I’m not what you call the handyman type.
I believe that small implements have entered into a conspiracy to frustrate and hurt me.
Take my bed frame, for instance. It’s been four months since I moved to California, and I bought a mattress and the bed frame the day I arrived.
I bought them before I unpacked my toothbrush. Yet it was only yesterday that I put together the bed frame.
The mattress was easy. You don’t have to assemble a mattress. A mattress works no matter where you drop it, no matter which side is up. The box frame too is easy – easy to tell which side is up, easy to tell where to put it, in relation to the mattress.
The bed frame is not so easy – because it comes with directions.
I know, I know. A bed frame is not hard to figure out. It has just five important parts: two side rails, a center rail, and two clamps, which are identical.
I’m not counting the casters because casters are easy: the round part won’t fit in the hole. The skinny part goes in the hole.
I know what you’re thinking.
“What sort of a man,” you are thinking, “takes four months to put a bed frame together?”
I’ll tell you what sort of man: a regular sort of man, that’s who.
I am an editor, not a bed-frame assembler.
Does that make me less of a man (or woman) than you?
I know the eight reasons to use a comma. I know when to hyphenate a compound adjective. I can quote Dave Barry from memory, and often do. Do you? Or were you too busy assembling things during grammar class that you never learned it?
Since you must know, I assembled the bed frame because I had just put together the night stand. That’s two things I put together in one day.
They never told me at the furniture store that I would have to assemble the night stand. No, they just told me to back my truck up to the back door and then they dropped a box into it. So the night stand lay, unassembled, in its big cardboard box for quite some time.
Why? Because the cardboard box worked perfectly well as a night stand, without subjecting me, its owner, to the arduous process of assembly, that’s why. So why was there any reason to assemble the night stand at all?
But I did. Then I assembled the bed frame.
Do you know why it was so hard to assemble the bed frame?
Because I read the directions.
I laid out all the parts on the floor. I put the one page of directions beside them. My mistake was to look at the directions instead of at the parts.
“Side rails,” the directions said.
“Center rail,” the directions said.
“Clamps,” the directions said.
All this with seven numbers, all of them circled, telling me, I presume, the precise order in which I had to do things.
None of it made sense.
I retired from the bedroom a beaten man. I felt as if the doctor had just said: “I’m sorry, Mr. Kahn, the cancer has spread. We’ll have to remove all your internal organs” – and they had removed them.
How did I overcome?
I retired to my “Complete Essays of Montaigne,” wherein I found that Socrates did not say “Know yourself” – No! – what Socrates said was, “Do your job, and know yourself.”
Thus bucked up, I returned to the bedroom and looked at the parts – not at the directions. And knocked that baby out.
I bet Montaigne never read the directions.
Although, Montaigne may be the directions …
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