That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

A Story For Christmas, 2011

Posted by kozemp on December 25, 2011

There are, over the years, things I regret saying.

Some of them are fairly obvious and can probably be guessed at by a lot of the folks reading this. “Uh, I guess I’ll have a vodka and cranberry? Are those good?” is one of them. “Nah, I don’t smoke… oh, what the hell” is another. Those are the top two, easy. “So, hey, Cindy, do you want to go to a movie?” isn’t exactly number three, but it’s certainly in top ten someplace.

One of my all-time classic boneheaded utterances came back in my final year of college when, mostly in jest, I said the regrettable words, “I find furniture shopping to be vaguely masturbatory,” which has put me in the both ridiculous and pathetic position whereby my friends seem to think they can make me go basically anywhere if they promise to stop at an Ikea along the way.

This is the very definition, the Platonic ideal, of ridiculous. My friends – who by virtue of being my friends are uniformly very nice people who I enjoy helping – thinking that in order to get me to help them with some undesirable task like finding a birthday present for their in-laws or going grocery shopping for a party, they must say some sort of magic code phrase like “we can swing through the furniture department at Macy’s while we’re there.” Thinking that, even if I didn’t want to go out that day, any resistance I might have had to filling their wedding registry would instantly evaporate at the thought of a series of tastefully-presented Queen Anne dining room sets.

It is pathetic because it’s true.

I would be willing to guess that a lot of the people reading this also know that I am a total nerd for Christmas – this is, what, the fourth or fifth of these that I have done? – but folks, I have to be honest with you:

Another thing that I regret saying was when I let it slip out in public how much I love bubble lights.

Now, let me walk this back just a little.

When I was a kid, I mean a really little kid, we had bubble lights on our tree. And, as I have said repeatedly in this very space, bubble lights are awesome. However, bubble light technology is something that has apparently declined in the intervening, er, [mumble mumble] years since I was a kid, and I didn’t see any for a long time.

The first of my adult interactions with bubble lights came a couple years ago, when my parents gave me a plug-in bubble night light for Christmas. Bubble light, Santa, etc etc. However, as long-time readers may remember, that bubble night light came with a warning label longer than a Thomas Pynchon novel which had the phrase “contact your local poison control hotline” in it. That very light, in fact, is gleaming right now in the kitchen, in open defiance of the warning label’s exhortation that every time you plug it in you have to stand there not taking your eyes off it for a single nanosecond, Sally Sparrow-like, while clutching an industrial fire extinguisher lest it randomly explode due to a minute fluctuation in local air pressure.

In each of the subsequent years, I have gotten bubble lights as gifts from various and sundry folk. For all the years in which the abomination that was the Christmas Stick was in use, my father steadfastly, absolutely refused to allow them on the tree. Last year, when he finally relented and this family reverted to an actual, real Christmas tree, he relented further and allowed me to put the strands of bubble lights I had been given as gifts on our new, live tree.

As the lights go on the tree first, later in the evening I was hanging one of our uncounted hordes of ornaments when I got my head close to one of the new bubble lights and said, “uh, this thing feels like it might be kind of hot.”

I worried that the lights might be a little too warm for the tree. To test my hypothesis – scientific method FTW – I firmly grasped one of the bubble lights between my thumb and forefinger and said, “GAH FUCK THAT’S HOT!”

Suffice it to say we unplugged the bubble lights, waited for them to cool enough to remove them from the tree, and packed them back up in the ornaments box. I love bubble lights, yes, but unfortunately I do not love bubble lights more than I love having a house and not being on fire, and as, I believe, the only person here who has actually BEEN on fire (twice, no less) that is a fairly easy decision to make.

This morning, then, came the Christmas gift giving, and after the torrents of “oh thank you” and “holy shit” – I will admit that very few people do shock-perfect gifts as well as this family does – I came to my final gift. I tore off the wrapping paper to find a square of clamshell styrofoam, which opened up to…

A 6-inch high desktop Santa Claus.

Holding a bubble light.

I stared at it for a second, put it on the side table I had set up to hold my tea, and then started rummaging through the packaging.

“What are you doing?” my mother said.

I said, “I’m looking for the warning.”

My father said, “what makes you think it has a warning?”

My head still in the box, I said, “trust me.”

And oh, does it have a warning.

We’re not talking the little UL tag on a tree strand of bubble lights, or the single paragraph on the back of the Santa night light packaging. Oh, no. This little Christmas WMD has an entire warning insert, roughly the size of a three-by-five index card, printed on BOTH sides in very, very small print. The warning label says “IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS” at the top. This is followed by thirty-one – THIRTY-ONE (31)(XXXIII)(trentuno)(Curtis Marsh) – bullet points listing all the various ways one must be careful while using the dektop Santa plug-in bubble light.

The first safety instruction is, “READ AND FOLLOW ALL SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS.”

I said, “thanks, Mom.”

I thought, everyone I know is either trying to kill me, or thinks I’m waaaaaaay braver than I actually am.

My dad said, “go plug it in.”

I thought, yeah, after I get a fireproof box with an electrical outlet.

I said, “uh… I will later.”

Then I smiled, and thought, you know, they may be trying to kill me, but at least they’re trying to make me happy at the same time. And I’d rather be killed by bubble lights from people who care than live miserable without the light or the people.

So, let’s go plug in Santa.

Anybody got a fire extinguisher?

Merry Christmas, all.



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