582 simple steps

2013-06-04 10.45.49

I ran across one of my old newspaper columns yesterday. It made me think of all the folks who will be tempted next month to make a deal with the devil in order to put together toys on Christmas Eve.

You know, those with the “simple” instructions, those in a box that proclaims, “Can be assembled in 5 minutes with household tools.”

That’s like being in the photo above and being told, “Simply reach down and dip a cup of water.”

OK, here’s the column, which was originally released for publication on June 27, 2007. If you like, I may dig out an old column and share here on occasion.

Piecing it all together

You’ve probably heard about the judge who sued a dry cleaner that lost his favorite pair of pants. The business displayed a sign that said, “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” and the judge said that what would satisfy him in the loss of his pants would be $54 million.

He said he was trying to make a point. I say he just saw a route to publicity and, if there was a point, it got lost in all the hoopla. Oh, and another judge threw out the suit, ordering the claimant to pay legal fees for the defendant. His ruling stated that no reasonable person could expect such a large amount for a lost pair of pants.

Alas, we are not usually that good at applying reason, are we.

Take last weekend. My beloved decided she wanted a propane grill. We have only owned charcoal grills in the past, but she figured she would use it more often, even for quick and simple things, if there were no fooling with firing up briquettes and getting rid of residue.

That’s reasonable, as was Leah’s estimation that cooking outside more would take some of the load off our overtaxed air conditioner as the hottest part of the summer closes in.

We visited four stores Saturday afternoon, comparing features and prices, carefully weighing the benefits of this grill versus that one, deciding just what attributes she wanted. We returned to store No. 2 to make our purchase.

“Fine, I can take care of that,” said the young man with Jordan on his name tag. “Would you like it assembled or in the box? Assembling is free.”

I’m guessing we would have had to return to pick up an assembled grill, that they don’t waste space in their storage area waiting for us to come by and pick up a unit. But, to be honest, that didn’t even figure into my reasoning. Making sure it was put together right and not having to worry about tying it down in the back of the pickup so that nothing blew off of it on the highway … those were the points I considered.

But, first, let’s apply a little of the aforementioned reason. The box might contain hundreds of pieces or it may be mostly assembled, leaving me to attach the legs and handles.

“Tell me, Jordan. Can I get this home and assembled in time for us to cook dinner on it tonight?”

“Oh, definitely. I can put together one of those big ones in 45 minutes.”

Indeed, the box says it can be assembled with nothing but a screwdriver in 35-45 minutes.

Once home, I positioned the box on the tailgate of the truck and started removing pieces.

“This is not a good omen,” I said to Leah when one of the first items I extracted was a shrink-wrapped card containing 122 screws, nuts and washers.

Better than halfway through the unpacking process, I started a stopwatch running, highly suspicious of the 45-minute claim.

After all the pieces were extracted from the box, my yard was littered with 14 pieces of Styrofoam, eight boxes that were within the box, 11 plastic bags, three sheets of bubble wrapping, a plastic pad and 16 various packing pieces. And that was just the trash.

While I am admittedly not a mechanic, I can assemble things and follow instructions quite well. Fortunately, these instructions were written by someone who knew English, but I did quickly notice one thing. The instructions referred to each part by a key, like A or B or FF, and the parts list used code numbers like 0005932. That would be great except that none of the parts were coded with either.

Nonetheless, identifying parts was not a major problem, due in part to good drawings, and I started piecing things together, my eyes on a rib-eye prize.

Thus it was, a mere three hours after I opened the box, I put a match to the burner and flames shot out.

A reasonable person would have expected a late dinner that night.

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