Tacky Light Tours

Posted on 12/16/2018 in misc

Christmas lights on house

Chris and Michelle on bus

A while back I wrote that my goal for the future was to do fun things with Michelle and make great memories. Or in those cases where the experience goes sideways, at least get a good story out of it. Well kids, sit back and relax, because it’s story time.

A couple of months ago I bought us tickets for a 3 hour bus tour of tacky Christmas lights around Richmond. As a child of the 70s I probably should have known that a three hour tour is an inherently bad idea. The tacky light tour was a bad idea, both in conception and execution.

It started with the mode of transportation. I assumed we’d be in small daycare center style buses, not full sized touring coaches. I assumed wrong. So we went driving through neighborhoods in full sized coaches that could barely make the turns and often struggled to get around cars parked near the corners. Add in that thousands of other people were out, in personal cars and dozens of other buses looking at the same houses covered in ridiculous numbers of Christmas lights, and it was a bad scene all around. At one point the buses could not get within 100 yards of the house so they simply parked in the middle of the neighborhood road and let us out to walk, blocking traffic for 20 minutes. That resulted in a police officer boarding the bus and telling the driver she needed to get going. I felt really bad about what the neighbors of these people were going through, and how taking full sized buses through the neighborhoods at night is an irresponsible idea. Even our bus driver commented she loved driving the tacky light tour in the smaller buses, but hated it in the full sized buses.

Also, the three hour tour only resulted in us seeing about 10 all-out decorated light displays. So the evening was 15 minutes of driving through the suburbs for a 30 second look at a crazy light display, followed by another 15 minute drive… It was BYOB and being drunk is the only possible way that could be fun. We weren’t drunk. Those buses are not particularly comfortable at the highway speeds they are designed for. They are even less comfortable in stop and go suburban traffic.

It was a rainy and foggy night, and the bus driver was struggling to keep the windshield from fogging up. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a physics major so she kept turning the heat up in an effort to clear the windshield, which is the exact opposite of what she should be doing. (Water condenses on the warm side of a surface, so you cool the inside when the interior windows fog up.) So the herky jerky not particularly comfortable bus was also uncomfortably warm. One of our fellow riders christened our bus the naked light tour as everybody was shedding their sweaters and hoodies in an effort to cool down. We eventually had to explain to the driver how the defroster works.

Music was also an issue. The bus had the local 24 hour Christmas music station on the radio, which seemed like a reasonable idea. However, this station only recognizes about 10 songs as Christmas songs. I’m not kidding when I say we heard 5-7 different versions of White Christmas in 3 hours. Also, the disc jockey was a devoutly Christian woman who had recently lost a child to suicide. In between songs she took phone calls from listeners talking about their problems or asking for relationship advice. Several of these calls resulted in the DJ relating the issue to her challenges dealing with her son’s suicide. It certainly wasn’t cheerful holiday entertainment. We did have a moment of fun when the disc jockey was advising a woman with boyfriend issues to look in her heart for God’s direction, and everybody on the bus was yelling at the radio that she needed to dump the asshole.

The tour was supposed to include a snack break, and as the bus pulled into the shopping center I was really looking forward to getting off the bus for a few minutes. And then the bus just drove by the donut shop that was the snack break. They never did explain why they canceled the snack break, I’m guessing we were behind schedule because they beelined back to the starting point. I suspect they skipped a few houses in the tour because earlier on the host had said the snack break came with about 45 minutes left, and it was more like 20 from the donut shop drive-by to the end of the ordeal, and at that point it really was more of an ordeal than a good time.

Our night ended with Michelle taking a Bonine to calm her stomach, as she ended up motion sick from the combination of the bus and the heat. If your town offers these tours my advice is skip it. It might be fun in a limo with 4 or 6 six friends and a cooler of booze, but on a commercial coach it’s not fun at all.

This is entry #16 in my attempt at 31 days of blogging for December 2018. I've haven't posted here daily since about 2007, so this should be interesting.

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