Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Right to Assemble

Never mind Mars and Venus. There’s nothing like a do-it-yourself project to bring out the beast, er best, in both men and women. This one came in a long, flat, heavier-than-it-looks box full of parts marked with letters of the alphabet. In my euphoria at finding just the right desk for my computer after months of stalking office supply stores, I assumed everyone in the house (Bill Dear) would share my joy and jump at the chance to put my new desk together, whistling a happy tune like so many dwarves in a diamond mine. It turns out this particular mine was missing more pieces than a yard sale jigsaw puzzle.

“Where did the boys go?” Bill looked around the house as if subcontractors would pop up from behind the recliner.

“They’re both out of service. One is napping and the other is at Gumpy’s house killing zombies. You’ll get help from little shoemaking elves before you get anything out of those two.”

Luckily two enthusiastic helpers appeared suddenly in the form of our Mostly Labradors, Hunga Din and Whatzit. Hunga specializes in outdoor labor, such as supervising the weekly trip to the dump and barking at the lawn mower. Whatzit takes over the indoor chores, such as chasing stray beams of light and barking at the vacuum cleaner. Combined they are an awesome team, and in minutes they successfully scattered all the desk parts throughout the house, chewed a decorative pattern on one leg (not mine), and placed muddy paw prints on every bit of the instructions that came after the “If You Speak English” section. Thank goodness they were on the job, but if either one spoke Mandarin Chinese, that desk would have been in place within the hour.

“Don’t worry,” I chirped scraping up spare screws and particle board dust from under the coffee table. “I’ll be glad to help you.”

Bill Dear rubbed his face, a sure sign that he was counting his blessings.

“What do we do first?” I asked, waving a hammer. I try to be patient, but the man is something of a slow starter. He insisted on inventorying the parts and locating the instructions. Meanwhile I practiced my hammering on a scrap of artificial woodgrained paneling-type material. Lord knows, they name office furniture parts like they name snack food. The first time I came across macaroni and cheese product with artificial nondairy flavoring, I thought it came from the toy store.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Bill Dear is given to hysteria when confronted with a take-charge woman.

“Practicing my hammering,” I answered, holding the panel up for inspection. I have to admit I was pleased with the results.

“Great.” More face rubbing.

I smiled contentedly.

“Except that you used the nails we need to put the backs on the drawers, and you filled the modesty panel full of holes.”

He never appreciates anything I do. No wonder nobody wants to help.

“Here.” He handed me a sheaf of paper approximately the size of War and Peace. “Tell me what to do next.”

“Well, take these instructions and. . .”

“Watch it.”

“I was going to say wipe them off. They’re covered in muddy pawprints. I can’t tell where to insert Part B.”

Bill made strangling sounds. I decided he must need a drink of water, so I got up and carefully made my way to the kitchen.

“Would you stop kicking stuff out of the way?”

About that time I hit a spot that was supposed to be carpet, but turned out to be cardboard box, slick as Elvis’s hairdo and long as a mullet. I surfed the living room deep-pile like a seasoned pro at Big Sur, dismounted with a somersault at the hallway, and threw my hands in the air like an Olympic gymnast after a solid gold vault.

Bill Dear was neck deep in my file drawer. “Hand me the specialty screwdriver on the table, will ya?”


“Well that was a great landing, but I wouldn’t turn pro.”

Next time I’m paying extra to have the store put my purchase together and deliver it.

The right to assemble puts a serious damper on my pursuit of happiness.


Lost Wanderer said... husband makes a point of refusing my help with any sort of handy work. It's funny how these do-it-yourself projects are supposed to be easy, yet I always end up wishing we could get back to the old fashioned days of people delivering your furniture complete.

lostwanderer from AW Forum

Janna Qualman said...

I give you a 9.9.

the Bag Lady said...

Hehehehehe - my hubby leaves the handywomaning to me. Even if the instructions are in English, they might as well be Mandarin to him....

Great post, Amy!

plaidearthworm said...

Surfing and gymnastics? You're a dynamo!

Anonymous said...

穿著制服,來去極舍室內設計,裡面拜拜的香去哪個香舖購買的呀!香舖的網站設計空間設計很美,我要結婚了在SEE i找到一個婚禮錄影
趁著年輕和老公一起創業加盟,有空可以去天堂鳥宜蘭民宿玩玩或是8168宜蘭民宿,若是玩沒錢再去大中當舖借錢好了= =

colbymarshall said...

I am useless at doing anything of this fix-it nature. So, kudos to you!