It was not my finest hour.
I have had worse, but few as vexing.
We bought a Christmas tree, a cute, little one that reaches only waist high. We put it up on a bookshelf or a storage chest we have, something festive to have and decorate. Being new in LA, we drove by a little place that also had pumpkins at Halloween and a surprise petting zoo on the side.
This little establishment didn’t come across as a professional entrepreneurship. They have hand-drawn signs at the roadside to let people know they’re open; the whole building is little less than an urban barn. And while there’s no charity signage clearly in view, I got that kind of impression. The “petting zoo” looked like a rescue operation and the employees the same.
The Christmas trees come already based. They’re each mounted on a pallet-board cross and pegged into a red plastic bowl. One span of the cross is nearly as wide across as the little tree.
I asked the “salesman” if I could get the tree without the base. Last year we splurged on a nice, 3-screw base with a healthy-sized reservoir, healthy if you’re a waist-high tree. We’re apartment people, after all.
He looked at me, puzzled, and repeated my question, “Can you have the tree without the base… ” This looked like an issue for him, a true dilemma. It was up there with questions like, “How will I pay my mortgage this year?” and “Do I believe in a life after this one?” I changed my mind and assured him that the base was fine.
I could not have been so wrong.
Arriving home, reevaluations of the base begin. Can it come off in a manner that won’t hurt the tree? Can we do this with the tools at our disposal? Immediate scans indicate a negative on both fronts.
I, in a fit of whimsy it seems now, think we can remove said base. It looks like its only connected by a nail going through the bottom of both planks, the bowl, and into the tree. Twisting it to one direction (lefty loose-y!!!) yields nothing. Twisting in the other direction the same. Out comes the hammer. Negative.
The better half, keen to preserve the shape and plenitude of the tree’s branches, decides we can make the thing work. We find the long span of the base inconvenient. It’ll fit on the surface picked out, but requires a little shimmy and a twist to get it there just right. She applies a tree skirt. She twists a single strand of lights into its branches. She hangs our meager collection of ornaments. She removes the tree skirt – it didn’t quite match the surroundings this year.
We fill the little red bowl with water.
Almost instantaneous, water begins to drip through the little red bowl, down the cross, and down our bookshelf. The Ugly Dolls beneath do not approve. I rush the tree out to the balcony to spill out the water and again reevaluate this base.
I do not know if my twisting broke some seal or cracked the bowl, but I did twist it. Seeing as we had already tried to remove this base, options present themselves. That’s a quick way of saying that she provided all the options (call the people we bought it from, return the tree, try to seal the connection of the cross and the bowl) and I had a mission: remove the base.
We already have a base. A base that fits the place where we wish to put the tree. A base that fits the tree skirt. The base is strong. The base is good. All the base is belong to us.
Fixated now, I know, I KNOW that this base can be removed. I am not particularly inclined in the mechanical fields. I own few tools. I can name few tools. But I know that I can figure out how to remove a wooden cross base and the red plastic bowl. Something about fulcrums and levers pops into my mind. I tell the better half that I will remove this base. She consents, so long as if the tree incurs any damage, I will be the responsible party to replace it with a better one. This was a pretty perfect tree for our uses, keep in mind. I agree to the terms.
I have my claw hammer. I have a large screwdriver. I make to wedging the pallet-boards apart. No. I identify a soft spot where the red bowl meets the wood that yields results. Now, I can properly see my ultimate problem: the nail. The nine-inch nail connecting all elements of this Christmas symbol and base is perfectly centered into the soft wood of our little tree. Alternating between using the claw hammer and the screwdriver, I can pull the base about an inch away from the tree’s terminating end.
And that’s as far as they’re willing to separate. I cannot stand on the base and pull the tree out. I cannot pull or push them apart, I cannot twist the end off, and I cannot yield to this base.
I do not identify myself as a stubborn man, I cannot admit to being testosterone-fueled, nor can I think of such a simple situation that I dug myself in deeper with every try. I’m a introvert, I think about what I say before I say it and in many a tense situation I try to make sure that my emotional response is not firing out of me uncontrolled. Extroverts hate this, I have come to find. I’m cursing the Gods of Christmas Tree Bases. I’m splintering ties with any associates I know in the field of galvanized nails. I’m screaming at the top of my imagination.
I cannot make this thing budge. The nine-inch nail, still perfectly centered, is holding better than any adhesive I have known. I used the best tools I owned in the best way I could use them. I resorted to my own hands, tugging and pulling and twisting. Brute strength would not win over the nine-inch nail. Its brute was brute-er.
Sad to say, the whole base looked like one shambling mess now. The tree’s shape and plumage remained more-or-less, but no real harm was done to that.
The better half, wordless in watching this whole time, cautiously, quietly, went to twisting the base back and forth. Slow and easy, repeating a small whine from the twisted metal holding the base together. After a minute or two of this, the nine-inch nail breaks with a full centimeter of it protruding out of the end of the tree.
“You got it started for me,” she smiles.
The tree went fit perfectly into the older base, which fit perfectly onto the bookshelf we wished to place the tree, which tied the whole room perfectly together.
It was not my finest hour, but the damn base came off.