Toronto Star

What my grandchildren think Santa would drive (if he had a car)

Written by Norris McDonald

(Soleil Watson and her brother Remy, top, have ideas for a car Santa could drive)

Newspapers are made up of two subcultures. You have the editors and you have the reporters (although the language of journalism is changing and instead of “reporters,” you now have “content providers.”

You can blame the digital revolution for this strange state of affairs. Once upon a time, reporters wrote “tight” copy, to be able to tell a story with as few words as possible. TV and radio news, and websites, changed all that. Why use one word when two or more will do?

So now, instead of reporters, you have “media members.”

Once upon a time, a reporter’s job was to leave the office and find out what was happening in the world, or the country, or the town and then return to the office to write about it. One time, many years ago, I was walking down a street in Milton and out of the corner of my eye I saw what I thought was a fish jump in a backyard. I knocked on the door of the house and the gentleman who answered showed me his fish hatchery. It turned out to be a great story.

But it probably wouldn’t happen today. Why? Because now, reporters get told what to do by editors. A reporter can say, ”I have this great story about a fish hatchery in a guy’s backyard,” and the editor will say, “Who cares? Go cover the mayor cutting a ribbon. That’s what people want to see in the paper.”

So the reporter will roll his or her eyes and go cover a nothing story. Which is what I did a few weeks ago – rolled my eyes, that is – when my editor at Wheels sent me a note. “We think you should write a column about what car would Santa drive?”

I rolled me eyes because my editor obviously is not aware that Santa doesn’t drive a car. HE DRIVES A SLEIGH.

But an assignment is an assignment and I am always up for a challenge. Besides, when I was editor of Wheels, we had a similar promotion. We asked kindergarten children in Toronto to draw and colour Santa’s car and we published a bunch of their pictures in the Section the last Saturday before Christmas. The kids got right into it so the idea that Santa would have a car is not as far-fetched as some of us might think.

Now, Santa has a big job. He has to drive all over the world to deliver presents on Christmas Eve, so size matters. There would not be enough room in a Smart car to fit them all in so I think a Hummer powered by hydrogen might be his first choice.

However, I am not particularly crazy about the Hummer’s styling. I am, however, a big fan of 1950s-era convertibles with lots of chrome so one of those might be right down Santa’s alley. Let’s hope so, anyway.

I seriously considered putting in a call to Elan Musk, who is Time magazine’s Person of the Year, and asking him to dash off something for Santa to drive – the Reindeer EV, for instance – but I didn’t have the nerve. (“Hi, Mr. Musk? I’m a newspaperman whose assignment is to write a story about what car would Santa drive and I need your help.” And he would say, “Listen dummy, HE DRIVES A SLEIGH. I’m too busy designing rocket ships and hyper loops to be bothered by fantasy anyway.”

So I picked up the pone and dialed the next best thing: my grandchildren. Who needs Elan Musk anyway (who stole the tube idea from a song written by Donald Fagan in the 1980s – “On that train . . . undersea by rail. . . . 90 minutes from New York to Paris . . .”

Remy Watson is 7 and lives in Kingston with his mom Carolina, dad Lee and sister Soleil. Said Remy: “I think he would drive an electric truck with skis attached to the bottom. On the back of the truck, he could carry all his presents. He would have the skis because it would be easier than driving. It would be on autopilot so that Santa could be in the back of the truck delivering the presents.

“The reindeer will be on his sleigh attached to the back of the truck so, if there was a problem with the truck, they can just leave it and continue on their rounds. He would have a charging station at the North Pole. He would recharge at a charging station anywhere in the world and if he runs right out of power, as I’ve already said, the reindeer would take over.”

I asked Soleil, who’s 4, what the Clauses would drive when it wasn’t Christmas. She replied:

“Santa would drive a van with great big snow tire wheels. They would drive around the North Pole to the grocery store and places like that. The van would be powered by electric eels.”

Thank you, Soleil. I bet Elan Musk wouldn’t have thought of electric eels.

Merry Christmas, everybody.