Assembly not included

It seems that Saturday is the big
shop day when we visit not just the supermarkets, but the large home
improvement stores as well.  I know that
my friend Lynne considers her Saturday to be a sacred ritual of going out and
not returning until she’s brought back a revolutionary kitchen doohickey – a
device that will core onions without piercing the skin or something equally
life-changing.  I made the mistake of
going with her on a recent Saturday and found myself drooling over the gorgeous
new barbecues at AL Thompson’s – the last thing I needed as I already have one
that I never use.  As I ran my fingers
over the shiny metal I spied the sign at the side that read “Assembly charge.”  Y’know what? 
Sometimes it’s worth every penny…

In my ongoing bid to keep the
weight from piling on, I have been purchasing the odd piece of workout gear for
the house so when I can’t make it to the gym, I can exercise at home.  Two weeks ago I bought a wee elliptical
machine and of course it came in a box, packaged nicely but disassembled with a
set of instructions.  I have learned my
lesson from past disasters, and actually referred to the step-by-step descriptions
along with helpful pictures of nuts and bolts and a three-dimensional diagram instead
of leaving it all to chance.

Although the main body of the
elliptical was small, it was unwieldy, with flailing arms that needed to have
pedals attached.  As I wrestled with it
on the carpet, calculating how many calories I was burning just trying to
assemble the stupid thing, I finally decided that carrying it to a higher
surface would probably make this process infinitely easier.  It had no discernible handle, and so I instinctively
grabbed the arms to lift it.  In a trice
one of them managed to spin through 180 degrees, savagely trapping my fingers
between themselves and the metal base.  I
yelped in pain, and tried to extricate myself from the prison without resigning
my other hand to the same fate.  Once my
throbbing digits were free, I threw my captor to the floor.  It was only when I’d finished the job an hour
later and turned to the next page of the instructions that I saw the warning
“Do not use the Pedal Arms to move the InMotion E1000.  They will move and may pinch your hand or

December is a prime time of year
for getting out the Allen Keys, screwdrivers and Swearing Jar.  If you haven’t tried to assemble a racing car
set (Scalextric etc…) at two o’clock in the Christmas morning, you haven’t
lived life to the fullest.  My brothers got
at least one of these in the Santa years and how Dad managed to remain jolly
after such a feat is beyond me.  Tracks
upon tracks that had to be attached together in a particular way, controls to
be hooked up, and then getting the cars to go around at least once without
getting stuck.  Wasn’t that always the
joy with those sets?  How long would they
work before the cars would either start jamming or go flying off into the
couch?  I am hesitant to admit that in my
mid-thirties I bought a set for the house in Palm Heights drive we were occupying
at the time.  In my defence, we had two
living rooms so something had to use up all that empty space.  Sure enough, setup took longer than I had anticipated,
and I think we were able to use it all of three times before the cars were
sticking in that reassuringly familiar way. 
The cats didn’t care – they had a field day waiting for that Toyota
Starlet to come whizzing around the corner, only to bat it into the air.  Must have been a big surprise to the
driver.  Attack of the 50ft Moggie.  It’s amazing to see that this issue hasn’t
really been addressed after all these decades. 
Can’t we get that Dyson vacuum cleaner guy on the case?  He must have a lot of time on his hands now
he’s perfected the blade-less fan…

Those of you who have followed my
column over time will remember my Christmas ritual of decorating the
house.  The companies that pump out those
animated reindeer, Santas, snowmen and other seasonal characters have a lot to
answer for.  You may remember my efforts
to assemble two reindeer for the front lawn. 
A collection of bleeding fingers and frayed temper later, Rudolph still
had a broken neck.  His head was hanging
forlornly with the motor merrily spinning away that should have been keeping
his proud red nose high in the air and moving from side to side.  The instructions had obviously come from
China via a vague and undemanding process to translate them into English.  Helpful phrases such as “Attach Section B
keeping to the original frame”

coupled with diagrams so unclear
and small that only Nicholas Cage and his band of treasure hunters could have
deciphered them, turned day into night. 
Assembly charge?  Where’s my

There are two main reasons to avoid
paying someone else to assemble your goods. 
1) You’re trying to save money; and 2) You like the sense of accomplishment
from doing it yourself.  I suffered from
the latter a number of years ago when I bought a bicycle-in-a-box.  I ended up with a bike after a fashion, but
in order to have the front wheel facing forward, the handlebars had to be
turned to the extreme left.

The brake pads also had a nasty
habit of attaching to the wheel without warning.  I could either be stubborn and take my hazardous
transport to the road, unable to turn left and risking spinal injury, or I
could swallow my pride and head to Uncle 
Bill’s; which is precisely what I did.

I think the first page of
instructions should read as follows: 

 Step away from the wrench.  Please take to expert before you hurt
yourself.”  Either that or “STOP.  How much do you want to play the piano in the