"Christmas is a race to see which gives out first,
your money or your feet..."
Rob Chiller has rediscovered the joys of speaking his mind after a decade-long stint
in Corporate America. When not behind a keyboard, Rob can be found offering his
unsolicited opinions on life to anyone who happens to be passing by his house.
It had become obvious to me that our old Christmas tree had
outlived its usefulness. This opinion was based on sound,
solid, scientific data – namely, the damn thing wouldn’t fit
back into the box it came packaged in.
Yes, we are of the “fake tree” camp. If you read my previous
article, you know that Nature and I have an understanding – She
doesn’t mess with me, and I don’t mess with her. Plus, real
trees are just plain untidy; it took me years to realize that
my grandmother’s carpet wasn’t actually made of pine needles.
So, each year, I undertake the awesome task of assembling and
disassembling a plastic tree. Now, I know that for the
card-carrying, testosterone-laden members of the “Manly-Man”
club, this should be a breeze. But I’m also quite sure none
of these manly-men have problems operating a “Saf-T” can opener,
whereas I regularly draw blood. Every year is an adventure
in our household.
And last year was no exception. After a successful holiday
(“successful” meaning no police involvement), Marie and I took
apart our old tree, and attempted to store it away for the year.
We might as well have tried to stuff our piano into the
microwave – the tree was just not going back into that box.
After 10 minutes, I was ready to give up and toss the tree to
the curb. My wife, however, was not willing to throw in the
towel so easily. She is a Scientist. She works on Logic.
She suggested to me that we simply measure the box, then measure
the tree parts, including the length of each branch, then
calculate the exact angle each branch needs to be folded to,
and once we compute the radius of the cosign of the tree trunk...
Clearly, the tree needed to go.
And since I was the MAN of the house, the captain of my own ship,
controller of my own destiny, I very boldly waited until Marie went
to sleep, then threw the tree away.
To be honest, the “Scrooge” side of me kind of hoped she wouldn’t
notice we didn’t have a tree this year. (The “Scrooge” side of
me isn’t terribly intelligent.)
Of course, she did notice, and of course, she was somewhat less
than pleased with me. As punishment, I was banished from the
house until I could obtain a replacement tree.
Yes. She sent me by myself to purchase a new Christmas tree.
Those of you who are married know just how fatal a mistake this
See, I was thinking really hard about our problem from last year,
and how to avoid it this Christmas. The solution seemed
obvious – we needed a Christmas tree that came in a bigger
It turns out that the Fake Christmas Tree Sales Consortium has
done a poor job informing its salespeople about “box dimensions”
and “excess space ratios.” Because when I asked about those
things, the nice lady helping me reacted as if I had asked her
for a sidewinder missile. After a long, uncomfortable silence,
she pointed vaguely over my shoulder and said, “The big trees
are over there.”
And indeed they were. Giant, towering trees, some of which would
undoubtedly feel cramped inside the Sistine Chapel. The floor
models alone were putting off enough light to guide airplanes.
They were ridiculous trees. They were way too big for my house.
They were impractical, possibly even dangerous. I had to have
Unfortunately, there was a slight mix up, and most of the trees
were marked with price tags that clearly belonged to the Chrysler
dealership next door. All except for one.
It met all my Christmas tree criteria: It was huge, it was bright,
it was cheap, and the box it came in was absolutely cavernous.
The fact that it was stamped “Made with Pride in Bangladesh”
eluded me until I got home.
And it turned out to be quite awhile before I got home. I had
already determined it would take some doing to get the tree into
our living room. I had not actually considered how I was going
to get it in my car. Numerous attempts at angling and pushing
gave way to grapple hooks.
Note: Law Enforcement in general frowns upon giant Christmas
trees tied to the roof of a Geo Metro.
The welcome I received from Marie when I got home with our
prize tree was not exactly what I expected. Usually, I get
something along the lines of a smile and “Hello.” Instead, she
said “Don’t even bother untying that thing.” There was no smile.
But I was determined to make this work. Doggedly, I hefted that
tree onto my back, and struggled into the house. Marie stood by,
doggedly not helping.
A quick visual measurement of my living room made me a touch
apprehensive. I was forced to admit I might have overestimated
the height of my ceiling by as much as 11 feet.
The tree must have sensed my weakness immediately, because it
attacked me as soon as I cut the straps off the box. Dozens of
needle-encrusted branches lunged at my face, prompting the first
smile of the day from my wife.
I still wasn’t deterred. I sorted through 38 piles of brushy
plastic to find the instructions. They were on a piece of paper
the size of a cocktail napkin, conveniently translated from the
original Bengali into Japanese.
There was, however, a nifty little diagram, and I was able to
piece together how this thing was supposed to work. There was
a stand, a central post, and hundreds of individual branches.
Low and behold, the stand adjusted!
This tree was actually going to work. All I needed to do was
remove the bolts in the adjustment collar, and I’d be all
I don’t know what kind of space-aged metal they have in Bangladesh,
but it resisted any and all attempts by my wrench to get a grip on
it. Efforts with pliers, ratchets and hammers resulted in bloody
knuckles and some creative new profanity. In desperation, I went
back to the instructions.
To my dismay, I still couldn’t read Japanese. But I did find a
tiny picture next to the diagram, showing a key-chain-sized object
with a bolt-shaped hole in the middle. This appeared to be my
magic wrench. Now…. where was it?
The answer will forever remain a mystery. It may have been buried
under 38 bushels of plastic. It may have fallen out of the box
when I was trying to tie the tree to my car. It may have been
in Bangladesh, waiting for me to call some toll-free number to
have it delivered. All I knew was that there was a possibility
I would not figure it out until Labor Day. I knew I needed to
do the safe, responsible, practical thing, and take this tree
Note: Law enforcement really frowns on tying giant Christmas trees
to Geo Metros, especially if they've warned you about it once
Christmas isn’t really about the tree, anyway. It’s about love,
compassion, sharing, and community. I hope everyone has a wonderful
family or group of friends to spend this holiday with. If you
don’t, come see me – we’ll sip some eggnog by my Christmas
Copyright © December 2003 Rob Chiller and Low Carb Luxury