Friday, December 9, 2011

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Frustration, Part One

Does putting up Christmas lights fill you with dread? Read this email sent to me by Heidi, a childhood friend with whom I reunited on Facebook. This is one of the reasons I would be willing to pay someone to put up my Christmas lights.

Hi Laurie,

Since you are a writer, and seem to be of a similar mindset to me, I thought I would make your day a little cheerier by sending the following seasonal email. I might point out that we JUST moved to this house…after 24 years of living in our other home. 24 years of stuff. A whole other email. Still...that is the background for the boxes mentioned here. (I’ve only just cleared out enough that I don’t have to worry about the TV show, “Hoarders” knocking on my door.)

I see that a lot of our neighbors have already begun to get into the Christmas spirit and are joyfully decorating their homes with an array of festive lights. It seems like we just had Thanksgiving, but today I decide that I’ll start with the outdoor lights. Here’s how that goes:

Go into garage. Squeeze into the driver’s side of the truck by getting in the passenger side door. Garage is so full of boxes that I can only get into one side of each car. Back truck out. Crawl under truck with aluminum pan filled with sand because truck leaks oil like a Texas oil well gone awry. Hope I put pan where the leaks are. Climb over more boxes to get to cabinets where we stored the Christmas decorations last year. I’ll cut out about an hour here of my going through the boxes trying to find the lights…OK…found the lights. Plug in lights. All is good. They are those “icicle” lights. Stand outside the garage calculating the number of feet of lights, the number of feet of roofline, allowing for roof slopes, roof cutouts, wind shear, etc. By this time I’ve used the laws of exponents, quadratic formulae, binomial theorem and the rules of zero.

Satisfied that I have enough lights, and they fit around everything and still have enough to plug into the extension cord, I start at one end of the house. I extend the ladder (another hassle trying to get the ladder out from behind the boxes) and put it over the bushes, resting (only slightly crookedly) on the gutter. As I start up the ladder, I notice the bushes are FULL of bees. Being a smart person, I went back into the house, powered up my cell phone, and put it in my pocket. I feel smug because if a bee stings me and I fall of the ladder, I can call 911. Somehow, in the Christmas spirit, I’ve forgotten that if I fall off the ladder, I’ll end up IN the bushes, more bees will sting me. Since ONE bee sting caused my heart to stop in 8 minutes, probably I won’t have time to dial 911. When they find my dead body they’ll know I was smart enough to at least have that phone in my (now cold) little hand.

Back up the ladder (staying to the right side to counterbalance the fact that the right foot isn’t ACTUALLY on the ground), I fasten the little light holders onto the gutters (I’ll bet somebody made a FORTUNE from inventing those things and can now pay for someone else to put up the bloody lights). Listening to Christmas music, I happily start stringing away. Down the ladder, move the ladder to a new bee bush, up the ladder. Repeat a hundred times. Did I mention these were icicle lights? I get halfway around the house and I see that my icicles are either trying to reproduce, or I’ve forgotten to untangle them from each other. They were untangled when I started, but now they aren’t. Now, I don’t want to go back on that ladder, because that is the bee area. I root around the garage again and I find the extend-a-pole that I used in Modesto to clean the second storey windows. I poke it around the lights, pull them apart and all is good. Continuing on around the house……all the lights are up, tangle-free and look just lovely. That wasn’t too bad…only took about 3 hours.

I find the extension cord (more moving of boxes). I unroll it, cleverly hide it in the gutter, plug it in and……………………….WTF???!!!! How is it that two strands have about 4’ in the MIDDLE of the strand where the lights are now not working? They are, of course, on the farthest sides of the house from each other. Both ends of the strands are fine, it is just a few feet of icicles in the middle that are dead as a doornail. I drag the ladder back to the bee bushes. I push in ALL the lights on each icicle that is out. I find a couple broken lights and think, well, that must be the problem. Back to the Christmas cupboards to find replacement bulbs. Can’t find any at all, but I do have a set of fun, festive lights that have those white bulbs in them. I take apart the bulbs, straighten those little wires, shove them into the icicle fixtures, put the fixture back into the strand and……they work, and then they don’t. Each time I replace a light, it quickly blows out.

Well, I think, I’ll just have to go BACK into town, stop at the Ace Hardware store, and get some strands to replace these. Clearly, some part of the strand has died, and I’ll just keep blowing bulbs. I don’t want to burn the house down before I’ve even unpacked, so in I go. I grab the last couple of icicle lights (they are sold out of replacement bulbs) that they have and speed home. I’ve given up on the stinking Christmas music and now I’m onto Spa music trying to calm down. I pull the truck into the driveway and see I didn’t get the sandbox under the oil drip. I back out and park in the street.

I’m confident that if I just replace those two strands, all will be good. The other 2 strands of lights are just fine. Plug in lights to test. All is good. These are new icicle lights, so I have to spend time un-kinking the “icicles” so they hang somewhat straight and match the other 2 strands that are older. I get back up on the ladder, hook them up to the strand that works. All good so far. Down the ladder, move the ladder to a new bee bush, up the ladder. Repeat fifty times (only replacing the strands, don’t have to re-hang ALL the lights). I get to the end and……the original strand is about 3’ longer than the one I’m replacing it with.

All 10’ icicle strands are not made the same. Some are only about 8’. Some are 11’. Now, I have to replace the whole stinking light setup. Trying not to lose my temper and fall off the ladder into the bee bushes, I carefully removed the lights I had just hung, re-folded each icicle to fit back into the packaging (who packages this stuff anyway?) and sealed it all back up to take back to the store tomorrow. I’m going to have to just buy all new strands of lights to go around the whole house. At least I’ll have two entire strands of lights for spare bulbs. I don’t know what my neighbors are going to think. Half my house has artfully draped icicles, the other part looks like they have melted. (By the way…the “melted” strands hung crazily like that for two days. I’m not sure what my neighbors think...probably some crazy person moved into this house.)

Here is the result of the festive spirit that hit me today. Right now, I’m getting festive and hitting the spirits.

Merry, merry, joy, joy and all that stuff.



Bookmark and Share


Deka Black said...

To be honest... we use a small plastic tree for space and safety reasons.

paul said...

Have a nice christmas:D

Barry Traylor said...

I put our lights out the day after Thanksgiving even though my wife thought I was bonkers, but as it was a rather warm day I wanted to get them up before it turned cold. Years ago I was out putting lights up in 25 degree weather (not a fun day).
Lynn and I took our 5 year old grandson Devin to a Christmas museum about 10 miles east of town. Pretty neat place as it is full of vintage Christmas toys and decorations. One large room is laid up like a F.W. Woolworth's 5 and 10 from 1950. Like a trip in time to this old geezer.