I moved into a new apartment recently and thought I’d save a few bucks by buying unassembled furniture to help furnish it. Not that I had the time to start jacking around with a screwdriver, wrench, or hammer, but I figured the savings was big enough to make it worth my while. Besides, it wasn’t like I was a neophyte with a set of tools. When my daughters were younger, I did my share of assemblage. Swing-sets . . . ones that usually came with 12 extra screws and a spare thingamagig. Tree-houses . . . most of which toppled out of the oak tree the moment I stepped onto the floor to test it. And doll-houses . . .my middle daughter thought the lopsided structure worked better as a doghouse. Okay, so I might not be the best carpenter in the world, but I was good enough to make it good enough. Know what I mean?
Anyway, I started off with what appeared to be the easiest project first, a bookshelf. I ripped open the box and out tumbled—a bunch of stuff. Fortunately, an instruction book was amongst the ‘stuff’. Or at least I thought it was fortunate until I opened the damn thing. Get a load of this . . .
Get the picture? This is one of the reasons why so few people are reading today! Everything in the instruction booklet was pictorial. Not one line of written instruction! Figures. Isn’t that the new standard in today’s society? Instead of focusing on literacy so more people can actually read a set of instructions, we’ve got to dummy stuff down to make it easier for those who can’t. Grrrr. . . .
Oh, yeah, the book offered another caveat. You know how most instruction manuals are tri-lingual? One-third’s written in English, another third in Spanish, and the final third either in French or German? Well, this stupid book was no different. What the heck is that about? If you’re going to dummy down, then just figure a picture is a picture, right? I mean, even if I only spoke German and every odd shaped screw pictured was labeled in French, I think I’d still be capable of working my way through the pictorial instructions for heaven’s sake. Or so I thought . . .
Let me tell you, friends, working with pictures alone ain’t as easy as it looks, no matter the language! It took me forever to assemble those shelves. Was sidewall A supposed to face finished-side up or down during assembly? And what purpose does that squiggly thingamagig serve? Does the bookshelf REALLY need it?
I’ve just got to make sure to shove the books against the back of the case. Too close to the front, and it has a tendency to , uh . . . lean. What the hell, it’s good enough.
Anyway, seven pieces of furniture later . . . four kitchen chairs, an accompanying bench and table, plus a coffee table, and not one ‘extra’ screw or thingamagig…. I was feeling like Tonia the Tool-girl Taylor!
No doubt about it, I was really jazzed . . . until I tackled the final project.
Sitting in what was supposed to be my bedroom was a huge box labeled; QUEEN BED. I sucked in a breath, opened the box, and a load of lumber fell out. Literally. Accompanying that lumber was, of course, the ever handy-dandy pictorial instruction manual.
This twenty page booklet claimed it took only two hours to assemble the bed. Yeah, right. More like two days! It was the proverbial nightmare. Not one board was lettered or numbered, so you had to guess which plank went where by looking at the holes (size and/or number of holes) in the board depicted in the picture and match it to one of the thirty some-odd pieces of wood strewn across the floor.
I lost count of the number of times I put a section of that bed together only to take it apart again because I’d attached a board backwards. I also lost count of the times I wanted to chunk every friggin’ board out the window and head to the nearest furniture store.
Sadly, when the bed was finally assembled and the mattress didn’t cause it to collapse, I felt no sense of accomplishment. Just frustration and irritation. But I have to admit, I learned two valuable lessons throughout the whole ordeal.
1. Sometimes it’s worth spending a little extra money if it means saving your sanity.
2. When it comes to assembling furniture, the old adage, “A picture’s worth a thousand words,” does NOT apply.