Why I Have No Christmas Tree Lights (and other seasonal revelations…)

Okay, perhaps it was a mistake to watch Martha Stewart’s Christmas Special. Martha has led me astray before. In retrospect, choosing Martha’s caramel recipe as my first-ever candy-making attempt last year might have been a bit ambitious. Though my friends assured me the results were well worth the effort, I have my doubts. Some of my friends might just say that to make me feel better. Others are known to be highly sarcastic (you know who you are!).

I thought I’d be OK. I was, after all, hanging hand-crocheted all-cotton snowflakes in all the windows. (No, I did NOT crochet them myself. That would be depriving Kathie Lee Gifford’s child sweatshops of much-needed revenues.) But then Martha was making swizzle sticks for her punch out of orange peels, swirled around sticks and cured in sugar water. Suddenly my efforts seemed, well, inadequate.
I did plan ahead. I found a catalog (yes, my nickname is still Janine, Janine, Direct Mail Queen) that had artificial trees with the lights permanently attached. No wires to string, just unfold it and plug it in, then fold it up and stow it away when you’re done. I’m thinking of adopting this approach for boyfriends. They told me 3-5 shipping days. I was excited–I donated all my old tree lights to charity, sorted the ornaments, and got ready.

Two weeks later it was decidedly December, with no tree in sight. I called back. They could not IMAGINE who had said 3-5 days, it might be as long as a month, no way to tell. So I had a choice. Wait some more and possibly not get a tree until January, or put up the old tree. I waited a few days, nose pressed against the window as the UPS man came and went. Finally I decided to put up the old tree. Five minutes after I put on the last ornament, the new tree arrived. My friend Laura suggested I put the Tree With Lights But No Ornaments up right next to the Tree With Ornaments But No Lights. If anyone comments, I can look shocked, “You MIX THEM TOGETHER?!?”

I’m pretty much done shopping. I wandered into a pet shop on Montana that had the most wonderful dog collars. Handmade leather, hand-beaded, really nice stuff. So I picked out some for my dogs, some for my sister’s. Handed the lady a credit card, she said, “That will be $404,” I signed it, left the store and said, “WHAT?!?” These were $90 dog collars!!! It never occurred to me to ask, I’ve never SEEN a dog collar that cost more than $30. My dogs don’t get an allowance for the next five years, but they’ll be very well dressed.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Jaguar story. I decided that, endearing as its eccentricity is, I would prefer to have a gas gauge that roughly reflects the actual amount of gas in the tank. For four years I’ve chuckled at those heart-stopping moments when the car swore it was running on fumes, only to declare moments later that the tank was full. Since I have recently had a contretemps with Hornburg’s Service Department, they were eager to please. (Or very very afraid. Either works for me.) I told them I would prefer not to leave my car there for months on end while they figured out how to fix it. So we arranged that my assistant would take it in, they would diagnose the problem, then we would take it home until they were completely prepared to fix it.

My assistant, Paula took it in. They decided, just to be sure, that they would replace the entire gas tank for free, even though it’s out of warranty (as I said, they’re very afraid). The part would be in the next day, or for sure the day after. I know, this should have been a danger sign. But it’s the holidays, we’re feeling charitably inclined. Two days later (quelle surprise!) they discovered that the part was back-ordered. They would be glad to return the car to me, but then, however would their guy get back to the dealership? You guessed it–I paid my assistant to drive Service Guy back to his job. But at least I have my car. And I’ve found several quarts of Wild Turkey make the gas tank level remarkably irrelevant. Not poured into the tank, poured into me.

Copyright 1997 by Jzine. Not to be reproduced or distributed without permission