Sunday, August 20, 2023

"The Taming of the Screw"

By Jerry Zezima

You don’t need a master’s degree in nuclear engineering to put furniture together. But I’m glad my son-in-law has one. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a nice new love seat and a set of matching chairs on the patio.

When it comes to home improvement, I am the epitome of DIY: Dimwitted Incompetent Yoyo.

I have enough trouble putting together a coherent sentence let alone a love seat, or a chair, or a table, or a bookcase, or an entertainment center, or — God forbid — a gas grill.

Over the years, I have assembled all of those things with varying degrees of success and, often, injury. I once put together a plant stand that took me as long as it would take a kindergartner to read “War and Peace.”

In Russian.

And printed instructions are no help. Trying to understand them fills my eyes with more glaze than a Christmas ham. I just look at the pictures, count the packaged pieces (screws, washers and especially nuts, of which I am the biggest) and hope for the best.

I would have an easier time transcribing the Dead Sea Scrolls.

My worst experience was putting together a gas grill. It was the first one my wife, Sue, and I owned and did not come already assembled. So, naturally, I had to do it.

The project lasted roughly a week, during which time I let loose with invectives of such hair-raising magnitude that the neighbors went inside and locked their doors.

When I was finished, there were pieces left over.

The first time I had to use the grill, I stepped back and asked Sue to push the button. I felt like a mobster who makes his wife start his car.

At least the grill didn’t blow up. Fortunately, every subsequent one has come preassembled.

That sadly wasn’t the case with the entertainment center that Sue and I once put together. Nothing tests a marriage like teaming up on a project that both of you are helpless to complete without scaring the wits out of the children and the family dog.

This latest do-it-yourself job — with the love seat and chairs — was necessary because the old patio furniture was either decrepit or broken. And I needed someplace to sit so I could drink beer.

Sue ordered a table that our contractor helped us put together, though not without a bit of frustration even on his part.

“This must have been made in China on a Friday afternoon at a quarter to 5,” he said.

Sue also ordered two chairs that our son-in-law kindly came over and put together.

This time, she ordered a love seat and another chair.

When the items arrived, in two huge boxes, I asked the delivery guys if they had ever assembled furniture.

“No,” said the older one. “I think I could do it, but it’s better to get somebody else.”

The younger one added, “I just deliver it.”

So it was up to my son-in-law — with my questionable help — to put the love seat and the chair together.

“No one deserves both the death penalty and the Nobel Prize more than the guy who designed this,” my son-in-law said while working on the love seat.

“He’d never get the electric chair,” I noted, “because someone like me would have to put it together.”

The most maddening part was tightening the screws with an Allen wrench, also called an Allen key or, more appropriately, a hex key.

“The long arm is too long and the short arm is too short,” my son-in-law said as his fingers turned purple. I’m surprised he didn’t break a nail.

When the love seat was finished, I helped him with the chair by holding the frame and arms. My frame cramped and my arms ossified.

But it was worth the effort because the patio furniture looks beautiful. Now I can relax out there with a cold beer. And I don’t need a master’s degree in nuclear engineering to open the bottle.

Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima

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