I was standing in front of the house the other afternoon, reaching for a string of Christmas lights that had become dislodged from the roof, when I heard the familiar sound of jangling metal behind me – Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty was briskly walking up the driveway, a massive collection of keys slapping the side of his leg as he shouted:
BSOR: Halt! Don’t touch that! You could suffer a terrible injury!
Me: What makes you say that?
BSOR: Power cords are dangerous. Glass is perilous. And ice is potentially lethal! Any one of these alone can deliver massive amounts of pain and suffering!
He had a point. The lights were the kind with the large glass bulbs. And I admit it – I was standing on an icy patch.
BSOR: Also, I know you’re thinking about getting out the ladder.
I hate it when he does this. I WAS thinking about the ladder.
BSOR: Gravity plus electricity plus glass plus the absence of friction at ground level. That’s what you get when you give in to the crazy pressure society puts on all of us to remove holiday lighting displays before the conditions are completely safe!
Me: But it’s April! You can’t say I’ve given in to pressure to take down the lights too early when the holiday was over three months ago!
BSOR: Why the rush? I always dismantle my festive display starting at 5 pm on the Fourth of July. By then the snow has melted, the footing is good, and there’s plenty of daylight left to finish the job. Plus, because of all the illegal fireworks being launched throughout the day I know the local emergency rooms are staffed and supplied with everything they need to treat horrific injuries should something go terribly wrong for me.
Me: Wow, you really have thought this through, completely!
BSOR: And if I wind up being hospitalized that evening, I can make good use of the moments when I’m conscious to scold the other patients around me for playing with explosives!
Me: So you really do visualize all the possibilities and expect the worst!
BSOR: I have a good imagination.
Me: Well I can’t wait until the Fourth of July to take down these decorations. This particular string of lights has detached itself from the house and is swinging by the front door. I could get sued if somebody gets whipped in the face when they come to … I don’t know … deliver the paper?
BSOR: Is that the best you can do? I’ve seen the guy who delivers your paper and he doesn’t get anywhere near your house. He throws the paper at your front door from a moving car in the street. A much more likely scenario is that the person standing by this swinging string of lights would be some sort of sales agent. Or a police officer, come to issue you a citation for having a dangerously detached festive display!
Me: Gosh, I hadn’t thought of that.
BSOR: Or worse, your Congressman, come door knocking! They’re lawyers, you know!
Me: That’s not too likely.
BSOR: And what if one of the bulbs breaks and he gets whipped in the face by the cord AND the jagged edge of shattered glass!
BSOR: And after the glassy shards of your busted lights embed themselves his skin, the string of lights gets wrapped around his neck and he slips on the ice and falls off your front stoop but the string isn’t long enough to allow his feet to touch the ground?
Me: That’s gruesome.
BSOR: And don’t forget – this is still plugged in. Sparks could be flying everywhere and it might take down the grid!
Me: That’s implausible.
BSOR: All the commotion might even draw radiation through the wires from that damaged nuclear power plant in Japan!
BSOR: Maybe it’s ludicrous to you and me, but this is a member of Congress we’re talking about now, right? In their imaginations, anything is possible. The National Guard would be deployed. This whole neighborhood would have to be quarantined for thousands of years, and you’d go to jail for at least that long, just because you HAD to take the lights down today!
Me: Everything you just described is completely and utterly impossible.
BSOR: And you are surprisingly weak when it comes to picturing the worst thing that could happen.
Me: I know. That’s why I’m able to sleep at night.
Do you expect the best, or the worst?