Some Assembly Required

super_fix_it_dadEvery Christmas or birthday our kids get one or two toys that have those dreaded words on the box:  Some Assembly Required.  I know all parents out there reading this know the pain those simple words cause.  Oh, the box usually tries to calm us down and trick us by telling us not to worry, that the assembly is easy.  Or that it only takes 5 minutes, but we know the truth. See, we know how WE WORK.

Let me explain by using a brief example.  We bought my daughter a scooter a few weeks ago.  We brought it home and opened up the box and many small plastic and metal pieces fell out.  Naturally, I groaned.  (See, even though the box rattled when I shook it and even though it said “Some Assembly Required” I was still hoping that the “assembly required” meant I had to put stickers on and that the rattling sounds were just a whole bunch of those little packets of silica gel that come with new shoes.)

When I saw that the rattling parts were really washers and nuts and screws; and when I realized that “Some Assembly Required” meant I had to build the entire scooter from scratch . . . well, I wasn’t terribly happy.  I was tired.  I wanted to rest.  I’d just been at Target with 5 small children.  I NEEDED quiet and rest.  But I knew I was not to have either of these things.  Because Tessa was standing there, looking at me with big brown eyes (that always have fire smoldering just beneath the surface) and a quivering lip.  And so, against every inclination in my body, I decided to trudge through the task and build the scooter.

The first step was easy:  Amassing my tools.  It took only 5 minutes and I was seated on the floor of the living room with screw drivers, a hammer, and a couple different pliers.  I felt ready.  I knew I could do this.

I organized all the parts into separate piles and reached for the instructions.  I then flipped past the poorly worded introduction telling me how I was sure to be happy with this “Super-Happiness Scooter Toy” until I found the actual instructions.  Again, these were poorly worded (they always are) and after trying to interpret what was meant by vague and cryptic commands like “find Part A and combine Circumlocutor Nut B with all force to Part C, being always sure to turn counter-clockwise Part A until clicking sound is heard”, I decided to quit reading and go straight to the pictures.

And this worked out pretty well.  But then, before long, two things happened.  And I’m betting these things happen to you as well.  See, first, I got ahead of myself.  I started to see what was happening.  All the confusing instructions and piles of bolts and circumlocutor nuts started to make sense and I saw where this was going.  In fact, I even said that out loud.  I looked up at my wife with a smile–a smirk–my Indiana Jones smirk–and I said, “I see where this is going.”

Yeah.  And that’s when I threw the instructions aside.  I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  I saw how “this” was supposed to connect to “that”.  Everything made sense.  And I breezed through, putting things together rapidly.

But then the second thing happened.  I arrived at a point where what I just put together couldn’t possibly be  connected to the part to which it needed to be connected.  There was just no way.  It was physically impossible.  In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say it was metaphysically impossible.  There was a fundamental flaw in the design plan.  This scooter was never meant to roll.  Somewhere, somebody in the vast “Super-Happiness” toy factory screwed up.  I was convinced of it. There was no other explanation.

But then, after about 20 minutes of fussing–twenty minutes of trying to make the wheel fit where it obviously was supposed to fit–I picked up the instructions.  After flipping through them for a few minutes . . . I realized the problem.  On page 5, on the bottom, there was a large picture with a huge circle around it and the words:  “WARNING!!!  Do NOT connect Part C.A. to Post B.D. and turn until you hear clicking sound.  This MUST be done AFTER Wheel One is connected to Scooter Body.  If you happen to be unfortunate enough to have made this mistake, please call our Super-Happiness Technicians at 1-800 . . . .”

With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I looked down at Part C.A. and saw that it was indeed connected to Post B.D.  And I distinctly remembered turning it until I heard the clicking sound.

I turned back to the instructions and started looking for a solution.  But there was none.  The only thing I could do–according to them–was to call their Super-Happiness technicians.

Well, that’s not how we do things in America.  We don’t ask for help.  We don’t ask questions.  We don’t stop for directions at gas stations when we’re lost.  We DO.  And so I started DOING with all my energy all over that Part C.A. and Part B.D. Oh, I started DOING with a vengeance.

And eventually . . . nearly 2 hours and 3 trips to the hardware store later . . . the “Super-Happiness Scooter Toy” was rolling up and down the driveway propelled by a happy little girl.

As I picked up all the torn papers and sponged my blood out of the carpet, I reflected on the fiasco that took nearly 4 hours of “easy, no-problem, assembly”.

In this deep soul-searching, I realized that all of my problems came about because I stepped out on my own.  I stepped away from the boring instruction book.  There was a plan . . . a guide . . . a series of steps that should be taken in sequence to make this thing work.  And I stepped outside of it.  I was doing step 7 before I completed step 4.  I completed step 3 when I was supposed to wait to complete it until the very end of the project.  I screwed up the order and, in the end, it cost me:  extra time, extra money, extra trips to the store and constant needling from Tessa as she asked exactly 107 times “Is my scooter done now?”

Well, believe it or not, there’s a paint related tie-in to all of this.  We don’t have an instruction book on the steps to follow when you’re choosing colors for a decorating project in your home . . . but there are steps you should take.  And there is an order that these steps should be completed in.  In fact, completing these steps out of order (as I did with the scooter) is one of the main causes of decorating frustration in existence.

Next time, we’ll dig into them.  Today was just to lay the groundwork.

Off on the Blueberry Pie Tangent
The Future is in Your Bathroom . . . Now!