When I went to turn off the tree lights very late that night, I forgot that there is an on-off switch on the cord. I pulled the plug instead. And it was hot! Almost melting hot. I don't know much about electricity, but I know this is not a good thing.
The next morning, I found that my husband had turned on the tree for me before he left for work. Again, I found a very hot, burn-your-fingers plug. So I called the guys at Back Bay Hardware and asked them how bad a fire hazard this was. They hemmed and hawed a bit, but strongly advised me to get another extension cord right away. Which I was planning to do anyhow.
Remember that 9-alarm fire last April in the 10-story condo building at Mass. Ave. and Beacon Street? I was there, and it left an impression. Someone had run an electrical cord under a rug, and either weight or friction on that cord started the fire. That's all it takes. The building is still vacant, undergoing repairs while all its residents are stranded elsewhere.
Back Bay Hardware carries practically everything, but they don't have tree extension cords. Nor do either of the Economy Hardware stores in Boston and Central Square. But Charles Street Supply had some, and they also have a calico cat I like to visit. She's adorable, although almost all the fur is missing from her stumpy, truly ratty tail, a mystery to me and her hardware store people. (And just the opposite of calico Wendy, who has enough tail for two cats. I have always been awed by Wendy's massive tail, and now I am also grateful.)
It's too bad that hardware stores don't sell anything to stop fur from falling out of your tail....
But they can save you from burning down your building. I walked over to Charles Street after leaving strict instructions to keep the tree turned off until I returned. It took about a minute to snake the new cord up into the tree, behind all the ornaments, and plug in half the light strings. We have two cool plugs now, and the tree is back in business. So is Possum, who has been attacking unbreakable bird and doll ornaments with vigor, as all cats should:
Possum poised, preparing to pummel prey.
When you put up your Christmas lights, please check the temperature of your plug after an hour or so, to be sure you haven't overloaded the circuit. Like we did.