4.07.2008

Freedom to assemble

Want to chill the typical American male to his very toes? Then utter these three simple words: "Some assembly required."

Furniture and bicycles, toys and stereos, computers and exercise equipment all arrive at our homes these days requiring final assembly. And the average male gets out his tools and muddles through the "instructions" and proceeds to break whatever item he's supposed to be assembling.

This average male is thinking the whole time: "Don't they have someone more qualified to do this? Isn't there someone at the factory who knows how to do the final assembly?" Sure, the furniture (or other item) needs to fold flat for shipping, but wouldn't we all be happy to pay higher shipping costs to get the item in its finished form?

I'm sure some guys love the challenge of "ready-to-assemble" furniture and color-coded computer cables and toys in which the battery compartment is hermetically sealed, but I'm not one of them. And I think most guys fall into my category: Irredeemable klutzes who have no business assembling anything.

We klutzes know who we are. We'd never attempt to, say, create a piece of furniture from scratch. We know we're not gifted with the innate ability to handle tools properly. We stay away from power saws because we don't want the nickname "Stumpy."

But give us a piece of furniture compacted into a three-inch-thick box, and we're gung-ho. After all, the parts are all there, right? The holes are pre-drilled. The box contains instructions written in some semblance of English. Why, any fool could put it together!

Soon, though, we find that we're not just any fool. We're the fools who can't do anything right, the ones for whom "some assembly required" might as well read, "Forget about it, you idiot."

To be fair, it's not entirely our fault. Ready-to-assemble items rarely are truly ready to assemble. If there were truth in advertising, they'd be labeled: "Random assortment of parts that may or may not fit together. You're on your own."

Murphy's Law is hardly adequate to describe the pain and suffering faced by a guy who's trying to "insert tab 'A' into slot 'B' at a 45-degree angle." Here, then, are Brewer's Laws for Ready-to-Assemble Items:

--Tab "A" never fits into slot "B." There's always a ragged piece of plastic that prevents them from sliding together smoothly. Remove that excess plastic, and the tab will wiggle loosely in its slot. Forever.

--Instructions are written in pidgin English by someone from a foreign land, even if the item is labeled "Made in the USA." The foreign land that produces such writers is "Venus."

--Illustrations in the instructions will be so tiny, you won't be able to tell which part goes where without a microscope.

--No matter how carefully you handle the plastic bag full of nuts, bolts, screws and washers, you'll lose at least one of them. The missing hardware will be the one piece of that holds everything else together.

--Missing screws, etc., will be some oddball size they don't carry at American hardware stores.

--Yes, ready-to-assemble furniture comes with pre-drilled holes to make it easier to line up the pieces, but one of the holes will be in the wrong place. It won't be off by much; just enough to make you slowly go insane.

--If tools such as Allen wrenches are included with the hardware, they'll be made of flimsy metal that just begs to be broken. And, they'll be too small to use with your actual hands. If you try to use real tools in their place, the tools will not fit. The next sound you hear will be the stripping of a bolt.

--When pieces don't fit, you'll eventually get mad and try to force them. This will result in permanent damage, both to the item and to your fingers.

--If you succeed in assembling the item, there always will be a few screws, etc., left over. These parts should be discarded immediately before your wife sees them.

Remember these rules when faced with "some assembly required." They won't make it any easier, but they'll remind you that someone, somewhere, is getting a good laugh at your expense.
My money's on those Venusians.

1 comment:

Craig said...

Steve,
I think I can get you an executive position south of the border as an assembler--for about $1.57 an hour...