I put up the Christmas lights a bit early this year, because I am an industrious, plan-ahead type of fellow who wants to spread some cheer. Also, because I forgot to lie to my wife.
“What time is the Vikings game?” she asked, and I said they had a bye, no game. Stupid. I should’ve said, “Noon to 8 p.m., it’s a doubleheader.”
This mindless bit of truth-telling earned me a honey-do list that included the lights, so I fetched them from the shed. Last January I’d carefully wound them around some spools. I checked for dead spots, discarded the bum strands and planned ahead. Sure, in an alternate dimension where I floss more, that is. In this universe, I wadded them up and put them in a bag.
The first hour was spent untangling and testing. It’s like separating cold spaghetti while wearing boxing gloves. Once they’re untangled, you plug in a string that worked fine when it was a spiky green bolus; now, a third of the lights are out because a filament the width of a spider eyelash snapped, and unless you get out an electron microscope and examine all 300 bulbs, you’ll never know which light died.
But is the string really dead? Shake the string, and the lights come back! So you put ’em up and watch them die again the first time the wind comes up.
I have a mantra I repeat every year: “I have had it with these old-style lights, churned out by the billions by some Chinese factory that probably pours 60 gallons of arsenic into the river every hour. That’s it! It’s LEDs this year.”
The next day, at the store, I say, “OK, well, so it’s LEDs, or the mortgage. When will the price come down? Isn’t that how things work? A new technology comes along, it’s expensive, but then people adapt, it becomes widespread, and the price comes down. Well, when the season’s over and everything’s on sale, then I’ll buy some for next year.”
Then comes the announcement at the LED Manufacturers Conference in January: “We are sorry to report that once more, we were one customer shy of the number needed to drop the price. It is the same man as the years previous. We do not know what’s preventing him from chasing a logical alternative that will cost less over the years. Here is his picture.”
(My face goes up on the screen; boos and rotten produce fly through the air.)
Perhaps the LEDs were cheaper online. This was one of the recommendations on Amazon for Christmas lights: “MYGOTO 98-foot 200 LED String Fairy Lights 8 Modes with Memory 30V UL Certified Power Supply for Bedroom Kids Room Party Wedding Patio Xmas Birthday Indoor Outdoor (Multicolor).”
Oh, really? Too bad. I was looking for YOUGOTHERE 137-foot LED String Lights Goblin Lights 9 Modes with Amnesia 31V for Laundry Room Adults Room Funeral (Monocolor).
Here’s the text on one of the LED pages: “This string lights come with 8 lighting modes for you to choose. And it will intelligent remember your last choice, no need to reset every time.”
This is a new phrase you can use when someone swears they will remember not to make that same mistake. Sample usage: “Will you remember to wind the lights around the spool this time after you take them down?”
Me: “Yes, of course.”
Wife: “But will you intelligent remember?”
Me, flossing: “Probably not.”