Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Annual Exercise in Futility

Update: Today there were 2 small sections of my lights out - brand new friggin' lights! I jiggled one and they came back, but the other section shall remain a permanent part of the display. The lighting gods are having a blast with me!

Every year around this time, Christmas lights throughout the world (or at least at my house) decide whether to continue living. This rule applies equally to new strands and those that are 10 years old.

But it’s not as simple as the lights are working or they’re not. Christmas lights have a special, built-in ‘tease factor,’ designed to remove every remaining molecule of Christmas Spirit from your body. There’s always that one strand that works perfectly when you plug it in to test it. Then, just after you’ve completed your hair-raising climb on the roof and risked life and limb to put them up, you climb down the ladder, congratulate yourself on getting back down alive and go plug the lights in. And what happens?

It’s never an entire strand. That would leave you the obvious solution of replacing it. But these lights are tricky! Only HALF the strand will light, and of COURSE it’s going to be the one in the middle where you nearly teetered off the roof trying to put it up! So, you move your ladder back into position, climb back up, nearly fall again and perform ‘Homeowner Troubleshooting Step #1.’ Homeowner Troubleshooting Step #1 is ‘Jiggle the damn thing.’ This rule is applied universally for every failing component of the home (one variation is the swift kick). It also precedes Step #2 (Unplug and plug it back in) and Step #3 (Read the instructions).

What HTS #1 accomplishes with Christmas lights is to cause a brief flicker – just enough to give you false hopes. And since you know the lights are plugged in and Step #3 must be avoided at all costs, you jiggle the strand again. If you’re on the ‘nice’ list, it may actually work. Apparently, MY name has been left off the nice list since I started putting up Christmas lights.

I had one strand that worked fine when I tested it. Then, thinking I would fool the system, I tested it again. AHA! The second time, it didn’t work. So I jiggled it a little (see HTS #1). Half the lights came on. When I jiggled again, all the lights came back on. Again, and the OTHER half went off. Again and, well you get the picture. But that wasn’t enough! Another strand was only half-lit, too! I suspected a fuse was the problem, so I replaced both fuses on the strand and…IT MADE ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE!

So, I skipped all the way to HTS #23a: Replace all the damn lights! I got all-new lights and all of them tested fine right out of the box. And you know what happened? After I put them up, a 2-foot section DIDN’T WORK! I guess these lights decided to give me a break because a few jiggles fixed the problem and it hasn’t happened since I installed them – yesterday.

But it’s still 2 ½ weeks ‘til Christmas and I’m not taking any chances - I’ve decided to hack the nice list!