Saturday, December 10, 2011

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Frustration, Part Two

Part Two of Heidi's adventures with holiday lighting!

After the harrowing day yesterday, I got up early this morning resolved to have festive Christmas lights up on our house by the end of the day today.

Knowing that I’d have to brave the Christmas shoppers, I fortified myself with a good, stiff (OK….where are your minds going? Sheesh) BOWL OF OATMEAL and a big Americano. After measuring again and making my list (checking it twice) I started to head out the door. I realize something after my 2-day Christmas light calculations: the Christmas light companies hire all the best and brightest MIT graduates to calculate the probability that you’ll need exactly 3 more feet of lights than the boxes sell, FORCING you to have to buy one more box for that 3’ of space. They’ve somehow figured out the average home’s roof measurements, and calculated all the permutations so that you’ll never be able to buy the exact amount of lights you need for your roof. Either you’ll be too short, or you’ll have to get creative for the extra feet of lights you have.

I stopped myself just as I was heading out the door and thought I’d better be just a little more fortified, so I dug around in the back of the cupboard and found my emergency stash of Trader Joe’s Chocolate-covered Mint Espresso Beans. Yeah. That’s the ticket. I down a few of those (OK, a whole handful) and head out the door.

Now, I had researched online which stores in my area still had the clear icicle lights. That would be Home Depot, Target, and Wal-Mart. I head to Target first. Of course, I remember from yesterday that the Christmas section is all the way to the back of the store, and to the farthest corner available to man. I’m no dummy. I know they just want you to lollygag on the way, see things you don’t need, and buy them. I’m not falling for that. OK, I did buy a couple of Greek Yogurts and a bag of lettuce, but I needed those anyway. Really.

Target is already packed with people. Knowing I have to get to the back of the store (and fast) before all the Christmas stuff goes, I grab a cart (for those extra items I don’t need) and head out at a good clip. Halfway back, the espresso beans kick in and I’m really flying. From the right, another lady zooms out from the home goods. I know (from the look in her beady eyes) she is also headed for the Christmas section. She may have had some chemical enhancements, and I’m just armed with a good coffee buzz. Hardly fair competition. For a few minutes we are like a scene from Ben-Hur (but with shopping carts, rather than chariots). Luckily, I have the advantage of having been to this section the day before, so I know a few shortcuts and beat her back there. When I get to the Christmas section, they have lights of all sorts known to man and beast…..except white icicle lights. Blue ones? Yes. Green ones? Yes. White ones? No. After corralling some poor Target worker, they scan all the labels and tell me that there are no icicle lights to be found anywhere in their stockroom. Maybe I should try Home Depot. OK, I can do that.

Now Home Depot must have a different philosophy, because the helpful person at the door tells me they are right over there: to my right…handy to the door. In and out…quick like a bunny. Again, I don’t see white icicle lights. Again, I corral a worker. This dude said they are all out and proceeds to show me the LED white icicle lights at only 300 times the cost of the “old style” lights. I tell him, of course these are the only ones left..who would pay that much? He tells me how cost effective they’ll be, and how they’ll last years and years and I’ll be able to pass them on to my kids. Seriously…he really said that. Now, the fact that I might still be able to have kids is shocking enough news (pretty sure that ship has sailed), but the fact that he thinks I’m buying this line of salesman crap…well. I told him that the lights I’m replacing are only a year old, so I doubt these will last generations. Then he again pushes the cost effectiveness over time. Again, I’ve done my homework. I inform him that the regular lights cost 9 cents an hour to run and LED Christmas lights cost 1.5 cents an hour to run. That’s a big difference but still not much money overall. Assuming I have 6 strands of lights and I run those lights 5 hours a day for about 30 days in December. The result:

LED Christmas Lights: $.00152 x 6 strands x 5 hours x 30 days = $1.37

Regular Christmas Lights: $.00912 x 6 strands x 5 hours x 30 days = $8.21

So it costs $6.84 cents more during the holiday season to run regular lights. But remember regular Christmas lights cost $78 less to buy. If everything were to magically stay the same that means I’d have to use the same Christmas lights for about TWELVE years (12 x $6.84 = $82.08) to actually make up the money in energy costs that I laid out in my initial purchase.

The Home Depot guy is happy to see my patootie head out to Wal-Mart.

Lo and behold… I enter the Wal-Mart there are BOXES of WHITE ICICLE LIGHTS……right there by the front door! Unable to believe my eyes (I feel like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” when he finally gets his Red Ryder BB Gun). Can it be? Yes…..I grab 3 boxes and fly to the cash register. Wait…where are the open registers? Why are all these people lining up down the aisles? They are there because there are (literally) only THREE registers open, and NONE for 12 items or less. I settle in for the wait, happy that at least I found my lights. Where are the “people of Wal-Mart” when you need them? No 400 pound thong-wearing transvestites, no sheepdogs with less hair than their owners, no one playing the banjo. To amuse myself while I wait I borrow a few magazines from the racks and read how Kourtney Kardashian is expecting another child, how Brad Pitt is really an alien, etc. Finally, it is my turn. I pay for my lights and hightail it out of there.

I get home, test the lights, put them up, and I’m so pleased with myself. I’m on such a high (maybe those coffee beans were too much) that I decide to do the entryway as well, and seriously thought about the courtyard also. OK. Must calm down. I accomplished my task. Tomorrow is another day. I’ll think about the courtyard when I’ve come down from the caffeine and can think more reasonably.

Here's a picture of the new lights.

I KNOW that they look like demented, drunk icicles. I truly straightened (by hand) EVERY stinking one of those strands. Still they kink. I can only hope that the electricity running madly through the wires tonight will warm them enough to straighten them out. Maybe years from now my grandkids will finally have straight icicles.

Mission accomplished.

Ho, ho, ho.

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Charles Gramlich said...

I'm fortifying myself right now with a stiff coke and Jack. I have to venture out myself in a while.

Barry Traylor said...

Your friend Heidi has quite a way with words. Since she brought up Ralphie for A Christmas Story I must say that what she wrote actually reminded me a bit of the work of the late great Jean Shepherd a writer of whom I am quite fond ever since I firsr discovered his work in Playboy in the early 1960's (see some guys actually read the fiction!).