Tree huntin’ on asphalt

This was the second year that my wife and I went out to buy a Christmas tree.

We are 0-for-2.

It’s not so much the actual tree that has been a disappointment – although once we brought this season’s tree inside, we realized it was too big to allow anyone access to the stairs, and thus my wife and I have been entering and exiting our house by sliding up and down a fireman’s pole we were forced to have installed through the deck outside – it’s the PROCESS of buying the tree that’s the problem.

Last year we went to a nearby establishment to purchase our tree. The place however, sold more than just trees – it was a one-stop shop for everything involving the holidays. If you had never celebrated a holiday in your entire life, you could go to this place and come home properly armed to decorate a whole city. If, of course, you had $10,000 to burn on lawn gnomes wearing Santa hats, or a 54-foot long, life-sized train set engineered by Snoopy. We did not. We were only there for a tree.

The trees were in the back lot. Christmas trees, by law, are only sold in parking lots, which makes things difficult, because people are idiots. It is the asphalt jungle. There is no rhyme or reason to the Christmas tree parking lot. The same people who would rather wait 45 minutes on the drive-thru line of a fast food restaurant rather than actually get out of their vehicle and be served in five minutes, are the same people who will navigate their way through the Christmas tree parking lot with their, well, Navigator. Last year, there were no signs telling people NOT to drive through the lot, just the realization that there was only about five feet of space in between each row of trees. Nobody cared. The joy of finding the perfect tree was counterbalanced by the harsh reality that – bam! You are dead because you’ve been hit by an SUV.

My wife and I managed to avoid the passing vehicles long enough to find a decent tree. Since it was our first year of doing this, our immediate reaction to this find was…what do we do now? What is the protocol here? Who do we inform that we have located a tree? Who works here? Everybody looks like a lumberjack.

So we followed the sound of the chainsaws. I didn’t know what to do, so I awkwardly carried the tree with me, trying to appear like a real outdoorsman, even though half of my body was covered in sap, and one leg of my sweatpants was being held up by a branch, exposing my now-bleeding legs. Of course, someone “would have done that for me,” but I knew that.

Apparently, our tree needed a “fresh cut,” because the original cut had lacked in freshness. They put the tree in a net, and asked if we needed it tied to our car. Adding to my newfound manliness was the fact that I drive a pick-up truck. Thus, this is the one time of the year that I am actually able to utilize the features of the pick-up truck, and I was more than content to look this unknown lumberjack in the eye, and tell him just to “throw it in the back.” He probably thought I was a steel worker or something, what with gusto I had said that. Then I walked to my truck in slow motion, but my wife said we still had to pay.

It cost us $25 for the tree, and we tipped the lumberjacks a few bucks. We’re very generous like that, especially around the holidays. When we got home, we realized that the “fresh cut” they had given our tree was SO fresh, that there was no stump to go into the tree stand. If our tree was 10 times smaller, we could have just sat in one of our end tables, and it would have balanced itself. Maybe I should have realized this before I lugged the tree up the stairs, knocked over every picture we had the wall, and inadvertently installed a new carpet of pine needles. There have only been a handful of times in my life where I thought I was legitimately capable of murder, and this was one of them. But instead of killing someone, I shamefully drove back to the place where we got the tree, and had the lumberjacks cut off some of the bottom branches, so we had a stump. This time, I did not tip them.

Our first tree never drank any water, it didn’t have any kind of Christmas tree smell to it, and when the time came to remove it from the house, it was as stiff as a board, and the pine needles were like weapons. Other than that, it was a great tree. Well, it was a tree.

We decided not to go back to the same place this year. Instead, we went to a different parking lot. This particular one was in the parking lot of where I work, so for some odd reason, I thought I could trust it, as if this shiesty tree-selling operation had any affiliation to my place of employment whatsoever. Really though, I’m an idiot.

I think we all know the kind of operation I’m talking about. These things are all over the place during the holidays. Someone encloses a portion of a big parking lot with a metal fence, and illegally sells Christmas trees at “One low price of whatever,” with all the proceeds going to the Russian mafia. These people answer to no one, but the good part about these places is that they only sell Christmas trees. No frills. No wreaths, no lights, no nativity scenes featuring Betty Boop. Straight trees, homey. That is their motto.

It was freezing last Saturday, as my wife and I stepped into the cage o’ trees. Almost every tree was tightly wrapped in netting, so it was impossible to make a determination as what kind of tree each was. We sure couldn’t take the risk of bringing one home, cutting open the netting, and having it take the form of an apple. There were only a few trees already out of their netting. Since it was freezing outside, and other, very annoying families were closing in on our section of the cage, we just picked one.

Again, we had no idea what to do. Again, I awkwardly lugged the tree to an area of the cage I deemed “the checkout line.” Someone who looked like Wilford Brimley approached me, as I was holding onto a tree a foot bigger than myself, and asked, “That your tree?” What’s that Wilford? Oh – THIS tree? The one I’m grasping on to for dear life? Yes, this is my tree. I didn’t even know if Wilford worked there, or if he was a customer who had spotted my tree from afar and wanted to make a deal. Nobody wears a uniform in these cages. It’s a freakin’ free-for-all. I could have put the tree down and started collecting money from everyone, and no one would have known the difference.

Wilford asked me if I wanted a fresh cut for the tree, to which I immediately replied, “No.” And as he was asking me what I’d like done to the tree, I looked up and saw a sign that assigned a price to all the things he was talking about. Fresh cut? $1.99. Put a net on? $2.99. Tree preserver? $3.99. Tied to your vehicle? $4.99. Photosynthesis charge? $8.99.

The “one low price” of this particular parking lot was $29.99, but that was actually just what they charge you to go and look at the tree. If your intentions are to actually take the tree home and possibly decorate it, there are many additional charges. Where was I – at a car dealership? Would I like insurance for my tree? Where do I sign? And what, exactly, is a “tree preserver?” Is it water? Because I have some water at home. I mean, of all the obstacles we faced last year, at least we just paid one flat rate of $25 for our tree, and we were able to put it on the ol’ credit card. This year, besides all of the ridiculous fees, we couldn’t even charge our tree. We had to pay cash, because the Russian mafia does not accept American Express.

Out of pure principle, I refused everything offered to me. I decided I was not paying a dime more than the “one low price” that was displayed. Of course, when it came time to pay THAT, utter confusion ensued. People were everywhere, asking tree-related questions. There was no indication of who we were supposed to pay, Wilford Brimley was scratching himself while I loaded the tree into my truck, it was still freezing out, my wife was pissed, and I was strongly considering stealing a Christmas tree. Finally, we found some jerk was who grabbing money from everyone like he was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. We paid him. Also, for some strange reason, we tipped them three dollars, mainly because there was a tip jar there, and we are very generous like that, especially during the holidays. It was our little way of saying thank you. Thank you for sitting on your fat asses while I did all the work here, and for trying to squeeze me out of my hard-earned money by trying to convince me to purchase a freakin’ tree preserver. Thank you for making this the worst experience ever. Here is three dollars. I hope you choke on it.

My wife and I did not speak on the ride home, except for when she asked me how I expected to get the tree upstairs and into the house without a net. I did not respond.

When we got home, I had to tie the tree up myself with some string, and I managed to get it upstairs without getting hurt, or breaking any valuables. We put it into our brand new tree stand. The reason we have a brand new tree stand is because one of our a-hole neighbors disposed of their tree stand in our bushes, and since it was nicer than the one we had, I took it. That is a true story. Everyday now, I check the bushes to see if there is a digital printer there, because we need one of those too. Stupid neighbors.

I also had to cut off the excess branches on my own, with a hand saw that was given to me as a gift LAST Christmas because I had no saw to cut off the branches on our first Christmas tree, and everyone found it very funny that I don’t own any tools.

Our tree is huge, but very pretty. Also, it seems to be drinking water, and generally preserving itself, which is nice. Last weekend, my wife and I went to Sunday Mass, and afterwards the Youth Group was selling Christmas tree that were a much better fit for our house, and much cheaper. Also, on the way home from church, we passed a Christmas tree lot featuring a “one low price of $19.99,” which was, mathematically speaking, ten dollars less than what we had paid the previous day. Ha ha! You should have seen my wife’s face! It was worth the extra ten dollars.

Whatever. Now we know where to go next year. To church. And at least I got to use my new saw. Plus, I like our tree. It looks great all decorated and stuff. And I think it’ll still look good even after the holidays.

In our neighbors’ bushes.

We’re very generous like that.


Amy D'Alonzo said…
That was hillarious. I am at work laughing out loud and everyone keeps asking me "what are you laughing at??"

Your car ride home sounds similar to when Andrew decided to use his manly pick up truck to move some of our items into our new house in the middle of a tropical storm. At least you didn't have to drive on the Turnpike using the illegal turn around lanes, picking up branches of your tree.
Anonymous said…
Family and friends are welcomed to come over anytime and slide down the fireman pole we have attached to our deck!
bruce said…
Do you think it would have been any better if the tree lot were associated with your workplace? I'm going to go out on a limb (limb! HA! Christmas tree!) and say no. Somewhere out there is a man who would've given you a free "fresh cut" with his machete, if you'd only GIVE HIM HIS KIDS BACK! He'll stop at nothing.
CMB said…
I love you, your wife and this confession! I too am cracking up at work WHILE on a conference call. I feel so honored to be related to such a funny guy. Aren't the holidays great?!