Some Say I’m Taking The Fun Out Of This Competition

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I know it’s August. Anyone else want to point that out? Then let’s get started.

We’re the official judging panel for Margate’s Holiday Lights Competition. It’s our job to award points, pick a winner, and most importantly, make this the best darn competition our small town’s ever had. We’re meeting in summer because unlike my predecessor, who didn’t begin organizing until December, I actually give a flying fir tree.

Gwendolyn, use your leverage at Borough Hall to pull records. Dig up anything on every resident. Anyone tries stonewalling you, mention the Freedom of Information Act — no idea if it applies, but sell it. If we see a household that made an honest, if underwhelming, effort to decorate, we’ll cross-reference that address with those records. If it’s an elderly couple, we’ll take that into consideration. If it’s a family with children and the house isn’t decorated, we’ll call child services — because kids deserve a house that’s festooned with love. And a crapload of lights.

Sean, as security guard at the hospital you’ll access the records department. Find charts of people on Gwen’s list, and note ailments that could affect decorating abilities. Not everyone will be in the hospital’s system. We’ll need the charts of their family doctors. Dang HIPAA makes this challenging.

Not sure if it’s laziness or faux eco-friendliness, but data show that holiday lights go off at an average time of 10:47 p.m. Look at these slides, mid-December, nothing glowing! I’ve revised the rules. Actually, I created them. The only “rule” was an absurdly vague: “Just lighten up and have fun!” That’s the kind of ambiguous bullcrap we don’t need. A new rule is mandatory exterior holiday illumination in darkness/near-darkness. We’ll take shifts doing 3 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. checks.

Schmitty, call in a favor to Public Works. We’ll need to go through residents’ trash for receipts to compare the amount spent on holiday stuff with household income. An underpaid teacher creates a festive wonderland? Extra points. People shred out of unwarranted paranoia. Just hope there aren’t any crosscutters. Otherwise, you better be good at jigsaw puzzles.

This aerial map shows Margate’s three entry points. We’ll have volunteers stationed at each, 24/7. They’ll record the license plate number, make and model of any vehicle with a wreath or bow fastened to the grill. We’ll send a list to my brother-in-law, a cop, to get their addresses. If they’re residents, we’ll tuck that info in our back pockets. Extra points for vehicle-decoration, but that’s classified — it’s only supposed to be about the outside of the home. That’s where Tony comes in.

Tony, I don’t care about your history of violence, drugs or your stint as a prostitute. I admire your burglary skills. You’ll perform interior checks of well-decorated houses (Veronica will learn residents’ diurnal patterns) to see if the inside matches the outside. Count the holiday knickknacks, then get the hell out. Don’t steal anything — it’s a Holiday competition!

Nativity scenes. No denying their importance. But this competition is secular. A nice nativity scene gets points — but no more than an attractive wreath. Unless the nativity scene is an intricate tallow carving. Live nativity scenes? Definitely an effort to coordinate something like that, but I’m not convinced living things are decorations.

Point structure. Animated items score more than, say, stationary plastic snowmen. We’ll debate blinking, solid, white and colored lights. I say weigh them equally. Novelty lights, like those icicle ones, get extra.

Demerits. Sun’s down and lights are off? Deduction. Pumpkins, scarecrows, any leftover Thanksgiving or Halloween decorations? Disqualification. Also, call me whenever you see a house with outdated decorations so I can vandalize the heck out of the place.

Exterior music. I despise it. Which brings me to the Collins family, winners eight years running. Ken Collins, engineer, software developer, smug S.O.B. Spends thousands on equipment and synchronizes lights to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I don’t care if Kenny digs up George Handel, brings him to life, and has him conduct the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain in a performance of “Messiah” with lights blinking in rhythm. The Collins family is disqualified. That’s classified. Let Ken show off in a national competition. I’ve seen stuff on YouTube; he’ll get his butt handed to him. My brother-in-law is digging up dirt on Collins. Clean so far, but I have a feeling a felony amount of heroin might appear in Ken’s BMW. Darlene, contact your fellow bean counters and get the Collins’ tax returns. Tony, I know I said don’t steal, but snag some of Donna Collins’ lingerie. Don’t worry about why.

I’m passing out your Yahoo! emails — username is your codename. It’s not Gmail, Lester, because I don’t trust Google’s privacy policy. You’ll all need to ask for December off. I do too have a job, Lester. To make this the best damn Holiday Lights Competition ever. Now prick your index fingers and repeat after me.

That’s the spirit!

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