Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Lights: Them’s The Breaks

The late Mel Torme, back before he croaked, sang that there's a broken heart for every light on Broadway. As I will not be outdone by any one nicknamed “The Velvet Fog,” let me croon about my developing a headache for every broken light at my house.

christmas lights broken
Ooh, the colors of Hell ARE pretty … when lit.

Minutes after closing on Uncool Manor, which in those days was just plain Casa de Dinero Pit, the first half dozen bulbs blew. Not a week has gone by since when I'm not in for another screwing, which of course follows the unscrewing of the bad bulb, the shaking of it by my ear to listen for the tinkling of another broken filament, and the recitation of a very special profanity-laced homage to Thomas Alva Edison. (Note of interest, here: Edison lost most of his hearing by adulthood, making the ritual of listening for an incandescent's post-mortem death rattle his little morbid joke on our good ears.)

I've done what I can to stave off the all-too-frequent changing of the bulbs. I've avoided turning on lights at all costs except those I end up paying to a bandage conglomerate to patch up a toe here and shin there. I've converted whole rooms to compact fluorescent lights with allegedly longer life spans yet they rarely seem to make it through puberty. I've even invested in these cutting edge (a.k.a, credit line required) LED lights. The first two of those died within a week: one blew, the other just dropped out of the ceiling in what I conclude was a sympathetic suicide.

This time of year my frustrations with the lighting industry always piques with the peaking of my electric bill because of the annual tradition around our house known as The Muttering. Most of you know this simply as "holiday decorating," however, as nearly every Santa, snowman and piece of evergreenery has been mandated by my family to be spotted with some kind of man-made hellfire . . . well, let's just examine the transcripts:

WIFE: Honey, half that strand over the mantle is out. Would you look at it?

ME: Yes, My Love. ::mutter::

Forty-five minutes and as many profanities later.

ME: I tested every bulb. Twice. It still won't light. Also, I have no skin left on my index finger from prying them in and out.

WIFE: OK. I'll just re-string it. Would you check the wreath? A section on that isn't working.

ME: Yes, My Love. ::mutter, mutter::

Thirty minutes pass along with my patience.

ME: I figured out which bulb was the problem. But all the replacements we own have long, pointed bottoms that don't fit in the socket. Also, if you find a fingernail on the carpet ...

WIFE: OK. I'll just re-string it. ... Oops. Looks like you'll have to go out and buy some more lights.

ME: ::mutter, mutter, mutter::

I've tried to temper my family's enthusiasm for Christmas lighting over the years but the holiday spirit, in the guise of doe-eyed guilt, always thwarts my well-reasoned pleas. They wouldn't even let up when I read the warning label to them.

ME: Whoa! It says right here: "Handling the coated electric wires of this product exposes you to lead, a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harms."

FAMILY, in three-part harmony: "Good thing we in California."

ME: ::mutter, mutter, mutter, mutter::

Before you call me a lighting bah humbug, I'll offer these simple phrases with which -- surprise -- Mel Torme originally concluded that "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" song he wrote:

"Although it's been said many times, many ways – damn it, the lights went out again. No, wait. They're just blinking. They're not supposed to blink. Jesus, Joseph, Mary – Christmas!!”

1 comment:

  1. Thankfully my wife likes to buy more lights than necessary. I try to save a strand or two but won't put nearly as much effort into it as you do. I have better things to do. Like stub my toe on the tree stand or pinch my fingers on stocking holders.


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