Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Cool Yule Tool

This past Saturday, I performed one of my most cherished and anticipated holiday chores. I put up the Christmas lights on the front of my house. (Those two sentences truly highlight for me the overwhelming world-wide need for a sarcasm font.)

I should back up a bit and start at the beginning. If you are a long-time reader, then you already know how I feel about the icicle lights we put up – and by “we” I mean “I” – on the house each year. I hate them.

Now, for you new readers, please don’t misunderstand. I love the look and feel of the lights on the house, and I love all things Christmas, but I hate my lights. It’s not the lights that are lit that I hate. I love those. It’s the five-foot section of lights in the middle of the string that don’t light that I despise from the very depths of my soul.

Long-time reader of “Just a Smidge” or not, it might be best if you (re)read my December, 2009 post entitled “The Five Feet of Christmas I Despise” to get the full story. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

OK, so are we clear? We’re talking real, honest, loathing here.

Now let’s get back to this past Saturday morning…

Have there ever been times in your life when you have stopped and wondered why the you of the past was working against the you of the present? A perfect example of what I’m talking about occurred on Saturday.

I pulled out the two big plastic tubs labeled “XMAS LIGHTS” and popped the lids off. I stood in the garage in disbelief, staring down at a spaghetti-style mess of tangled light strings stuffed into plastic shopping bags. “Why would 2009 Marc have done this to me?” I asked myself. I extracted the first wadded up ball of icicle lights from the tub and slowly untied them into a straight line on the garage floor. I held my breath and plugged one end into the wall socket. There it was. The stomach acid-forming five-foot section of unlit bulbs, right there in the middle of the first string I pulled out of the tub.

I cursed under my breath, and a little over my breath, and retrieved another wadded-up string. This one was different when it was plugged in. The five feet in the middle worked fine, but both ends were out.

I tried to regulate my breathing as my temples began to throb and my right eye began to twitch. Why on Earth would 2009 Marc have done this to me? Why didn’t 2009 Marc throw these out? He had to know that 2010 Marc might have a stroke if he saw more bad light strings come out of the tubs. Did 2009 Marc wish 2010 Marc ill? He knows we’re the same guy, right? Why do I hate myself? Why????

I pondered what to do next. My 2009 alter ego had endured a humiliating Christmas season spent with a house that was 7/8 lit and 1/8 lame, resulting in 100% ugly, and amazingly, had done nothing to remedy the situation for the next year. Here it was, 2010. And there I was, standing in the garage, staring down at two malfunctioning light strings, trying to stop my eye from twitching.

I needed to make a decision. The way I figured it, I had two choices. It made no sense at all to put these lights back up on the house. Why would I intentionally make my house look like the Christmas equivalent of an abandoned Chevy Nova? No, the lights would not go up. I could either go inside and tell my wife that I would not be decorating the house this year, or I could put up some of the first string, wait until no one was looking, “fall” off the ladder in order to intentionally break my arm, and spend the rest of the day at the hospital.

I didn’t like option two at all, and after pondering option one for a minute, I decided it would likely end the same as option two. I was badly in need of a third option.

I was just about to start calling around for Mexicana Airlines one-way ticket pricing when it hit me like a ton of bricks. “The LightKeeper Pro!”

I had heard about this unbelievable tool last year when I was calmly discussing my five-foot outage issue with someone at work. He had heard from a friend of a friend about a mystical gun-shaped tool that fixed Christmas lights in the blink of an eye, just like magic. For some reason, 2009 Marc stored it away in his memory, but neglected to actually buy one for 2010 Marc. That guy is really starting to irk me.

I stopped dialing my travel agent, and dialed my local Ace Hardware instead. Justin answered the phone, and I inquired if he happened to have any LightKeeper Pros left in stock. He said that he had only a few left, and he had already sold 15 of them that morning. It was only 10:00 am. He promised to keep one at the counter for me if I promised to be there in ten minutes. I made it in four.

Apparently, this past Saturday was national “Men Putting Up their Christmas Lights Day.” I sped past no less than 30 other poor souls holding tangled strings of lights. Some of them were still on their ladders. Others already had their bags packed and their Mexican sombreros on. I said a short prayer for all of them as I raced toward my hopeful salvation.

I slid sideways into the Ace parking lot, dove from my car, hurled open the doors, and pounced on Justin. He informed me that he had indeed saved a LightKeeper Pro for me, and asked if I could please let go of him and let him up. I dusted him off and gladly paid him $21.64, and raced home with the tool that I hoped would be the key turning point in my relationship with Christmas lights.

It did not disappoint.

Please know, I do not say this lightly. (Get it?) The LightKeeper Pro is the best thing that has ever been invented, anywhere, anytime, by anyone. The space shuttle, canned beer, baby wipes, the microchip, the wheel, bottled beer, air conditioning, disease resistant crops, nuclear fission, draught beer, soap, penicillin, the printing press, spandex, and even the home keg-erator all take a back seat to this marvelous, magical, marvelous, marvelous tool.

You simply pick any one of the tiny bulbs in the section that isn’t working, plug it into the front socket on the LightKeeper Pro, pull the trigger, and presto, the section lights up. I have read up on how it works, but I wouldn’t dream of boring you with the technical stuff. The only thing you need to know is that it works. It is amazing.

I happily hung up all my lights. Half of them didn’t work. I didn’t care. I hung them up anyway, and 10 minutes later, with the help of my new LightKeeper Pro, the entire house was lit continuously from one end to the other. There are really no words to describe the sense of sheer relief that this marvelous, marvelous tool has brought to my life. This small, hand-held, light-weight, twenty dollar tool not only saved my house from another year of neighborhood shame, but it may very well have saved my marriage and even my life in the process!

To top off the day, as if my new-found tool-of-the-millennium wasn’t enough, when I was hanging the lights my six-year-old came outside and announced that he would like to rake the leaves in the front yard… for fun.

Some days are better than others.

See you soon,
-Smidge


Copyright © 2010 Marc Schmatjen


Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to www.smidgebooks.com today and get your copy of “My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh,” Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!

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  4. Are you kidding me? I have never heard of this fine tool. Some of my 2005/6/7/8/9 selves have been holding on to half lit strands. (I must hate myself.) I find it hard to believe that it is better than baby wipes...but I figure that since I have a couple of half lit strands and...well, if it works for Smidge...it will be good enough for me, too.

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