I always wanted to be an architect. I dreamed of building houses with glorious sweeping staircases that I could strut down in high heels and a designer dress, as a suitor who looked like Gene Kelly (circa Anchors Aweigh) awaited me at the base of the stairs holding a Gin & Tonic.
But becoming an architect required some mathematical skill, which gender bias coupled with the “new math” curriculum of the 1970’s robbed me of, so instead I watch HGTV like it’s my job and sulk with my Gin & Tonic. Why give up on some of the dream, when it is so damn attainable?
I don’t know if it is some sort of consolation prize, or a joke from a higher power, but there is something mechanical and design worthy that I am good at, and that is putting together imported screw together furniture … otherwise known as ISTF. Sometimes the furniture hails from a Scandinavian country and has nonsensical names like FLRVN. On occasion, it is from the good old US of A and is labeled “Bookshelf” with bold instructions to open the box “THIS END UP” because some brainiac ripped the box open with a crowbar while holding it over his left foot, causing the contents to fall out and break his pinky toe, therefore, resulting in a lawsuit and yet another example of why we as a society cannot have nice things. And then, there are those occasions that an item is found in the bargain bin at the local office furniture store with a handwritten sign indicating: “As Is”.
No matter the state of affairs, the country of origin or the size, these pressed wood fiber core filled behemoths are no match for me and my allen wrench. I have a system, it’s not fast, it’s pretty methodical. While I may need an extra set of hands to hold a piece or two in place when I can’t get into a Downward Facing Dog and act like a human fulcrum to hold it all together, for the most part, I’m pretty self sufficient.
Then, there is my husband. Twenty years of marriage and he won’t ask me to just put the damn furniture together. He forgets or ignores the fact that I am the ISTF whisperer. Instead, he insists on trying it alone, and each time it goes poorly, slower than I would have taken, and typically requires “do-overs” which may or may not strip the screws and the anchor holes.
Last weekend he decided to purchase a stand-up desk for his home office. The desk had six pieces and came with all the screws, nuts and bolts in individual baggies labeled based on the step in the project. The seemingly reasonable number of pieces coupled with the presorted hardware only fed his confidence level. THIS would be his ISTF triumph!
After bringing the box to the room and sorting the parts, he began the work. He didn’t ask me to help, rather, he was singularly focused to build his faux-mahogany masterpiece.
Attempt 1: 45 minutes
After muttering, “well that doesn’t look right” and then realizing he had put several pieces in backwards he had to unscrew the entire structure and start again. Now, the screws were no longer in their baggies, and all bets were off.
Attempt 2: 60 minutes
After determining he had already “read” the instructions the first time, he didn’t need them the second time. Deciding to employ an electric drill with screwdriver bits, he felt he would be able to complete the task faster and with a sturdier effort. Only problem was, the drill exceeded the space available between the pieces. He then took out a screw driver in an attempt to go at it the old fashioned way, and subsequently impaled his palm.
Hand wrapped in a wash cloth with duct tape, he decided to take the desk apart so he could then use the drill to its fullest effectiveness.
Attempt 3: No idea, I was drinking a Gin & Tonic
During this attempt, there was added play-by-play from our daughter. Spicy Girl let me know that dad was not only “bad” at putting furniture together, he was also making a mess. I was only asked to assist once, when Spicy Girl refused to hold a piece of the desk in place so her father could use the electric drill. Admittedly, it was four centimeters from where her fingers would have been, therefore indicating that Spicy Girl has inherited her mother’s risk management acumen.
Finally, the desk was assembled and countless hours of standing while thinking, reasoning and writing were on the horizon.
As he put his laptop on the desk, I simply said, “You know, we are coming up on our 20th anniversary in a couple of weeks. You know I do his better than you, right? Why didn’t you just ask me to do it or at least help?”
He handed me the drill and took my Gin & Tonic. His answer was an honest one, “because I’m a guy.”
The books say that the traditional 20th anniversary gift is china. I really don’t want any china, but if I do get it, I will eat it on my ISTF dining room table that I put together myself.