Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday electricity in the air (but not the bulbs)

As my wife Kara and I pulled our musty Christmas decorations out of their giant Tupperware sarcophagus last week, we found light strands so tangled that they resembled the way, given a piece of construction paper and a crayon, a small child might depict a plate of spaghetti. It reminded me of the old adage about wrestling with pigs: when you wrestle with Christmas lights, you both get knotted up, but the Christmas lights enjoy it.

Just as I was about to ask Kara if she had given up halfway through an attempt to knit me a sweater out of the lights, I remembered the last time I had seen them, about a year ago, when I indiscriminately balled up the cords and chucked them into the storage crate, rushing to get back to making absolutely sure that, as the man of the house, all the zombies in the PlayStation2 had been properly beheaded, thinking, “Eh well, I’ll deal with the lights next year.”

Last Year Me is always doing things to make life harder for This Year Me, like making little to no effort to solve the ever-worsening Bald Spot Dilemma and buying stock in companies whose executive leadership now spends much of its time making license plates and trying not to drop the soap.

As Kara worked to untangle the lights, I set about the much easier task of assembling our artificial pre-lit Christmas tree. Fresh cut trees have some things going for them, but you have to buy a new one every year. An artificial tree stays with you forever, like your first kiss or your creditors.

When I plugged our tree in, about three percent of the lights came on. If the world was a fair place, the overhead lights at the factory where they make Christmas light strands would work just like the strands themselves. A bulb would burn out in the second floor men's room, plunging the whole factory into darkness. The workers would go around with flashlights in their teeth, testing every bulb in the place until they ultimately concluded that the entire factory needed to be replaced.

After countless attempts to reason with the lights, we decided that the only way to get the tree working again would be to replace every non-working bulb. We went out and bought a cheap strand, intending to rip out its parts and patch up our tree like Frankenstein’s monster. As I removed the new lights from the box, I noticed this warning attached to the cord: “Handling the cord on this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer.”

Nothing gets me more in the Christmas spirit than exposure to known carcinogens. Luckily, I don’t live in California, so I’m probably immune, but it just seems a little rude that California wouldn’t tell all the other states. You’d think it would be neighborly to at least mention it to Nevada.

Even though the other states haven’t quite made up their minds about whether or not lead should be sprinkled over your breakfast cereal, it might be a good idea to go ahead and take bacon, lead chip and tomato sandwiches off the menu. Besides, we really shouldn’t be wasting all that lead when Mattel still has so many more toys to make. It wouldn’t be fair to the kids.

In the end, our tree refused to light up even after we’d spent an hour transplanting bulbs over from the new cord. The tree just sat there, dark and glum, taunting us with its few functional lights. The good news is that it is now even more obvious that Kara is the light of my life. None of the other ones work.

You can play reindeer games (like Monopoly) with Mike Todd at


  1. we had like 12 strands of lights, and are down to two very short strands. Cuz they were all out, or got so hot they almost started a fire. Guess it's time to buy new lights.

    I wanna see pics of your christmas light sweater. lmaoooooooooooooooo

  2. I was doing that stuff yesterday. I couldn't do it when it was 1/2 way warm out; instead I waited till it was below freezing with 6 inches of snow on the bushes and ground.

    My lights were twisted around in a ball, quite possibly resembling the hair from the love child of Little Rascal's Buckwheat and Medusa if they had ever had a kid together.

    3%? You are lucky. I'd just toss them.

    It's when they hover around 40-50% that creates the dilemma: should I double them up, using two strands or should I toss them in the old bucket in the corner of the garage in case I need a good bulb some day?(So far I bet I have 20 strands of marginal lights just sitting there waiting for what I really don't know.)

    Glad I wrote this; they are going out in next weeks trash. Really...

  3. Every year my dad gives me and the girls 75 or 100 dollars each for Christmas. Every year I spend mine on Christmas tree stuff. I can now decorate 37 trees in just about any theme you can imagine. But I STILL don't have enough working lights for one freakin' tree....

    Bah humbug...

  4. Ha -- thanks for dropping by, all. Funny stuff. Hope everything's sorted out by now. I'm going to see if it helps to stop using the light strands as jump ropes during the summer.