I waited until the last minute to buy a Christmas tree, either because I am lazy or because I told myself I was poor so I wouldn't have to admit that I am lazy. Either way, on Sunday afternoon I found myself at the Home Depot pawing through picked over Douglas Firs looking for one that was taller than I am. The 7 footer I found was already baled and I bought it without bothering to unbale and look at it, either because I am lazy or because I told myself it was the only 7' Douglas left and I was buying it regardless so I wouldn't have to admit that I am lazy. It was actually a pretty painless transaction: the guy at the check out counter was unbelievably friendly for a Home Depot cashier standing outside in the cold all day (he volunteered that he was enjoying his work because so many people were leaving with trees and it made them happy). He even talked to the tree trimmer guy for me about cleaning up the bottom of it, which was one less stranger I had to talk to. Then two other remarkably chipper Depotists merrily bound my new tree to the top of Alistair whilst gushing about what an awesome car I have. This was the last good tree related thing to happen.
Later that evening, after carrying the tree up three flights of stairs unaided, I began the process of trying to get it erected. Usually this is an extremely easy endeavor due to the Magic Tree Stand. The Magic Tree Stand is a stand that has a long spike up the middle of it. The tree farmer I bought it from used to drill a hole in the bottom of the tree that had been purchased that would fit the spike, then when the customer got it home they would simply impale the tree on the spike through the hole and the tree would miraculously stand up straight without any screw tightening, arguing or swearing. The only thing different now that I live in Chicago is that the hole is not pre-drilled when I buy my tree. I have to get out my wood boring drill bit and make it myself. Up until Sunday that hadn't been a problem. True, I am a weakling and drilling into a tree is hard and makes my arm tired, but it only takes 10 minutes and then voila! Easy treesy. (heh.) So I got out my drill, lined it up straight with the trunk, drilled a 5 inch deep, 5/8 inch wide hole in the bottom of my tree, manhandled it through the back door and into my house, stuck it on the spike and let go.
It slumped over.
I stood looking at it, shocked, because this had never happened before. The bartender walked into the room behind me and helpfully told me "That's really crooked." The problem did not become apparent until I finally unbaled it: the trunk of the tree ran straight and true, right down to the bottom - except for the lowest 8 inches or so, which jutted off at 30 degree angle from the rest of the tree. Thus my carefully drilled hole was 30 degrees off center and my tree appeared to be drunk. There was nothing I could do to fix it. The hole needs to fit tight to the spike or the tree will wobble around with nothing to support it, so redrilling wasn't an option. Knowing that if I had just unbaled and looked at the tree when I bought it instead of being lazy, I could have avoided the problem entirely wasn't helpful. It was too late to come up with a solution, so I just filled the tree stand with water, leaned the tree on the wall and went to bed.
Monday morning dawned, and so did the realization that the only real solution was to go out and buy a normal tree stand and start over. So after work I set out to buy one. This was easier said than done. Home Depot was sold out of tree stands. Target apparently never carried them in the first place. Eventually I found myself at Menards where not only did they have a stack of tree stands that was taller than me, but allegedly I saved big money. After dinner I went about transferring my tree into the new tree stand.
Actually, it may be more accurate to say that after dinner I spent an hour and a half wrestling with a dead tree. After I'd assembled the new tree stand, I picked up the tree out of the old tree stand and laid it on the floor. I now had: one tree stand filled with water near the wall, one empty tree stand way too close the the coffee table, a 7 foot tall unbaled fir tree laying across most of the floor and cutting me off from the rest of the room and a one year old kitten slowly circling the tree like a land shark. It seemed best that I take apart the old tree stand and get rid of the water first since if I didn't I was certain to spill it, step in it, or both. I took it apart and picked up the tub of water, then realized that the only way to get rid of it was going to involve me climbing over an armchair. I somehow managed to do this without breaking my neck or dumping the water all over the bartender (who was very helpfully sitting two feet away and gambling at the computer as if nothing were going on behind him). This will be easier than I thought, I said to myself, ensuring that it was going to turn out to be way more difficult than I thought.
I picked up the tree and tried to put it in the new stand, which was still way too close to the coffee table because I hadn't thought to move it. Everything on the table tumbled to the floor. I sighed and put the tree down, fixed the coffee table and moved the tree stand. I went to pick up the tree to try again but this time, the cat, who had disappeared earlier, poked her head out from inside the tree and glared at me. I extracted her from the branches and tried again. Yay! The tree was finally in the stand. Oh but wait: Why was it wobbling around like that? It turns out that while the lower branches were perfectly high enough on the trunk for the old stand, on this one they were too low and would have to be sawed off before I could get it in the stand. I don't have a saw. I put the tree back down and sat on the floor glowering, thinking I was going to have to go back out AGAIN and buy a saw. Luckily, it dawned on me that Jose, our friendly but extremely drunk, English language challenged building engineer probably had a hand saw I could borrow. I went down the three flights of stairs to his apartment to check. "Hey Jose. Do you have a saw I could borrow?"
"No, a saw. Like a hand saw? For my tree."
I mimed sawing and wondered why I just HAD to take Latin in high school instead of taking Spanish like everybody else*. But it worked, and after five minutes of him digging around in his massive collection of tools, I was trudging back up three flights of stairs with a hand saw.
There appeared to be only one branch that I would need to remove, which was a huge blessing because as I stated before I am weakling and sawing is hard.
By now my wimpy arms were exhausted and I closed my eyes and made a wish for the tree to please PLEASE fit in the stand without me having to saw anything else. When I heard the trunk hit the bottom of the stand my heart skipped a beat and I let out the breath I didn't realize I was holding. "Is this tree straight?" I asked the bartender.
"Hold on," he said, finishing his bet while I stood there holding up a 7 foot tree. A minute later he glanced over his shoulder for an 8th of a second. "Yeah, that looks good," he said and went back to gambling. It was obvious by now that I was not going to be offered any useful help from the roommate who had been asking me for weeks when I was going to get "our" tree. Oh, I should also mention here that this entire time I had been wearing long sleeves and gloves because as could only happen to me, I am allergic to the tree and I break out in a very painful rash if the sap gets on my skin. I now found myself kneeling on the floor, hot and sweaty from sawing and repeatedly lifting a tree whilst wearing a fucking snowsuit, trying to keep a tree standing up straight as I reached underneath the tree to tighten the screws with my other hand, my face breaking out in angry red dots because the low branches were all up in my face, praying that I wouldn't poke my fucking eye out with with one of them and begging my cat (who was now sitting on the arm of the chair staring at the tree and licking her lips) not to jump in the branches and knock the fucking tree over on top of me and for one moment, one brief moment while I was on the floor turning screws, I caught a glimpse of why everyone glares at me when I start singing Christmas carols and wearing Santa hats the day after Halloween. But then I stood up and saw my beautiful, full, fragrant Christmas tree and I remembered myself and realized it was all worth it.
The lights, however, I decided could wait for one more fucking day.
*BrownsFan pointed out that even if I had taken Spanish, I probably would not have learned the word for saw anyway.