A Loco Viewpoint
Canada’s Worst Handyman
There is a reason I don’t shop at Ikea. I hate following instructions and I resent having to build my purchases. Okay, so that’s two reasons. The fact remains; I do not believe I should be involved in the manufacturing of my consumer goods. I want to use the stuff I buy the very second I get home. I don’t want it to come in a box with pieces marked “Flange A” or “Central Support G”. I don’t even know what a flange is and have no interest is correcting my ignorance. Frankly, I would make a fine competitor on “Canada’s Worst Handyman”.
Take, for instance, my last endeavor as an assemblyman. It was a barbecue I had fallen hard for at a local store a few years ago. It had three burners, automatic start and an auxiliary side burner for boiling water, since I’ve always wanted to boil water while barbecuing. (I, admittedly, have never used the water boiling feature but want to be ready should the need arise; say, an itinerant lobster strolls by or someone is having a baby.)
Cupcake, being as how she loves me and all, picked up on my subtle hints I had dropped concerning the lovely burger burner. Apparently hugging and kissing it was a dead giveaway. When Father’s Day rolled around and I got the barbecue as a gift, I was thrilled to bits. That euphoria, unfortunately, dissipated faster than a toot in a tornado when I opened the box and saw bags of screws and nuts, and chunks of metal that looked suspiciously like what flanges might be. My heart sank like a pre-owned British submarine.
However, with steaks marinating in the fridge, I knew I couldn’t just give up or wait for somebody to serendipitously show up, who happened to have an engineering degree. I had to take on the challenge.
After the better part of a morning and most of an afternoon, I was still only half done the project. Things weren’t going well and I was convinced they had forgotten to put holes in the frame where they were supposed to be. When I got out my electric drill to make the necessary correction, Cupcake exploded out of the house yelling “Wait! Wait!” at the top of her lungs.
“I had a look at the instructions you put in the recycling bin,” she panted like she’d just finished a marathon. “You have the frame upside down. Look… here’s the holes you said didn’t exist.”
Sure enough; as much as I was loathe to admit it, I had screwed up royally.
“That’s what you get for buying me something that needs assembly,” I shot back in my defense. “Please do not ever buy me anything that doesn’t come ready-to-use out of the box.”
And she hasn’t. “Once burned, twice careful,” she says wisely and we have lived in peace and harmony ever since.
Unfortunately, my son, Matt wasn’t in on our little understanding. Either that or he hates me, because for Mother’s Day this year, he generously bought a high-end firepit kit and had it delivered to our backyard. The kit was comprised of 29 blocks with a slot in one end and a projection at the other that allowed them to be interlocked when stacked. There were, also, two half blocks that Matt called “key-blocks” but we had no idea why, or what their mysterious purpose might be Another fifteen blocks with a projection on one side and a smooth surface on the other, completed the kit.
“Don’t worry, Dad, I know what I’m doing,” Matt said, to my surprise and delight. “You go relax. I got this.”
When I came to check his progress, however, I saw that, rather than staggering the blocks in the circle, he had placed one on top of the other. It had all the structural integrity of a third-world garment factory. When I pointed out the problem, Matt agreed it didn’t look right but strenuously asserted this was how it was pictured in the online instructions.
“Well, there’s your problem,” I returned. “Instructions are about as trustworthy as a political poll. The blocks must be staggered to get any kind of strength.”
“I’ll fix it next time I come out,” Matt offered kindly, “But I have to take off as I have a date with Sasha. Sorry!”
Alone, I gazed upon the 46 chunks of stone that individually, out-weighed a two-four of brewskis and collectively had more mass than a Ford F-150. I am certain I heard my spine whisper, “Don’t even think it,” but I couldn’t abandon the project. Grimly I set to.
Reasoning the flat rocks were obviously the foundation stones, I built the structure carefully; making sure the circle was precisely in the centre of the four sidewalk blocks that formed the base. The bricks interlocked beautifully in the staggered pattern and when completed, looked like a million bucks. Except it was inexplicably short three bricks.
“Maybe they shorted us,” suggested Cupcake as she appraised her gift. “No wait, I know; the circle needs to be one block smaller.”
“Are you kidding me?” I gulped. “You know what that means? I’ll have to take it apart and rebuild it brick by brick! I’m already in agony!”
“Well dear,” Cupcake patted my arm lovingly. “I hate to break it to you but you’d have to anyway. Those flat rocks are supposed to go on top. They are called ‘cap stones’. Didn’t you read the instructions?”
The firepit now has three complete levels and a nice, smooth top. The doctor’s say they may be able to save my back but my spine is still not talking to me. If I get any more projects that are DIY, I’m going AWOL.
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