Once upon a time there was a little Elfi who was asked to look after his parents’ place while they beat off to Hawaii for the Christmas Holidays. This wouldn’t have been anything out of the ordinary if it just meant the usual cat-feeding and plant-watering, but this year his parents rented out their home to some strangers. Because it’s the 21st century and “sharing economy” is oh so au courrant you know.
Again, this wouldn’t have been a huge deal had the house, or really glass-ensconced penthouse, and one located at 53º north latitude no less, had heating. Or had the thermometer ranged outside -20ºC to -30ºC that week. Or had the heat exchanger that provided heat to the hallways in the building not cracked that same week. Or had the tenant been someone other than a retired NHL enforcer, pugilist par excellence, professional face rearranger, and by all accounts local hero who was in town with his girlfriend visiting his two young children from a previous marriage. Or had the fire alarm in the building not sent the four of them down eighteen flights of stairs into the freezing streets at 2:00am on their first night. Or other things. But let’s pace ourselves.
The Enforcer and his family checked in two days before Christmas on December 23rd, promptly froze their cojones off that night, made a very reasonable request for more space heaters, and so sent our little Elf to Home Depot the next day for more equipment. Arriving with two large 1500W oil-filled space heaters, all seemed to be well with the world. With just a little more heat, particularly in the bedrooms, surely the bumpy start to the visit could be mended and the trip could be salvaged. As the heaters were being set up, almost in passing, the little Elf was asked by the Enforcer if he could get the living room projector to work. It was connected to an Apple TVii and the Enforcer wanted to stream Netflix for his kids on Christmas morning. The video stream from the Apple TV connected to the Projector and displaying on the 12′ screen seemed to be working properly, but for some reason the audio stream was DOA.iii The Apple TV was connected to a Bose CineMate soundbar via Optical Audio connection but the Bose system was in indeterminable working condition. For reasons beyond the pale of explanation or sanity, the Bose system didn’t have any physical buttons on it. Not for power, not for volume, not for anything. It just had ports and a remote. And the remote had been summarily executed a few months earlier by a certain someone who couldn’t help but throw it off the edge of the balcony eighteen floors onto the street,iv leaving the soundbar adrift in an ocean of disconnectivity. Looking around the penthouse for alternative speakers with Optical Audio plug-ins proved futile. Every other speaker in the place – all Bose and B&O – had plenty of physical buttons and redundantly functional remotes but no Optical Audio.
Trying to stream Netflix via AirPlay from another device was the Elf’s next plan of attack. So out popped not one but three brand spanking new iPhone Xs and a pair of newer iPads, all trying variously to connect and stream. When AirPlaying from each of them, however, Netflix would throw “Error 30103″ every goddam time. YouTube would work swimmingly and the iOS device could then be successfully paired to external speakers via AUX while playing videos, but Netflix wouldnʼt cooperate at all and the Enforcer was insistent that he needed more than just “clips” to keep his kids amused. At the same time, the new space heaters were blowing the breakers and smaller ones were needed, so back to Home Depot the little Elf went to buy smaller heaters and a Universal Remote with which to tackle the Bose soundbar (aka “fuckstick”) once more.
As the little Elf was back at the cashier in Home Depot with the smaller heaters being rung through, the Enforcer called to tell him that he’d solved the breaker tripping issue by splitting up the larger heaters across breakers (because all the bedrooms were on the same breaker for some reason) and that it was all okay now. The cashier unbagged the smaller heaters and the little Elf left Home Depot for the second time, just with the Universal Remote now.
Returning to the penthouse, the little Elf tried and failed to program the Universal Remote using either the preset codes from the provided list or those he found for “CineMate” online, and the code search feature that served as a more tedious back-up method was entirely futile because it required a manual switching on of a device THAT LACKED FUCKING PHYSICAL BUTTONS. By this time it was 6:00pm on Christmas Eve and all the stores were closed, meaning that he couldn’t even pop down to a nearby electronics store for another set of speakers. While the little Elf wasn’t perturbed by “working” on the eve of the birth of someone else’s saviour, he still had extended family who wanted to see him for dinner, so he called it a night and off he went into the lightly snow swept streets determined to return the next morning to save another family’s Christmas.
At Christmas Eve dinner, the little Elf was still brainstorming solutions, and after responding to a few long-shot classified ads online for sellers of audio systems with Optical Audio plug-ins, he came up with an idea to stream to the Apple TV or even the Projector directly from a “real” computer rather than the iOS junk. He had an extra MacBook Air at the office for just such a purpose, one that had just been wiped clean a few weeks prior, had a fresh OS ready to rock ‘n’ roll, and could readily be left in the enormous hands of the Enforcer for the duration of his visit.
Christmas morning arrived and Elf spent a pleasant morning with his own young family, opening presents and playing with new Duplo blocks and reading new Eric Carle books, before he hit the road again. No rest for the wicked! Stopping at his office to pick up the MacBook Air, he went to the penthouse with an extra charger, AUX cable, and Displayport-to-HDMI adapter in tow. He also brought his wife’s homemade ginger snaps and shortbread Christmas cookies and a bottle of less-than-easy-to-find Bodega Garzon Reserva Tannat from his personal collection. The penthouse guests might’ve been chilled and unsatisfied with only silent entertainment but at least they’d have some sugars to sooth them. And in only a few short minutes, the little Elf was confident that he’d be able to set everything up and all would finally be right with the world, right ?
Of course not! As the MacBook Air plugged into the wall charger, it first refused to boot at all. Sure, the machine hadn’t been used in a couple weeks but what could’ve possibly happened in the interim ? The battery had been in fine condition when it was last used. Then, after 10 minutes of charging, the Apple logo popped up and after another bizarrely laggy 10 minutes of booting, the little silver machine was up and running. Sort of… Whereas it had worked quite seamlessly a few weeks prior, the MacBook Air was now increeeeeedibly laggy. Like Windows 7 bad. Maybe worse. And the battery was now demanding “servicing.” And when the machine finally responded to a few commands, it threw a similar error to the iOS devices on Netflix and wouldnʼt connect via AirPlay. But fuck AirPlay and the whole Apple TV thing entirely, right ? It had caused nothing but grief so far. So the little Elf plugged the laptop directly via HDMI into the Projector, and lo and behold, no mirroring or connection could be established. The Projector screen was just blank blue. FUCKER.
Ready to toss the Projector, the Bose fuckstick, and most of the rest of this vile “entertainment system” right off the balcony’s edge to share the original remote’s folious fate, the little Elf and the increasingly bewildered but equally determined guests concluded that the next best solution was to bring another TV to the living room. The only other TV in the penthouse, however, was the one in the gym upstairs, which was screwed into its wall mount. But that could just be unscrewed and the TV propped up in a living room chair or something, right ? Well, except that a screwdriver was needed to unscrew the gym TV from its wall mount, and that screwdriver wasn’t so simple to find. After searching high and low, and even calling the vacationing parents, there was no screwdriver to be found anywhere. The supposed tool stash was checked and rechecked but the closest thing available was just a power drill with drill bits, no screwdriver bits.
Thankfully (if one could still be thankful at this point), just as the little Elf was about to run back to his office for a screwdriver, he remembered that another TV was available in a suite in the same building just a single floor down from the penthouse. His parents had purchased the other suite as a rental property and although it was currently unoccupied, it was completely furnished, TVs and all. Down to the other suite went the little Elf and the hulking Enforcer, both still in good spirits but nearing the borders of incredulity at the amount of work required to play a modest Christmas movie.
About to grab the 32″ TV found in the living room, the Enforcer went upstairs to the loft and spotted an even bigger 60″ TV. “Beautiful!” the large man exclaimed, without testing to see if it actually worked. In his excitement, he grabbed the 70 lbs. unit and carried it first down the twelve stairs from the loft then up the thirty stairs to the penthouse, panting as he maneuvered his battle scarred body up, down, and around with a TV that was maybe a quarter his mass but clearly putting serious strain on his tattered joints.
Nervously, the big TV was set-up in the living room of the penthouse. Then, as the big TV crackled to life, the entire screen showed not a blank input screen but instead a uniform mass of vertically coloured bars that made it look like the inside of a circus tent – all greens and purples. The big TV was borked! Of course! So back downstairs the little Elf jogged to grab the smaller TV from the other suite, which he quickly carried back up and plugged into the Apple TV. It worked! Without issue! Netflix was streaming with aplomb on the little screen, sound and all. It wouldnʼt plug into the little external Bose speakers via AUX but fuck it, it was functional and the sound quality was good enough to save Christmas. Or at least enough of it.
Unsatisfied but arguably victorious, the little Elf packed up his bag of gadgets and trinkets. As he did so, the Enforcer hinted that he still wanted new Optical Audio speakers the next day for evening movies on the Projector. The next day, however, was Boxing Day and the little Elf knew better than to get between gentiles and their holiest of shopping days, so he politely deflected the request.
Dropping into his car on what was now the afternoon of Christmas Day, the morning having come and gone, the little Elf zoomed across town to rejoin his extended family for brunch and more gift opening, cathartically driving at twice the speed limit on the empty, frozen, sun-soaked streets while dazedly listening to thug beats. See the power of the mind is not a joke…
___ ___ ___
- This little Elf wasn’t strictly one of Santa’s minions. He just so happened to have grown up with the full Chrismukkah tradition since he had parents from each faith, if an agnostic and institutionally unaffiliated father. He was the sort of Elf equally content to light candles, spin dreidels, and decorate small spruce trees with tinsel. [↩]
- Apple TV continues to annoy. The saga continues. [↩]
- Reading between the lines, get the audio to work or you’re going to ruin Christmas, Elfy Boy! [↩]
- No one was harmed by the plunging remote. At least not immediately. Though this entire story could be seen as the result of its downstream ripples in time. [↩]