Once upon a time in a land far, far away — in the North Pole, specifically, which you’ll find on the top of this spherical thing we call the planet — there lived an elf who was very much unlike all the other elves. In fact, this elf didn’t look much like the other elves in Santa’s Workshop at all.
For starters, this elf was far too tall. He towered over all the elves like a tree, except without all of that nice smelling pine to recommend him. His toes were straight and flat, not curled in any way, which made his feet look ridiculous in those curly-toed shoes. They didn’t fill the shoes out at all, and so they were constantly falling off when he had to leave the workshop assembly line for a bathroom break. All the other elves laughed at him and stuffed gummy worms in his shoe, which often melted in the heat.
Speaking of laughs, the Ugly Elf’s laugh was low and startling, and so was his voice. How were the other elves to take him seriously when his voice didn’t sound like a sped up record?
And his ears! His ears brought shame upon him and his family. They weren’t even slightly pointed. Rather, they were completely rounded, as if he had gotten them caught in the bow trimming machine and sliced the tops right off.
The Ugly Elf was so ugly, he was a distraction to the other elves. Even more so, he was a distraction to himself. His body didn’t fit into the workstations. He had to hunch and bend to reach his tools. This had given him a rounded back, and often left him with shooting pains throughout his body, which made him slow, unproductive, and let’s face it, a total grouch.
The tools were too small, too. His big man hands couldn’t fit into properly sized elven scissor holes, and when he tried to type out orders on the elven keyboards, he often wound up smashing the keys out of the keyboard entirely. He tried so hard to keep his movements as tight and precise as possible. But everywhere he went he left a trail of destruction. The Ugly Elf was the most hated elf in the workshop.
One year, as the North Pole moved into high production season, Santa Claus watched the floor from his windowed office upstairs and shook his head. Personally, as a larger man himself, Santa had a soft spot for the Ugly Elf. He had recruited him from a Will Ferrel movie personally. But production was production. If they didn’t find a solution soon, Santa would have to send the Ugly Elf far away, so the children of the world wouldn’t suffer.
As Santa thought about this, he stretched his big Santa arms to the ceiling and yawned. Then he bent to the side to give himself a better stretch, and dropped naturally into Downward Facing Dog as his yoga instructor had told him to do when he was starting to feel the stress of the world too acutely. On his third big Santa exhale, an idea came to him.
Hey, he thought. Look at me, Santa, doing yoga at the office. If yoga can help me so much, why can’t it help the Ugly Elf?
Excited now, Santa leapt up, nearly knocking his head on his standing desk. That, too, gave him an idea.
And why don’t I give him a standing desk? In fact, we can completely customize the Ugly Elf’s workspace. It may be an upfront cost, but I believe that cost will pay back itself triple fold in increased productivity. This way, the Ugly Elf will have the complete setup he needs, he’ll be more efficient, I can avoid any unpleasant “letting go” scenarios, and I can finally get OSHA off my back. It’s brilliant!
Santa rushed to the window, knocked three times so the elves in the workshop would look up to him, and shouted,
“Look out, world! Santa’s gonna make a list of his own!”
“Great,” said a particularly snarky elf named Raymond to his friend Ashley. “Can someone say overtime?”
In next to no time, Santa had called the Ugly Elf into the office and had given him strict instructions for customizing his workspace. The Ugly Elf didn’t really believe it would work. He couldn’t imagine anything saving him from his cruel fate in life as a plus-sized elf. But he agreed to give it a try. At the least, it would get Santa off of his back.
The Ugly Elf worked all through the night creating his customized office. He put these few things together:
An Adjustable Standing Desk
With an adjustable standing desk, Santa claimed that the Ugly Elf wouldn’t have to worry about hunching over tables that were too low for him. Instead, the Ugly Elf could raise the desk to his own height. Then, he could lower it back down when he wanted to sit in his customized ergonomic chair. Santa splurged on both of these items. According to Santa, this would get rid of the Ugly Elf’s back and neck pain and also help prevent serious long term health problems.
The Ugly Elf was already standing all day to work on children’s toys. But he and his ugly un-curled toes were doing so on a hard cement floor. This gave the Ugly Elf shooting pains in his arches and lower calves. Santa said this could all be fixed with an anti-fatigue mat beneath his desk, to provide ample support to the feet and legs.
We’ll see, Santa, the Ugly Elf thought. He was still really grouchy from when the elves were teasing him earlier in the day, and also today was normally Pizza Monday but the pizza shop had been closed for renovations, so they’d had to go for turkey subs, and the Ugly Elf hated turkey. It was a bad day.
Ergonomic Split Keyboard and Ergonomic Mouse
According to Santa, it wasn’t the Ugly Elf’s fault that he kept smashing keyboards. Or that his awkward way of typing created tingling in his wrists and arms — a sure sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. It was just that his keyboard was the wrong size, and because it was straight and flat, it caused his hands to splay at an awkward angle. The mouse was all wrong too. It was far too small for his hand and didn’t provide any support.
With an ergonomic keyboard, the Ugly Elf would be able to find the perfect vertical and horizontal angle for him, alleviating all pressure on his joints and carpal tunnel. And with an ergonomic mouse that was actually the right size for him, he’d have ample support for his wrists and lower arm while typing. Goodbye, Repetitive Strain Injuries!
We’ll see, thought the Ugly Elf, chewing on a slice of turkey and hating everyone, most especially the owners of the closed pizza shop.
Laptop and Tablet Stand
Finally, Santa noticed that ever since he had upgraded the workshop to tablet technology thanks to a generous donation from Apple, when the Ugly Elf read work orders and assembly instructions, he often loomed over the screen. This surely created tension in his neck, and, if as, Santa thought, he really did see the Ugly Elf squinting all of the time, likely had given him a bad case of Computer Vision Syndrome as well.
Santa’s crazy solution? He gave the Ugly Elf a laptop and tablet stand to place on his desk at just the right height. Now whenever the Ugly Elf had to read from a screen, he would be able to keep his neck in a neutral position. The screen was right in front of him and an arm’s length away.
Until the tablet stand can order me pizza, I won’t be happy, the Ugly Elf thought.
The Most Productive Elf
As you can probably tell, the Ugly Elf was a little reluctant about all of these changes. After years of being the butt of so many elven jokes, he had given up hope that anything would help. And he really liked pizza. But that very next morning about an hour into work, he noticed something. His neck didn’t hurt at all as he read instructions for assembling a bike. He could type far faster than he ever had before! Not only that, seeing as how there was no pain in his arms, wrists, or hands, he could better assemble the toys in front of him. And at a much quicker rate! He didn’t have to hunch over his standing desk, and his feet didn’t even hurt.
“It’s a Christmas miracle!” he cried, running through the workshop. “Let’s have a pizza party to celebrate!”
The other elves rolled their eyes, which was a little cynical of them, but you know the way elves are.
Soon enough, however, no one could deny the change that had overcome both the Ugly Elf and the workshop. The elves and Santa over-delivered that year, creating more toys than were actually needed. And they finished early, too, so, right after they had a giant pizza party, they turned their brains to making incredibly innovative toys, the likes of which no one had seen before. And who was the most creative one? The Ugly Elf, of course! Now the other elves turned to him for his ideas. They picked his brain for ways they could make their workstations ergonomic too. He had so much more time and energy for creative thinking now that his thoughts weren’t all focused on his chronic pain.
The Best Christmas Ever
All across the world, children rejoiced as they saw not only the toys they had asked for under the tree, but toys they hadn’t even had the capacity to imagine.
“Thank you, Santa!” they cried.
Up in the North Pole, Santa shouted, “It wasn’t me, kiddos! It was the Ugly Elf, who I proclaim from now on will be called the Smartest Elf in the Land. Also, leave him a slice or two of your extra pizza next time and I’ll bring it to him. Maybe wrap it in toil foil or something and put it next to the cookies so it stays fresh.”
The Smartest Elf grinned at this, and did a little tap dance he would have never have been able to do before.
“You’re welcome, world,” he said. The elves cheered, and it was the best Christmas anyone had ever imagined.
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