public safety exemption?” I suggested.
“Say, you’ve got something there. I’m a non-profit and there’s the religious angle … and, wait a minute … I just had a thought. You know all of the Christmas specials they show on television every year? Well, I just leverage my intellectual property rights to those puppies and get the NAB to sponsor me. Say, with that public safety/broadcast crossover thing going on, I should be able to get the deal I need on Capitol Hill. Thanks.”
“Just doing my job, so you can do yours,” I said with a smile. “Merry regulated Christmas.”