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Texas | Columns | "Quips and Salsa"

Neighbors, start your Christmas lights!

by Jase Graves
Jase Graves

Each year the weekend after Thanksgiving, I sense an innate urge to risk life, limb and public humiliation by festooning the exterior of our home with several hundred C9 incandescent lights. (I'm still resisting the whole LED craze-also known as "the Devil's bulbs.")

My mild-mannered next-door neighbor and I always engage in an unspoken competition to see who can get their Christmas lights up first, but since I have the holiday sleeping habits of an inebriated grizzly bear in mid-hibernation, he consistently wins—after which he undoubtedly enjoys shouting, "Let me know if you need any help up there," as I cling desperately to the shingles while those little granules clatter in the aluminum rain gutters-portending my likely doom.

A couple of years ago, I actually considered hiring a landscaping company to install my lights for me—and even went so far as to have them come out to give me an estimate. Once I regained consciousness, and told them I'd have to sell my plasma and the plasma of my descendants to third and fourth generations to pay for it, I decided that hiring out the job would be cheating, anyway.

This year, I was determined to go for the upset and made the unprecedented play of installing my lights the Saturday before Thanksgiving. My neighbor had already made a pre-emptive move to take the lead by colorfully illuminating a front-yard tree. But we both know good and well (at least I do) that the only lights that really "count" are the house lights, and this year, I would strike first.

The actual installation was fairly uneventful as my wife, as usual, held the extension ladder steady and encouraged me not to cry—that everything would be ok—probably.

Once our lights were up on that first night, they shone forth gloriously, mocking the pre-Thanksgiving darkness next door. But then, as so often happens when I'm gloating in the radiance of a self-righteous victory, disaster struck.

My wife and I were passing our house on our nightly geriatric power-stroll and noticed, to my dismay, that our Christmas lights were out—even though I had intentionally left them on to annoy the entire neighborhood. After a bit of frantic investigating, I discovered that a breaker had tripped, so I put my vast knowledge of electrical systems to work and switched it back on, which lasted about half an hour before it tripped again.

At that point, I proceeded as any skilled technician would. I called down elaborate curses on electricity in general, unplugged everything and then plugged it all back in. As I was unplugging an extension cord from an outlet on one of the eaves of the house, I saw sparks, a small flame and smoke. Again, my electrical expertise told me that since I wasn't currently roasting wieners, this might not be a good thing.

After two trips to a local hardware store and some intense prayer, I somehow managed to replace the plug without setting the house or my underwear on fire, but by the time I was finished and got my lights back on, my neighbor's house was already glowing in full Christmasified splendor.

Oh, well. My neighbors are incredibly kind people, and there's always next year. Anybody have some plasma I could borrow?
Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" 11-28-23 column

Jase Grave's "Quips and Salsa" columns
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