I have never hung Christmas lights on the house before. I remember doing it once with my father when I was a kid, but then for some reason that tradition fizzled out and we didn’t do it again. Enough time has passed and I’ve been thinking that I need to hang some Christmas lights this year. By no means does this begin a slide into a yard full of ornaments and robotic snowmen and angels, nor does it mean I am envisioning the scale of let’s say one Clark Griswold. I’m talking a simple, multicolored strand decorating the front trim. Yesterday I braved the Christmas section at Target, I found the lights I wanted and they actually had five boxes in stock. I selected an extension cord, hanging clips and a timer, running items back to my base camp a couple aisles over where I had my cart. There they were, in hordes, couples, friends, families, grabbing rolls of wrapping paper and boxes of lights. While I was making a selection, a man and his young son were also trying to select lights to hang on the front of the house. “You choose what kind mijo”, the boy picks clear round bulbs but there is only one box left. “Pick again” his father says and they finally find the six boxes of lights they need. I run into them five minutes later by the extension cords. “Hey bro, do you know where to find the ornament hangers?” We look around together for a while, trying to get a glimpse of this shelf or that one, buried by carts and people and finally I spot the hooks. He thanked me profusely and I returned to my base camp, looking over the contents of my cart before deciding it is time to get the fuck out of Target.
I return home, get out the ladder and pack my backpack with the lights, extension cord, hanging hooks and a couple cans of Mama’s Little Yella Pils. Up on the rooftop, I find a good place to start and get through the first strand of lights before realizing that I’m freezing. I look around the neighborhood, hoping to see someone else doing the same thing, or at least someone doing something outside who might nod or throw me a word of encouragement. There is nobody. I see the smoke rising from fireplaces and think about warm living rooms and I am losing motivation. I open one of the cans of beer and sit on the roof for a minute before opening the second box of lights. They have these stupid cardboard liners that are easy to remove and then the entire strand of lights is set into another piece of cardboard that you have to aggressively tear apart to get the lights free. Thinking about it now, I suppose whichever factory in China produces said lights has a section where workers screw the bulbs into the plastic bases fitted into the cardboard. What a pain in the ass. I stop moping around and continue hanging, eventually connecting the five strands of lights, covering most of the trim in unlit bulbs. Then the extension cord. I string it along the rooftop, being careful not to look over the edge, and finally drop the business end down towards the kitchen window. I turn them on and take a minute to admire my work. I am really cold, and beginning to understand why Dad and I only did this once.
In my short life as a day laborer, I have had the fortune of working for a number of small businesses that always made a point of celebrating the holiday season. Tonight the Tractor family will gather to eat, drink, exchange gifts and reflect on the past year at the annual Christmas party. Company Christmas parties can be a lot of fun, it’s a great chance to get to know people outside of the typical work environment. Most people seem to relax a little, especially when there is an open bar in the corner. With free drinks and free food, even a gift exchange, there is an opportunity to make a complete and utter ass out of yourself. I don’t believe I have the qualifications to tell you exactly how to avoid this, but I might know a thing or two about the unwanted result. I find that before the party, it is important to ask a qualifying question of your boss, which is “are we working tomorrow?” Some of you might have the luxury of attending a weekend Christmas party, however, we at Tractor do not have such a luxury. When your boss says “yeah we are working tomorrow” and looks at you like you are from planet dumbass, you either assume he or she is full of shit and wait for them to make the call at midnight or base your level of alcohol consumption on theirs. “The speech” is a good time to gauge your boss’s level of sobriety. Look out for slight slurs or nods. If it looks like things are going well, and your boss is clearly having a good time, relax and enjoy yourself, have another drink. Misery loves company and nothing makes a hangover more tolerable than seeing your boss equally hung-over. It also makes for a short day.
Remember to eat, Christmas parties often have a fine selection of food and the Tractor Christmas party is no exception. There is usually an ample amount of time before the dinner to drink plenty, but make sure you still have an appetite when dinner comes around. This allows you to balance your alcohol consumption with a solid meal and prepare yourself for the rest of the party. After dinner, things will loosen up and you will soon have to decide if you are going to slip out quietly, call a cab, or just hang out to see someone make an ass of his or her self. Whatever you decide will be a wise decision. No matter what you break, who you try to flirt with, almost all is forgiven at the company Christmas party. Do not, I repeat, do not use this as you mantra for the night, just know that the people around you love you, and need someone to make fun of for the rest of the year.