Winter holidays do weird things to my brain. I veer wildly between tearfully hugging Christmas trees and wishing that Santa would take a year off and drive the malls into bankruptcy.
I know I'm not the only person who experiences ambivalence during this time of mandatory joy. After all, there's no real timeout anymore, no collective deep breath, barely a hiccup in the relentless national noise machine. I suspect that most people wouldn't even notice Christmas if there weren't a million hucksters shouting it at them for the three months leading up to it.
But I shouldn't be so Scroogey in the face of a bona fide miracle. Outside of my little man-cave, it's pounding rain for the first time in three months, bathing our desperately dusty city in a winter sacrament. I swear I can feel the earth swelling in my backyard as the rain soaks into the flour-like substance that used to be dirt. It's raining so hard, it's almost loud enough to drown out the car alarm that's raging a block or two away.
ALERT! VEHICLE UNDER ATTACK ... by thousands of small, liquid projectiles bearing three months of particulates.
The other day, I was standing next to a friend in a parking lot as he locked his car. His horn honked—one of my pettiest, yet most profoundly annoying peeves. I asked him why the hell his horn honked when he locked his car. He gave me the answer I expected—it signified the alarm was armed.
"Yes, but can't you arm it silently?" I asked. He admitted he didn't know how, and then elaborated that it was kinda reassuring to hear the sound. He also pointed out that if he forgets where he parked his car in a big lot, he just pushes the button and finds it.
This pushed my button, of course, so I started squawking like ... a car alarm. I launched into a familiar spiel about how these infernal gadgets are a nuisance, don't work, merely represent the conquest of marketing and fear, etc. I railed against technology, and the way in which it fills people with a foolish sense of invincibility, how it enables and encourages irresponsibility and inconsideration in the process.
He said he knows it works, because his car hasn't been stolen.
This is like saying you know your Supercharged Alien Repellent Ring really works because you haven't been beamed up and probed lately. But, in the holiday spirit, I let it go.
However, the encounter stuck with me. A few weeks earlier, our soon-to-be-erstwhile Weekly editor, Jimmy Boegle, had pled the same automotive protection impotence when I pitched him on the idea of kicking car alarms and their animators out of town for last week's last-ever Get Out of Town issue. He, too, said he had no choice but to annoy his neighbors every time he locked his car.
This didn't sound right to me, so I called a series of helpful car alarm installers, all of whom told me that all after-market and most original equipment systems have a silent arming option. And the consensus was that even the few systems that could not readily be deployed silently could easily be altered to do so.
Ha-HAH! Well, how about that, car-alarmers? There really is no reason to scare the shit out of me when I'm riding my bike past your parked car, and your horn suddenly goes off three feet away. And there certainly is no justification for wrenching me from a pleasantly saturated stupor when you roll up across the street at 3 a.m. after a holiday party.
Don't get me wrong—I'm not kicking anybody out of town here. Alas, that Tucson Weekly tradition has ended, after 10 glorious years. (I was hoping for at least another 10, thinking that if we kicked enough people out of town, our population explosion would stabilize or even shrink back to a tolerable level.)
Besides, Jimmy is already leaving town, as you may know. He's off to Palm Springs to enlighten the coiffed, golfing masses with alternative media. This sounds a lot like opening a lemonade stand on the sunny side of the planet Mercury, but, again, who am I to judge during this blessed season? I have to appreciate his courage, almost as much as I appreciate his holding this paper together for the last 10 years and giving me the chance to write for it.
But—holiday sap and cheer notwithstanding—I swear on Saint Nick's oily beard, if I hear him park his sleigh on my roof and toot that telltale horn before he comes sliding down the cooler vent, Christmas as we know it will come to an end.