Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas Lights are up

Every year, Becky encourages me, with much nagging and gnashing of teeth, to go outside and hang Christmas lights on and around the house. You'd think with my Grandpa Guier's genes, that I would be the guy with his entire house outlined in rope lights, ten inflatable Santas in the yard, reindeer on the roof and votive lights defining the driveway.

In fact, I'm the opposite. I actually dread hanging lights on the house, and it's predominantly for one main reason: those stupid incandescent mini lights. Every year, we fight our way through the strings, trying to isolate the burned out bulbs and restore the string to complete working order. Then, after the strings have been installed, weeks later, whole sections of them will go dark. Usually, in the freezing cold and sleet, I will go out and jiggle the lights and they'll come back on. I am then left with the uncomfortable realization that I have a potential fire hazard in the shorted cord, but rationalize leaving it there since the bushes are far enough away from the house. Who cares if the bushes burn down? At least the house is safe. And besides, it's 33 degrees and sleeting right now. Can a fire really start in the sleet? Forget it, I'm going inside.

So, it was with great angst that I once again got the prodding from Becky. As we started unloading the boxes and checking the cords, it was obvious that more than 50% of them required bulb replacement. And since bulb replacement involves an elaborate procedure of identifying the good bulbs from the two or more bad bulbs hiding in the string, I was not enthused to start this process once more this year.

As Becky was sitting down to debug the strings, I told her, "Forget it, hon. I'm going to the P-ville Pharmacy." I was intent on getting complete replacement strings rather than spend one minute debugging older strings.

As I arrived at the pharmacy, and walked down the Christmas decorations aisle, it was as if a choir of angels opened up above me. My eyes landed on a shelf plentifully stocked with LED lights. Hallelujah! It's about freaking time! I've been saying for years that they should make LED Christmas lights. And there they were, sitting on the shelf in front of me, hundreds of them, waiting to be bought!

I ran back up front to grab a shopping cart, now frenzied into thinking someone may take all the lights before I got back with my cart. I ran up to the shelf and literally started scooping boxes of LED lights into my cart. It was then that I realized that these lights were probably more expensive than the $3 per box incandescent lights I'm used to buying. Indeed, they were. The LED lights were $15 per box. Ouch. But I had expected that.

I did some quick computations (for both geometry of the layout and cost of the purchase) and decided to get eight strings of blue, eight strings of red, and four strings of multi-colored. Ringing in at about $340, I figured this was a fair price to pay to avoid having to sweat with the bulbs ever again. Plus, I rationalized further, these lights use less energy, last longer, etc., etc., etc. I couldn't put a cost to those intangibles, but could easily lump them into the positive column of my already-convinced trade study.

Returning home, and proud as a primeval hunter, I strutted up to Becky to show her my capture. (She was, of course, still bent over fixing the old strings.) It didn't take much time to convince her, and within thirty minutes, the new strings were on the bushes and the old strings were in the trash.

I had just enough to do the junipers, the laurels and the hollies. Ultimately, I'd like to have them wired into the garlands, and a few along the railings and in the shorter trees (both in the front and the back). But that will have to wait until next year, when I can justify plunking down another $300 for lighting that gets displayed only one month every year.

For now, the Christmas tree itself is still wired with the remaining working incandescent lights, but I put them formally on notice. Yes, I found myself actually talking to the strings of remaining lights sitting on the floor: "One burnout from you guys, and you're outta here!"

Just try me. I've got my VISA card ready, and I'm prepared to use it!

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