Monday, May 18, 2015

Some (More) Damn Assembly Required

"So," he says. "What tools do we need?"

I flip through the bulky 63-page multilingual assembly manual. "It just says 'one screwdriver.'"

I'm on the cold cement floor of the sunroom with a book, carton, packaging, boards and several thousand screws belonging to our new piece of furniture. The husband stands over me, a skeptical frown on his face.

"Really?" he asks. "Just a screwdriver?"

"That's what it says -- a Phillips head," I look up at him with a smirk. "It also says 'Assembly time: one hour.'"

At this, we double over in laughter. It ain't our first rodeo of assembling cheap furniture from a big box store. And he and I don't argue much, except when faced with some damn assembly required.

Still chuckling, he fetches a Phillips head from the junk drawer, and I begin attempting to screw shelf LL into B2 using screw J38. I twist and twist and get nowhere.

Screwing: Sometimes, it's completely futile.

"This isn't the right size screwdriver," I tell him. "I need a bigger one."

He hoists himself from the pile of particleboard and gestures dramatically at his swimsuit area.  “Well, I got a big one for ya! Heh heh!"

Oh, how that man amuses himself.

As he heads back to the kitchen to root around, I realize that I haven't eaten anything yet today, which is very bad news for him. Because I don't get hungry, I get fungry: fucking hungry.

You wouldn't like me when I'm fungry.

"Hurry it up," I yell. "I'm starving!"

"I'm coming, dear," he says. "Why don't you just have a cheese stick?"

Ah. Behold the power of the cheese stick. It's the disappointing solution for a snack at our place. In fact, it's often the solution for breakfast. Also lunch. Sometimes dinner.

In fact, are you hungry? Well have a freakin' cheese stick.

But I can't have one now -- we are out of them. My stomach growls. My head hurts.  My mouth waters. Years pass, and the husband returns with a big screwdriver, a different, even bigger screwdriver, and no cheese sticks whatsoever.

The mid-size Phillips-head does the trick, and we make some headway on our project -- for a while. Until Step 7: Screw side piece CC into shelf LL using screw B11-a. I push and wrestle with B-11-a, but try as I might, I can't get it to bite into shelf LL.

"You know," I tell him, "I think the cordless drill might work for this."

He grabs the manual and flips back through the pages. "I thought the instructions said we'd only need a screwdriver?"

I stare at him with eyes as empty as my stomach. "It does say that. Now go get the cordless drill and the Phillips bit."

He slouches his way back through the rubble. "Yes, dear."

While waiting for him, I think back to the groovy day, to the 70s and 80s, a time when furniture -- made of actual wood, mind you, by actual Americans and carried by actual delivery men -- arrived already put together. True, compared to our income, this furniture was so prohibitively expensive that my mother could only afford one piece every decade or so, but by God, it was worth it, because it was what?

Fully assembled.

I snap back to the present and glance around the room, filled to the brim with some damn assembly required items, all of it clumsily put together by my husband and I. It is a strong marriage that can survive cheap furniture.  We have been married 20 years now. That's a lot of IKEA. From the tables to the kids' beds to several large shelves, our home is chock full of "wood" fabricated in faraway countries, probably by small, hungry children.

And speaking of hungry, that reminds me . . .

"Hurry IT UP!" I yell.

Glaring, he re-enters the room with the cordless drill case in hand. He opens it up, pushes in the battery, pulls the trigger, and . . .


Nothing. As usual, the battery is dead.

"I'm not sure why we even have that thing," I say. "It's never charged."

He studies the dead drill in his hands. "I'll go get the electric one."

"Hurry . . ."

"Yes," he hisses. "I will hurry it up!"

I wait for him again, growing ever older, ever angrier, ever fungrier, and study the diagram in the the instruction book. If it gets assembled, this particular piece will be a snazzy-looking television stand with a built-in electric fireplace. It was my idea to buy it.

Obviously I have had better ideas.

But this is no comfort, as I sit in a mountain of MDF, tool boxes, several thousand screws, a half dozen screwdrivers, one dead cordless drill, and exactly zero freakin' cheese sticks.

"Assembly time: one hour."

Yeah. Sure. One hour.

"Tools needed: one screwdriver. "

And one screwdriver indeed.

With double vodka.


  1. Been there, done that, didn't find it funny at the time. Your words bring back all those times when SARs was how we lived. Oh wait. We still do. Love it.

    1. I agree, Wanda. Not funny. Not funny at all.

  2. OMG you are a riot!! I, too, dread the assembly required furniture. I just got a new futon and was pleasantly surprised that delivery and assembly was included. The 2 kids put it together but guess what? They, too, required a different screwdriver which fortunately I had on hand. I remember the days when my parents would buy the expensive and heavy already assembled stuff from Ethan Allen. All well made, all still survive to this day, 50+ years later.

    BTW, you need to get that tshirt that says, 'I'm sorry for what I said when I was hungry'. I'm thinking of getting one for my husband who turns into a complete grumpsickle when he hasn't eaten anything for an hour or so.

    1. JoJo- exactly: Ethan Allen. My mom still has some of those pieces, solid as a rock. Very $$ though.
      I have seen that shirt, and you're right. I do need it.

  3. Never assemble IKEA furniture on an empty stomach! That should be printed as Rule # 1 in all their instruction booklets.

    1. To be fair, IKEA is the easiest to assemble. It's the stuff from Target and Home Depot and Walmart that is a bitch. Ugh.

  4. As a rule I put together furniture? with six of my friends, beer one through six, never with the wife. Safer😇

    1. I like that idea! Think I will get six of my closest "buds" to help me next time!

  5. Aaaaargh. So very familiar. And how often have you nearly (cue hysterical laughter) finished assembling the sucker to discover that one of those screws is missing. Or perhaps worse that you have more parts left than you need. Or than the instructions tell you that you need.

    1. Yep, yep and yep! You speak the truth! Now where the hell is the last B-11-a?

  6. I would rather go without than assemble anything. Luckily my husband is game to put anything together without looking at the instructions. In return, I make biscuits for him. Our nemesis is more along the lines of wallpapering. That nearly caused an early divorce many years ago ... and this time around, we are painting instead.

  7. P. S. I am sure this was not funny at the time, but you made reading it fun :)

    1. Thanks, Jenny! And oh - wallpapering! Or rather, removing wallpaper. A true test of marriage, right there.
      BTW - I keep looking for your blog to return comments, but am not seeing one? Would love to return the favor if I could :)

    2. You're not seeing it because I don't have one :) I'd rather read than write, and love that so many good writers - like you - share their talent on the internet. Thank you for doing that.

  8. As a previously professional handyman I always had a cordless ready with a spare, fully charged battery. As I had learned this the hard way I still adhere to that method. Though my workbench is an absolute disaster otherwise, I can still count on the old Dewalt and a cold beer to get me through. I think there is a song in there somewhere.

    1. The DeWalt company -- as well as Anheiser Busch -- would pay you millions. Get on that!

  9. Almost two years ago Willy Dunne Wooters purchased two cabinets for my house. They had to be assembled. I kept after him to assemble the TV cabinet because the satellite people were coming soon, and we needed to put the TV on something. I left him with the instructions. About twenty minutes later I found him asleep with the instructions in his hands. When he woke up, we worked on it together. I was shocked that I was better at assembling than he was. But my back hurt after an hour. The next weekend, I sneaked in Favorite Young Man who put together both pieces in about thirty minutes while the Wooters man napped in the family room. I told him not to ever again buy something that has to be assembled. He hasn't.


    1. Love the story! I, too, am the one in our relationship who excels at some damn assembly required. Luckily, my other half excels at patience. Because as you can see, I don't make it easy on him.

  10. I've given up on assembling Ikea furniture. The last thing I put together was a kiddie table and two chairs, which never really went together correctly. After hours of swearing at the things, I finally just wedged the pieces together as best I could and called it good enough. Afterward, I figured out that if I had been paid minimum wage to assemble that table, it would have cost $124.99.

    I have a new technique that works like a charm. I go to Ikea and write down what I want.
    Then I go home and look for it, used but already assembled, on Craigslist. The time it takes to drive across town to pick it up is a drop in the bucket compared to the time and emotional trauma it would take to build the thing myself.

  11. I don’t know how should I give you thanks! I am totally stunned by your article. You saved my time. Thanks a million for sharing this article.