Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Christmas Story

I spend an awful lot of time making fun of other people on this blog. It’s not because I’m mean spirited or feel somehow superior, it’s just that people do so much stupid shit that deserves to be made fun of. That said I am not above the law myself. And since the theme of this blog has always been full disclosure, I thought I’d share a recent story from my life where I experienced a severe case of the stupids. Enjoy and please try not to think less of me after reading this.

It’s the first Saturday in December, and as tradition goes it’s time to venture out and get the Quinsey family Christmas tree. For the past few years we’ve picked it up at a local tree lot down the street sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America. The service was pretty crappy: had to carry the tree to the car myself and tie it down (hint: to avoid tying doors shut and trapping self in car, open doors PRIOR to tying tree on roof – done it more times than I’d care to admit), had to saw / straighten out the trunk myself, and had to drill my own hole for the stand when I got home. But I was helping out the Boy Scouts (those kids won’t get laid until their thirties – they need all the help they can get) so I didn’t mind the self service. This year however they moved the lot about 5 miles away so I said screw the Boy Scouts, we’re going to Home Depot. Much to my chagrin the trees at Home Depot were bigger and cheaper than at the Boy Scout lot, the workers chain-sawed the trunk and straightened it out for me, and they carried the tree to my car and tied it down while I stood there and watched. When I tried to tip the guy he wouldn’t even accept it (company policy). This was too good to be true. The only thing they wouldn’t do was drill a hole for the stand, which seems odd since they’re the Home Depot and they sell drills. Oh well I thought, I’ll just drill it myself. Which brings us to the catalyst of this unfortunate holiday tale.

Let me preface this next part by stating a handy man I am not. My tools are an eclectic and pathetic collection of hand-me-down crap: rusty hammers, crooked screw drivers, wrenches that never seem to fit anything, a socket set straight out of K-Mart, pliers that won’t close all the way, an electric saw still in the box, a bunch of other random shit whose function I know not of, and a beautiful drill which I bought for the sole purpose of drilling a hole in the bottom of my Christmas tree. The only problem was the bits it came with were all too short to drill a deep enough hole in the tree (there’s a joke in there somewhere), so every year I struggled to get it on the stand. This year would be different however, as I proactively purchased an extra large bit that was easily long enough to drill a stand-sized hole in my tree. Why hadn’t I given in and bought a longer bit years earlier? Pure, unfiltered laziness and the fact that I almost never go to the hardware store (I know – man card violations are piling up here). Anyway I arrived home excited to use the new bit. I plugged in my drill, created a small pilot hole with a smaller bit, and then broke out the big dog. At first it went in easy, too easy. Within seconds I was a third of the way in, and then two thirds, and then… oh shit the bit’s stuck. I switched the drill to reverse mode and gave it a squeeze… nothing. Back in forward mode… nothing. What the f*ck? After about 90 seconds of toggling back and forth between modes, and turning and pushing as hard as a I could, and polluting the night air with a litany of cuss words, dark smoke started to pour out the back of my drill (not good). Followed by strange grinding sounds and a bunch of blue sparks inside the motor. After a few more choice cuss words I gathered my composure, detached the drill from the lodged bit, and gently set it down on the ground (by gently set it down I mean hurled it against the side of my house).

I walked inside dejected. “Honey, I need a new drill,” I stated matter-of-factly.

And my wife gave me that look like, “What did you do this time, genius?” (I hate that look)

“I didn’t do anything,” I responded defensively even though she hadn’t said a word. “The damn drill just stopped working.”

“You only use that drill like once a year. There’s no way it just died on its own. You must have been using it wrong,” she replied in a judgmental tone.

“I’m not a f*cking moron. I know how to use a drill,” I snapped back.

“I’m just saying it wouldn’t be the first time you broke a tool by using it wrong,” she returned with a wry smile (I hate that smile).

“Whatever, I’m going to Home Depot to buy a new drill,” I said defiantly as I walked out the door.

Just before I was out of ear shot she added, “Make sure you ask somebody for help." The implication being that I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing (I hate that implication).

I arrived at Home Depot still pissed off. “Give me the strongest drill you’ve got,” I told the dude in the drill section. He went on to explain the inner workings of drills and why one brand was better than another given its superior design and longer useful life, blah blah blah. “I’ll take the red one,” I said cutting him off. $200 later I was back in the car heading home to finish what I had started. While at the cash register I couldn’t help but notice tree stands that didn’t require drilling a hole in your tree. They were 25 bucks. I suppose I could have just purchased one of those stands instead of the new drill and saved $175, but that so wasn’t the point. I was already in too deep on this project and there was no turning back now. I arrived home invigorated by the untapped strength of my new toy. I tore open the box, plugged in the drill, attached it to the bit still lodged in my tree, braced myself for the impact, forcefully squeezed the trigger, and… nothing. That f*cking bit didn’t budge a single centimeter. Forward, reverse, forward, reverse, until a plummet of thick, black smoke came pouring out the back of my shiny, new drill. Followed by strange grinding sounds and a bunch of blue sparks inside the motor. At this point I temporarily lost my mind. Neighbors started to come out of their houses to see what all the commotion was about. Children stood frozen in disbelief and babies cried as they watched a maniacal man attack his Christmas tree in a profanity-laced tirade. After a good 5 minutes of crazy I finally exhausted myself. As I stood hunched over in the driveway attempting to catch my breath, I noticed my wife out of the corner of my eye. She was standing in the garage with a judgmental look on her face.

“Are you done?” she finally asked.

“That f*cking drill’s a piece of shit,” I responded defiantly.

“Did you ask somebody at the store for help?” she asked (her calm tone pissed me off even more).

“Yes, I asked somebody for help. It’s the strongest f*cking drill they sell. I’m going out to get a new tree,” I replied. “This one’s f*cked.”

“The tree’s fine. You just need to figure out a way to get the bit out,” she responded in the same annoyingly calm tone.

“You think?” I retorted sarcastically.

She proceeded to retrieve a rusty hammer and a crooked screwdriver from my toolbox, and then attempted to loosen the bit by gently hammering in the screwdriver around it. This was a direct assault on my manhood. So I immediately stepped in and took over.

“This is not going to work,” I said. “The bit is in too deep.”

“Calm down and keep trying. The only way to get it out is to loosen it up around the edges,” she instructed. “Have you tried turning the bit with a pair of pliers?”

I retrieved the semi-functioning pliers from my toolbox and attempted to turn the bit with all my might until my hand slipped and I cut it on the bit, which sparked off another profanity-laced tirade. I went back to the hammer and screwdriver and pounded away in a futile effort to loosen the bit.

“Don’t hammer the screwdriver in too deep or it will get stuck too,” advised my wife.

Too late. The screwdriver was now stuck in the trunk alongside the bit. I tried to muscle it out and the handle broke off in my hand. This situation was quickly deteriorating into a full blown shit show. Frustration took over and I found myself hammering away at the trunk with reckless abandon. I could hear my wife in the background telling me to calm down but the train had already left the station. I hammered away at the bit and the broken screwdriver over and over, sweat dripping off my brow, until the screwdriver finally dislodged and the bit snapped in half at the base. I set the tree down on the driveway and stepped back to assess the situation.

“F*ck it,” I finally said. Without thinking I grabbed the tree stand and shoved it in the hole where the bit had broken off. With brute force I hammered away at the bottom of the stand, sparks flying in all directions, until it finally penetrated the trunk to the side of the broken bit. When I placed the tree and the stand upright on the driveway to test out my handy work, the tree tilted at about a 60 degree angle (surprise, surprise). To compensate for the tilt I grabbed some rope from the garage and tied one end to the middle of the tree and the other end to the foot of the stand opposite the side it was leaning toward. I then carried the entire hot mess into the family room, slammed it down on the floor, and walked away.

“Done,” I muttered as I grabbed a beer from the fridge. I was so pissed off that I didn’t even help decorate the tree with my wife and kids. I spent the rest of the night sulking and watching TV, not even remotely in the Christmas spirit.

The next morning the bitterness had passed. My wife joked that she hoped the rope had held. When we walked downstairs the tree was still amazingly upright and straight. “It looks great. No one would ever guess there’s half a drill bit stuck in the trunk,” I laughed.

It was at that exact moment I noticed a sharp pain on the surface of my stomach, a pain I had never experienced before. I lifted up my shirt to identify the source of my discomfort and there it was: a TICK. Apparently while I was wrestling with the tree the night before, the little bugger had jumped off the tree and attached itself to my stomach, and then burrowed into my skin overnight. I immediately panicked and screamed like a little girl (it was about the 5th unmanly thing I’d done in the past 12 hours).

“Get it off! Get it off!” I screamed in terror.

My wife, forever the calming voice of reason, told me to take a deep breath and relax. She got a pair of tweezers and removed the tick, then placed it in a zip-lock bag and put it in the freezer. “You’re supposed to save the tick in case you get sick,” she said. (Oh good, something to look forward to - lyme disease)

I now have a large sore on my stomach where the tick was attached, my hands are all cut up from my altercation with the tree, and my wife is more convinced than ever that she married a high functioning retard. Merry freaking Christmas. We are so getting a fake tree next year.

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