There are few phrases that strike fear into the hearts of anyone who has children or grandchildren more than “some assembly required.” And yesterday Mr. Comfortable and I ignored our instincts and found ourselves in a “some assembly required” situation. We survived but it wasn’t pretty.
If manufacturers were honest they wouldn’t label products “some assembly required.” They put a notice on the box that read: “This item will test your patience, sanity, ability to reason, and strength of your commitment to your spouse.” A really honest manufacturer would include instructions on how to get rid of a body along with the assembly instructions. The odds are you’ll consider homicide at some point during the process.
When your kids are young Christmas is a dangerous time of year. Toy manufacturers delight in getting kids to desperately want toys that don’t come fully assembled. So on Christmas Eve frantic parents are hissing threats and instructions to each other through clenched teeth. During one such toy assembling episode I asked my husband if he’d rather I, A) had an affair, B) bought toys that required assembly, or C) became an alcoholic. Without a moment’s pause he responded “Get drunk and have an affair!”
So when Mr. Comfortable purchased a wheelbarrow yesterday and took it out of the car in pieces I was less than thrilled. I was even more disturbed when he suggested I assemble the darned thing while he went all the way back to Lowe’s to pick up the rest of the supplies for the Duck Cabin. But, trying to be a team player I agreed. I was actually a little excited to build the wheelbarrow and have it waiting for him.
He’d also brought home a hamburger for me so I decided to eat before tackling the wheelbarrow project. Then, being me, I got distracted. That happens when I get excited. Or if there’s a chipmunk. I ate and then wandered off to dust the bedroom. Dusting isn’t really part of the assembly of a wheelbarrow but at the time I thought it was important to do.
Then I remembered I was supposed to be putting the wheelbarrow together and rushed outside with the box of assorted parts. I’d just begun putting it together when Mr. C returned. This was perfect as “some assembly required” isn’t really any fun unless there’s someone else there to screech at and threaten.
I’d read the instructions carefully. The parts, including a large number of bolts in assorted sizes were actually in the box. This is unusual as manufacturers like to either short you some critical part of give you extras so you wonder where you forgot to put them. Since I’d already read how to whip the wheelbarrow together (after all, how long could it take?) I told Mr. C to just listen to me.
Before he arrived I’d attached the riser supports. This was the first step. All it took was shoving 5 1/2 inch bolts through several holes in plastic that hadn’t been properly reamed out. Together we continued putting our brand new wheelbarrow together.
We attached the handles, then the legs. Next we put on the wheel guard and I began to question the work. The way I’d had us attach parts to that point had the wheel under the center of the tray and it was actually brushing the tray. How could it turn if it were rubbing on the tray? And why wasn’t the wheel closer to the front?
And the wheel itself was giving us trouble. The axle didn’t want to fit in the axle brackets. There were two parts that weren’t listed on the parts list. Where the heck did they go? And why were there two holes at the front of the tray that had no bolts, nuts, or things to attach the bolts to even if we had nuts and bolts for them?
By this time the mosquitoes were out in force. We used to have bats around here but the mosquitoes ate them. And now they were trying to drain us. Between dropping nuts and swatting at mosquitoes things were getting tense. Mr. C was beginning to curse at everything he touched. I wanted to curse at him for cursing at everything else.
At some point during the assembly I’d sent a desperate text to Pete. This is the exact message I sent him; “Please come asap! We need help!” He responded immediately but was in the next town and it would take him a little while to get here. Meanwhile Mr. C was starting to lose it.
Suddenly a light when on in my head! Oh! This whole thing has to shift forward so that these bolts can go through those holes and attach to the handles! Except that we would have to basically disassemble the entire thing to do that. There was no other choice. We took nearly everything apart, moved it all forward, and started tightening bolts again.
But there were those stupid risers. The very first parts I’d attached. They were just kind of there. They were swinging around with no purpose in life. Then it hit me. And I was sure I would end up with my face on a milk carton. “Sweetheart” I said gently. “I figured out how those risers attach to the thing and what they do.” Mr. C looked at me with admiration and love which I knew would not last. “The thing is…we have to take off the handles, the wheel, and find two more bolts and nuts.” I gave him a toothy grin. The kind of grin your dog flashes you when he’s surrounded by the contents of the trash can but wants you to think it’s really not that bad. Or that someone else did it.
I’m so proud of Mr. Comfortable. Instead of hitting me on the side of the head with the hammer he said with deadly calm, “The pictures on the instructions are worthless!” So once again we took most of the wheelbarrow apart and positioned the risers correctly. Then put the axle, wheel, handles, and wheel guard back on. We were the proud parents of a brand new wheelbarrow!
Mr. Comfortable loaded two bags of cement mix on the wheelbarrow. It was a shining moment in our lives. But only for a moment. The wheelbarrow began to wobble. It was assembled correctly and all the nuts were as tight as they could be but the wheelbarrow itself couldn’t handle 160 pounds. It gasped. It wheezed. I’m sure I heard it moan, “Oh, dear God!”
Mr. C immediately removed one of the bags and the wheelbarrow sighed in relief. Just then Pete pulled in the driveway. He got out of his car, took one look at the wheelbarrow, and said, “Take it back. It’s junk.” As much as we wanted to deny it he was right. You get what you pay for and this was the bargain basement of wheelbarrows. Mr. C is returning it today.
We wanted the wheelbarrow to mix the cement but Mr. C thought it would also be really helpful to move all the bags of cement mix, gravel, and other material for the Duck Cabin. We assumed, with our decades of experience in “some assembly required” that putting the wheelbarrow together would be child’s play. We were less right than usual.
And late last night, while I was reviewing our “some assembly required” nightmare I realized something. We could have just backed the car up to the Duck Cabin area to unload the cement mix and other material. And we could have rented a cement mixer.
We’re still married. Both of us suffered massive blood loss due to the mosquitoes. Mr. C didn’t eat until nearly 10 o’clock last night. Pete had a look in his eye as though he were calculating how long he had to find a nice “home” for us. And I realized the only thing I will ever buy in the future that reads “Some Assembly Required” are Legos.
“Some assembly required” image courtesy Clintondale Friends Christian Church