Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ball of lights from hell

Christmas is the time of year of good will toward man, woman, child and, yes, even in-laws.
It is also the time of year hydro executives salivate over.
Throughout the land, countless thousands of people brave the winter chill to get their festive lights strung up in hope that St. Nick will be able to use them as landing lights and visit their home.
Around my homestead, the tradition of putting up the lights unfolds much in the same manner every year. First, I dig through a stack of boxes at the back of the garage looking for the ones marked ‘outdoor lights.’
Of course, I forgot that I forgot to mark them last year, so I get to open every box I think might hold the beacons of the Yule Tide until I get the right one, which is, of course, the last one.
I then hoist the 40-pound ball of green wire and little lights out of its summer hiding spot and spend the next five hours trying to untangle them.
The good-cheer-o-metre is already falling a notch or two as I struggle to separate one set of lights from the other.
For a brief moment I contemplate simply hanging the entire ball of lights from the apple tree in my front yard and calling it art Noel.
The tangle would represent the chaos that can come with Christmas and the lights are beacons of hope in the midst of modern-day madness.
You’re right, I am not buying it either.
Once the lights are untangled and the appropriate amount of ‘special’ eggnog consumed, it is time to put up the glowing orbs of merriment.
Here is where I will impart a piece of wisdom I learned the hard way: always make sure the lights work before you string them up.
After spending hours untangling and stringing the lights, the good-cheer-o-metre takes a serious hit when you plug them in and only half of them work.
Some very un-Christmas like words may form in the back of you mind and you risk being put on the naughty list if those words should accidentally slip out.
Years ago, my wife and I decided we would buy one strand of lights for each Christmas we shared together and then when we are old and grey we can look at all the lights and think, “I am waaaay to old to be climbing an ice-covered ladder in the middle of winter to put these up.”
Or something like that anyway.
We kept the tradition of purchasing a single strand of lights and after a while the front yard was looking pretty good.
However, I began to notice a flaw in the plan. The more lights we got, the more work it was putting them up and the more time I had to spend outside in the cold plugging things in, wrapping them with electrician’s tape and spending countless hours searching for that one burned out bulb.
That messed up bulb has been my festive nemesis on more than one occasion and the longer it takes to find the problem, the more impact is has on the good-cheer-o-metre.
But thankfully, there are people out there who are like a secret Santa with a desire to help and save me from at least some of that work.
Once, such a special person visited our festive display under cover of night and relieved me of a lot of work by running off with several strands of light.
My son was heading to school the next morning and asked, “Hey, dad, what did you do with the lights?”
OK, that’s not exactly what I said, but it was pretty close. About three strands of lights had been ‘liberated’ from our front yard.
The good-cheer-o-metre took a definite hit, but in keeping with the love of the season I got over the act of a Scrooge and thought, “Oh well, they must have needed them more than I did.”
That’s what I thought, honest.
Despite the act of Grinchery by unknown bad guys, we continued with our humble decorations.
But of course, there is always that one guy in the ‘hood who has more decorations than Santa’s workshop.
You know the guy. He has so many lights UFOs think it’s a homing beacon.
With around seven-million lights, 4,000 figurines and at least 500 Santas of all shapes and sizes, the yard lights up the night sky to the point where you need sunglasses just to drive past. It generates so much heat the snow is starting to melt four houses down.
It is without question the brightest and boldest house in the ‘hood.
I wonder if he is compensating for something.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sorry Bros, I had to do it

I'm sure I just violated some sort of man code.
I may even have to turn in my membership to MGPC — Men's Global Procrastinators Club.
What have I done that will have men muttering under their breath?
Did I miss the 'big game?' Well, ya, I did actually, but that's not what this is about.
This is about the fact I have officially completed my Christmas shopping.
I bet you ladies never saw that one coming.
That has to be a new record for just about any man on the planet.

I have a little more than two full weeks to go before the big day and I am done, finished, kaputzki on the shopski.

I know I am in violation of the hard and fast rule that says guys cannot finish their Christmas shopping early, but to my detractors and critics who are upset I have broken this unwritten rule I say – bite me.
It feels great to be done so early and while you last-minute shoppers are bouncing off other last-minute shoppers and ripping around the mall like a fart in a hurricane, I will be kicking back with a 'special' eggnog wondering how the less-organized people are making out.

Getting the shopping done early has another bonus: those two weeks might be enough time for me to wrap the presents because I am possibly the worst gift wrapper in the world.

Anything I wrap looks like it was done outside in a hurricane, blindfolded, while hanging upside down.

I have never used the services of the mall wrappers who adorn your gift with fancy paper and bows because it would be too obvious I did not do the wrapping.

I like to provide the personal touch of wrapping the gift myself. Besides, it is fun watching my wife wrestle with the present as she tries to open it because I make up for my lack of wrapping skills with copious amounts of tape, something I learned from my dad.

Whenever Pops mails us a package, it has enough duct tape on it to rebuild the space shuttle.
It typically takes about 20 minutes and the use of power tools to open, but at least it is secure and Dad is doing his part to boost the economy by purchasing duct tape by the crate.

But when it comes to Christmas shopping, I was not always so efficient. Not by a long shot.

I used to be one of those lunatics who would start hitting the malls around Dec. 23. It was like a sport for me back then.
There was strategy involved as you cut through various aisles trying to get to the perfect gift before some other hapless husband happens to put a hand on it.
Some physicality comes in to play as men push and shove to get what they need so the Missus won't stick a candy cane up their nose come Christmas morning.

The latest I have ever left my Xmas shopping was Dec. 24. Yup, one year I waited until the last moment possible.

Not the smartest move I have ever made and one I have not made since.

Even though I finished my shopping early this year, it does not mean I rushed in choosing my gifts, especially for the Missus.
I had a pretty good idea of what to get her before I even headed out for the first swipe of the debit card.

The key is to pay attention to subtle hints that may be dropped when she spots a sweater in a store that she likes.
Hints such as, “It sure would be nice if someone got me that sweater for Christmas.”

It's all about paying attention to the little things.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hey, it's not my fault the speed limit is too low

The excuses started forming the instant I saw him.
The 'him' to which I refer was a cop sitting on a little pull out road at the side of the highway. I was the guy in the little red car going slightly faster than what some official type decided was good for the motoring public.
I was not breaking the sound barrier or anything, but my speedometer did nudge past the legal 90 km/h allowed by that official type guy.
I am not totally sure how it happened. I do drive a Toyota, so maybe I could plead mechanical woes and deny the heightened speed was my fault.
Darn those Toyota engineers and their wonky gas pedals.
Anyway, I noticed the keeper of the peace sitting in his car as I zoomed past and I knew I had been had - caught red handed, or in this case, lead footed.
"I am sorry I was speeding officer, but my water broke and..."
OK, that one isn't gonna work.
"I am sorry I was speeding officer, but I think speed limits suck."
OK, not the best way to try and talk your way out of a ticket.
"I am sorry I was speeding officer, but I am late for work and if I am late one more time my cruel and heartless boss will fire me and my children will end up begging in the street. Please, kind and wise constable, think of the children. I beg of you, think of the children."
OK, that one might be a little over the top.
"Say, um, Mr. Policeman, uh, how many boxes of donuts will it take to make this whole thing go away?"
Definitely not the right approach.
Realizing arguing with a traffic cop who has you dead to rights is like trying to outrun a dog - it just isn't going to happen - I then switched to resignation mode.
I resigned myself to the fact I was going to get a speeding ticket, my first in many years.
There was a time in my youth when I had amassed enough tickets to wallpaper by bedroom - and not just one wall, but the entire room.
Back in 'the day' I didn't just have a lead foot, my entire right leg was made of the stuff because I just could not stay off the gas and personal interaction with the local law-enforcement community was the result.
I was not a bad guy or anything. I didn't drink, I didn't do drugs, but I did have a tendency to drive in a manner that was in conflict with rules set out by that official type guy I was talking about earlier.
But with age comes maturity, and with maturity comes a realization that the three minutes I save by speeding are not worth the fines and hassles of getting a ticket.
But on this particular day, I simply was not paying attention to how fast I was going - until I saw the Kojak with the Kodak on the side of the road, then my speed became the most important thing I could think of.
I saw the cop car and immediately looked at the speedometer to find I was going almost 20 km/h over the limit. Oops.
Realizing my sin against traffic laws, I slowed down and watched the cop car for those pretty little lights to come on, but they never did.
In fact, the cop did not even pull out of his hiding spot.  
Hallelujah, more proof God loves me.
After a few seconds I began to relax. I also decided to keep a closer eye on how fast I was going, which was a good thing because the second cop I saw a couple of klicks down the road may not have been so forgiving, and besides, I was all out of donuts.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh