Archive for November, 2020


Altho early for me, I was not the first one in my neighborhood to put up lights for the Christmas Season.  It just seemed that, in this Bizarre Year of 2020, we just needed a little Christmas – early.  Most of my neighbors beat me to it.  In any event, I splurged and bought new lights.  Oh, I still have the strings (and strings) of miniature lights that have increasingly more sections of dark (one of these days, I’ll get around to troubleshooting – yes, I said the same thing last year).  But, after carefully measuring how much I would need, I carefully read labels and bought six boxes of “cascading LED icicles.”

Thinking ahead (yes, rare for me), I unboxed the first set and plugged them in – before climbing a ladder and putting them up.  I remember my dad digging out the strings of incandescent bulbs and painstakingly trying to find the one errant bulb that prevented any others from lighting up.  Not quite what Clark W Griswald inflicted on his son, Rusty – but close.

That was the easy part.

So, 20 icicles on a string of ridiculously thin wire ten feet long.  Unbox that, knave!  (Gaunlet optional.)  The clock is running.

I have often wondered what the people who make stuff for the American market think.  Clothing items for people with more money than sense are probably beyond understanding for sweatshop labor that might have a single pair of “shoes.”  But, at least these lights were assembled in a country that is not hellbent on destroying the infidel USA.  Maybe.

So, where’s the end to this snake’s nest?  I found the end I needed to plug in; but how to unravel?  Or, untie?  Or, overcome?  I could not give up.  I could not stuff that bunch of plastic icicles and miles of wire back in the box and trek back to Costco (I had seen the line of people who were already returning stuff).  I could not admit defeat.  How hard could it be?  (And this was box number one.)

Thinking that the assemblers were paid on piece-rate, they must have a system that allowed them to very quickly take this nightmare and stick it in a box.  Soon, so it seemed, a few of these damned icicles were grouped together, and then the whole conglomeration stuffed in a box.  You know: like five groups of four.  Or, is that three?  How about a random number?  (By the time I had opened the sixth box, I decided it could be any number between one and five.  I think.)

In fact, I was convinced that not only did they not have a fixed number of icicles per bundle, but neither had anyone stipulated how to, well, tie the bundles together.  Turns out, logic was not my friend.  Remember: I unboxed six boxes and found absolutely no consistency.  Except for all of the LEDs working.  Not that I actually counted them: maybe ten LEDs per icicle, 20 icicles per string, six strings; after an afternoon going up and down and up and down a ladder, I could not possibly have cared less.

I wasn’t worried about the warning that only three strings could be strung together: extension cords I got.  But, after trying to find the synthetic twine (you know the kind that unravels and frays as fast as you can use it) that I used to string up last year’s lights (remember: the miniature colored lights that are still in the box this year), I resorted to fishing line.  You see, I have 40 feet of wood fence – about as common as moss here in the Pacific Northwest.  Ha!  Fishing line?  Why in the world do I have 4 pound monofilament fishing line?  I don’t have a pole and if there is a hook somewhere in my shed, I haven’t seen it lately.  (Or poked myself with it.). I really ought to throw that damned stuff away.  No, really.  (Yes, it is now in some obscure corner of my shed.)

About that time, my neighbor from across the street sauntered over and asked if I had thought about using a staple gun.  I said, no; and besides I didn’t have one.  He said he had one if I’d like to borrow it.  I asked him if he had plenty of staples.  That is the longest conversation I have had with him in the five years we have lived in this house.

Two lessons: 1. When you move into a new place, make it a point to meet your neighbors – they just might save your bacon someday.  2.  Christmas came early this year.

Boom!  Putting up the icicles on the fence took a fraction of the time that I was expecting.  A big shout-out to the neighbor whose name I still don’t know (we’re guys, we don’t hug and we don’t brush each other’s hair).

Yes, I will buy my own staple gun and TWO boxes of staples during one of my countless runs to HomeDepot in the next few weeks.  As my “new” neighbor said, “Having the right tool …” you know the rest.

And yes, the instruction booklet expressly recommends against using staples.  What do they know?  After all, the page-after-page of warnings (in a thousand different languages) used flawless English – yep: I’m still in shock.

Hours later (or, before it started raining again), I put the ladder away and stumbled into the house.  I thought I had set the timers, or at least had intended to set the timers.  Nightfall happened without fanfare, or lights.  Oh well, I still have another day before the First Sunday of Advent.  So, there I was, Saturday in the rain, climbing a ladder to set the timer.  Oh, and wrapping the electrical connections in plastic and zip ties.  (The connections on the strings of icicles are probably water-proof to a hundred meters – but I know my extension cords are only water resistant to the next cloud that comes by.)

So, I say Bravo, or Bully to the demons who created those LED icicles and then wrapped them up: it took me longer to get them out of the box than it did to string them on my house.  (Full Disclosure: they slipped out of the box – that part took three, maybe four seconds.  It was the unwrapping that took ages and ages.)

Is revenge a dish best served cold?  Well, it isn’t snowing here (and isn’t likely to).  And it really isn’t all that cold, either (except maybe compared to Vietnam, where these things were said to have been assembled).  But, I just gotta think that, all these years later Ho Chi Minh is thumbing his nose at western imperialism (and rightly so).  And by the time next year rolls around, I will have forgotten the ordeal of putting up lights this year (assuming that ridiculously thin wire has endured).

But what do I do with the box of miniature lights – some working, some not – that sits at my feet?

Maybe that is the true revenge?

Merry Christmas.


“We need a little Christmas,” from Jerry Herman’s Mame

Clark W Griswald courtesy of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation