Monday, December 17, 2007

The Grinch May Have a Point . . .

Christmas LightsOkay so I have this friend who lives in a retirement home and she can't get around like she used to. She loves decorating her building for Christmas and, having an hour or so to offer her last week, I dropped by to help out.

She hobbled down to the lobby where she pointed me to a large tree fresh from storage next to a big box of decorations and asked if I'd string lights. Now if you're like me, you could go your entire life without touching another string of Christmas lights and live very happily. Don't get me wrong, I love the holidays, love the look of the decorated tree but honestly? When it comes to putting on the lights the thrill is gone. Gone.

But determined to be helpful I dug into the box where I found the world's largest ball of tangled lights. The kind that, if unstrung, would probably reach from L.A. to New York with stops in Boise, Dallas and Tallahassee. They really ought to have it on display somewhere, it's just going to waste in that box when it could be touring the country as the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World or a tribute to entropy or something. I voted to throw out the whole thing and buy some brand new ones but my frugal friend wouldn't hear of it so I set out to untangle them. Bit by bit.

After what was surely hours--it took less time to invent the light bulb--I got four or five strands pulled out and set aside and it occurred to me that I ought to test them to see if they even worked. Sure enough, only two strands worked but would she let me throw them out? Nope, she hobbled back down to her apartment to get her trusty bag of replacement lights and some pliers. Soon she's got me checking every light on the dumb string, popping them out and back in, testing whether each bulb is fully connected or not. Glory be, one light is loose so I get one of the strands lit but the other string is hopeless. I'm pulling out each light and testing with the new bulbs until I'm reading to curse Thomas Edison and General Electric all in one breath.

I finally gave up and figured we'd go with what we had. Somehow life on earth would have to continue with a tree strung with only four strands of lights. Somehow. By this time it was getting late--I mean Christmas was only ten days away, at this rate I wouldn't have the thing strung up by New Year's. I was worried that I wouldn't have enough time to get the job finished so I thought I ought to start from the top so that if I had to leave at least they could finish the bottom easily--big mistake. In fact, if the whole thing had been on The Amazing Race, this would have been the point where they'd do a slow motion shot with me wiping the sweat from my face to signify that it was a life-altering, crossroad moment that would ultimately decide the fate of the race.

I started wrapping the tree around and around and around, down and down and down, and everything was going fine until I ran out of lights. My friend hobbled back to her apartment v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y to get extras but after two trips sent me up to the third floor for an extra box to finish the job. No stairs to be found, only an elevator that was so slow by the time you got back to the lobby you'd aged two months and forgotten why you went up in the first place. But finally, after an hour, the whole beautiful tree was strung and ready to go. I was ready to let her ooh and aaaah over the lights and I went to plug it in when I realized--to my horror--that I was holding the female end of the lights. I'd strung the whole darn tree backwards and couldn't even plug it in. AAAAGH!!!

All the old people gathered around me, wondering if they should be concerned, as I pounded my forehead against the wall in my anguish. I tried to think of all the creative ways to get around the problem, I tried adding another half-lit string of lights and working around it but no luck. About the time the maintenance man showed up after reports of a crazed, suicidal Christmas elf banging her head repeatedly in the lobby I got the great idea that if I only had an extension cord I could make it work after all.

So Barney, the maintenance man who looked no younger than the tenants he served and somehow managed to shuffle along with both a mop and an oxygen tank, moved with glacial speed to find me an power cord. I figured I'd be collecting social security right alongside my friend by the time he returned but he eventually emerged with a long blue cord. I reached down to do the magic plug-in that would solve my problems only to discover it was a three-prong cord. No good.

More hunting and more head banging and by this time I'm thinking that I'd rather do anything than re-string that whole tree, including but not limited to: walking over broken Christmas bulbs in my bare feet, watching twenty straight hours of Rudolph's Shiny New Year and eating an entire fruitcake washed down with a gallon of over-ripe eggnog. I'm figuring I would rather go home and get my own extension cord if it came to that when someone, somewhere in the building produced an extension cord that I could plug into the top string of lights and stretch down to the outlet.

I plugged it in and stood back to admire my ingenuity. But wouldn't you know it? Two sections were dark. AAAGH! After all that trauma two strings weren't working and I had to go through the whole process of re-testing bulbs to see where the problems were. Once again, I got one string lit but the other wouldn't work no matter what I did. So I was back up to the third floor for an extra box of lights, and unstringing the broken strand and restringing the tree with the new lights. By the time it was over I was ready to douse the pesky conifer with gasoline and strike a match with a maniacal "It's lit now! Buaha ha ha ha ha!"

Of course I did get it finished--with more traditional methods than gasoline though by the time it was done I was ready to run screaming from the building, knocking over little old ladies and oxygen tanks as I went, but I stuck with it and restrung the last section. Then I ran.

I love Christmas.

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39 comments:

Heffalump said...

You are so nice.
I would think about donating a nice prelit Christmas tree to the retirement home after they go on clearance at the end of the year though. It will save you from having to do it again next year!

Loralee Choate said...

Why do I feel like I am sinning by laughing my ass off over geriatric oxygen tank users that are just trying to get some holiday cheer?

And yet, I am.

You are one heck of a trooper, Ms. Scribbit. I would have probably just noosed the lights and taken a nose dive off of the nearest Rascal scooter.

You are saintly.

P.S.
I hate hanging lights more than just about anything on the earth. Except black licorice. No, not more than that evilness...

Robin said...

Times like this I thank my lucky stars I was born Jewish! No lights for me LOL.

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

Nice Amazing Race reference. I would go buy them a giant Fiber optic tree and put it up the day after Thanksgiving and let it be. Did you have kids with you too? That's a nice learning experience!

Jacki said...

But just think about all the old people you have made happy. :-)

I agree though....pre-lit is the way to go!!

Cecily R said...

What a NICE person you are!

Having a prelit tree is what sold me on the artificial idea. You know that and Jon's allergy...

Maria said...

Oh that is SO frusterating, isn't it?

Summer said...

Ok, so I laughed when you mentioned the "female end" of the lights.

What a Christmas horror story.

Average Jane said...

I could imagine myself feeling exactly the same way in that situation. You deserve a medal for sticking it out until the tree was finished!

Irene said...

Wow, that was VERY nice of you. I hate lights so much, but love the way they look. If any strands aren't working, I never ever try to fix them. In the trash they go. I mean, really, they cost about $4 a piece. NOT worth my aggravation, just buy new.

Coach J said...

Oh my goodness! I would have given up long ago, and bribed my older-than-me friend with a Christmas craft. And, then would have felt bad as I left the retirement home. I applaud you, M!

Janet said...

My dear, you have earned many many stars in heaven for that particular good deed. Perhaps you could go after Christmas and get a few strings of lights when they're .50 for a strand of 100.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Egads. The horror of it all. Kudos for you for sticking it out -- hand-banging and all.

(Although, selfishly, I think the whole experience was worth it for the line, "It's lit now! Buaha ha ha ha ha!" If only!)

Patois said...

Surely, you represent all that is the Christmas spirit. (Forget the naysaying in your mind!)

MommyTime said...

I am literally laughing out loud in my kitchen over my coffee right now. You have the patience of, well, of a mom with four kids. I think it must be years of putting snowpants, hats, parkas, mittens, two pairs of socks, boots, and scarves on multiple wriggling bodies, only to have one have to go potty just as the other three are starting to slowly steam to death waiting by the door to go out that has produced such generous good will. (I'm just guessing here.) Your friend and her friends are indeed lucky.

John & Laura said...

Ok, that was funny. In a "I'm so glad that wasn't me" kind of way, since I guarantee you I wouldn't have been so nice about it. Good for you...I think.

La

Tiff said...

I'm laughing so hard right now!! My hubby would have thrown the tree and the lights out the window. You have a lot of patience. At least you show it outwardly. LOL!

John said...

If that had been me, I would have been thinking the entire time that I should have told the nice old lady at the beginning, "I'll be right back" and headed to Walmart to buy five new strings of lights. It would have cost less than $10 and would have been well worth avoiding all that trauma.

Still, the gasoline idea was funny enough to make me laugh all week.

Phyllis Sommer said...

this was hilarious and definitely falls under the category of "no good deed goes unpunished"!

p.s. i am with robin, tho, thank goodness i'm jewish -- no lights for me!

Valerie said...

Admit it- you only went through that whole ordeal because you knew it would be great blog material.
:)

My Ice Cream Diary said...

*Shiver* Please tell me you eventually woke up and realized it was all a very very bad dream. I have issues with Christmas lights. Some day I hope to be rich enough to pay someone to do all my Christmas lighting so I never again have to even touch the things. And the fruitcake/eggnog thought... *Shiver*

cheeky said...

"Patience is the fruit of the Spirit", is it not?
Oh me oh my, were yours tested.
They are going to remember you next year by golly. LOL
xo

Beck said...

I manage to maintain my Christmas cheer by carefully avoiding any contact with Christmas lights.
YOu're good people for going to all that trouble.

Mercy's Maid said...

Bless your heart! You're a saint.

jubilee said...

I am the official light hanger upper when it comes to the tree. I have tried bribing my husband for the very reason you've blogged about. It's an aggravating job, to be sure. Someone has earned a few extra jewels in her crown! Good for you. And great post!

Beth said...

"with glacial speed" - Ha! I'm cracking up!

I was pulling my hair out just reading this post so I can only imagine how it must have felt having to live through it.

Your halo is being polished even as we speak!

Anonymous said...

My sentiments exactly.

After I had strung the lights and the kids hung the ornaments, Bridget decided to bite through a light, thus causing all of them to go out. Even the replacement wouldn't work! So I had to go buy new lights and string them up again, careful not to break any ornaments in the process.

Melissa
http://www.MelissaGarrett.wordpress.com

Magpie said...

You are going to go to heaven.

Amy said...

OH! That is horrible! What a good little elf you are. I would have run for the hills. You are a really good person. Really good!

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

I think I would've run out of the place screaming by about the 3rd or 4th strand of broken lights.. And I like to think of myself as a patient person! LOL - I just had to laugh out loud at my desk as I read this - there surely is a sainthood out there for you after this! What a sweet thing to do - and keep doing - and keep doing... :)

Jen said...

You are a very nice person. I am not so nice. I would have set my friend down by the fire with a cup of tea and run like hell to Hobby Lobby to purchase a pre-lit tree. I don't so much like setting up and lighting a tree, so ours is pre-lit and Tom does all the work.
Now I understand why my Gram kept her tree up year-round, in the basement, covered in plastic for 11 months of the year. :)

luckyzmom said...

Sympathizing with you every step of the way. I was immediately transported back to sitting on the floor surrounded by a pile of Christmas lights doing the "is it the bulb or the socket or the whole thing" guessing game. Only I was never doing it for a good cause like you. It is commendable that you were able to rise above it all and see the humor in it. It is also a good thing that you didn't like one of those old folks on fire!!

luckyzmom said...

light!!!!!

Babystepper said...

Well, it all goes to show that good deeds make you...feel..

I mean, good deeds help...you...

OK, it all goes to show that there is currently no justice in the universe.

Patty said...

Bless your heart ! Been there and done that, way too many times.

Hubby spent one whole Sunday this year putting the lights on our tree..we tested, we pulled, we replaced, we tested, we ran to the store for more bulbs, we replaced, we tested....the whole time I'm begging, let's go buy the new LED lights !

Of course, if Football hadn't been on all day, it may have been a much faster process! Men.

Ter said...

Better you than me!! I would've cursed up a storm and told them ol' folks to do it themselves then I would've stomped right out of there, because I am just not as nice as you! ;)

Michelle (the beartwinsmom) said...

You need to save this and post it in a Christmas comedy book. This post is SO priceless! I can see the "glacial speed"y worker, the backwards-wrapped tree, and I'm sure you kept a smile-through-gritted-teeth through the whole thing (wink).

Thanks for sharing this moment with us! I definitely needed the laugh (not at your expense, though LOL)

Hugs, Michelle (one of the other Michelles that was named for the Beatles song). :-)

Anonymous said...

run, run, run ..like hell..this would of been great work for the older folks to do in january...so you would be ready by december...
good for you...

Val said...

And the lord said, "Let there be light!"