People like to be respected

You’re not starting ALREADY are you?!?

The other day I went out to my car and found the glove box open and the owner’s manual lying open on the driver’s seat. As I have never opened the glove box since I bought the vehicle, I cleverly deduced that someone had been rummaging around in my car. Fortunately, they didn’t take anything but when I went to check the video surveillance system I found that there was a blind spot on the passenger side of the car. I purchased a few more cameras and was up on the ladder mounting one to the side of the house when one of my neighbors yelled out “You’re not starting ALREADY are you?!?” I explained what had happened, added that the new cameras would also help protect her house and she went away happy.

If you’ve been doing an “extreme” Christmas display for more than two or three years, you’ve probably had something similar happen to you. Whether it’s the next-door neighbor’s incessant comments like “I’m glad I don’t have YOUR electric bill” or that guy on the corner that waves at you with one finger every time he drives by or old Mrs. Winklebottoms, across the street, that trained her three Yorkies to use your Santa blowmold as a fire hydrant, it can sometimes seem as if nobody appreciates your hard work and effort. So, today, I’m going to discuss some simple methods you can use to help alleviate any tension that might exist between you and your neighbors during the holiday season.

To begin with, let’s discuss a basic premise: People like to be respected. If you can convince your neighbors that you care about them and are trying to keep your display at a “reasonable” size, they might cut you some slack. Note that you don’t actually HAVE to care what they think, it’s just important for them to think that you do. Here are a few things you can say in order to appear concerned with their plight:

“I know my display can be a burden on the neighborhood with all of the traffic it creates – that’s why I only put up a 100-foot megatree instead of the 300-foot one my wife wanted.” Notice how this not only emphasizes your “caring” but it also makes your wife out to be the bad guy. It might help if you throw in a few anecdotes about her OCD tendencies or mention how she hogs the TV remote but don’t overdo it. If you start claiming she beats you with a rolling pin or keeps the children locked in the tool shed then someone might eventually call the authorities and your scam will be exposed.

You might also try saying something like “I’m only going to put 1,000 of my blowmolds out in the yard this year, the rest I’m leaving in storage.” It’s not important for them to know that there aren’t actually any more blowmolds in storage or that the only reason they are there is that they are damaged and you’re restoring them to use next year. What is important here is that you make it perfectly clear that, as bad as it is, it could be a whole lot worse.

Which brings us to critically important premise number two: Everything is relative. If you can convince some or all of your neighbors that the mess that is your display is NOTHING compared to “That Marty guy’s display in Utah with the three million lights and hundred thousand cars driving by at all hours” then you are off the hook. I find it helpful to keep some printouts from a few of the Web sites devoted to “tacky Christmas lights” handy to show to people. (Just Google “Christmas lights”.) Once they get a gander at some of the horrific stuff that is out there it’s quite possible they will offer to help you set up your display. Important: If your display is the banner image for any of these sites it’s probably best to not mention that they exist. In fact, if your display is the banner image for one or more of these sites it’s entirely probable that your neighbors have a valid complaint.

Finally, we have premise number three: Perception is everything. Let’s be honest here: if you can make your property look WORSE when there is no display up then people will begin to look forward to the sight of you up on the roof tethering a 30-foot tall snowman to the chimney. If you are unsure how to go about accomplishing this, here are some ideas to get you going:

Allow your brother-in-law to store his boat in your front yard when you take your display down. An old, beat-up car will also work. The rustier the better.

Don’t mow your lawn between the 4th of July and whenever you begin setting up your display.

Keep some old appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers in the garage. When you go to put your display in the garage, take the appliances out and scatter them randomly around your front yard. Leave them there until you go to set up next year.

In closing, hopefully I’ve given you some useful tips that you can use to keep your neighbors happy during the holiday season. Or, at least, keep them from setting fire to your house.


From the July 2009 edition of PlanetChristmas Magazine

by Chuck Hutchings

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