Some Assembly Required

some assembly required

To say I am all thumbs would be an insult to my other fingers. Who gets to decide who’s mechanically adept anyway? Is it the one who is quickest to pull the straw out of that big hat in the gene pool or is it the one whose parents simply sat by the pool? Why do some people have a lot of it, and others none at all?

It is quite amazing to me that no one in my family has ever possessed even one shred of mechanical aptitude, going as far back as our family history will permit, except for one cousin twice removed who married another cousin three times removed.

My father could not screw in a light bulb or close a drawer correctly and yet he was brilliant in his field. My mother was a fine artist, but she could not hammer a nail without misplacing it. Their two daughters did not fall far from the non-mechanical tree.

S.J. Perleman’s classic short story, “Insert Flap A and Throw Away”, has always been a kind of Bible story in my family. Instead of Noah and The Ark or Jonah in the Whale, my sister and I were told the tale of an innocuous moth-proof closet and a 10-inch scale model delivery truck construction kit.

My family has its own short story, fully equipped with flaps, screws, instructions and dreams of assembly. Ours’ centers on a rocking horse my father ordered for his children a long time ago. But alas, my sister and I never saw it. I only recall the discarded carton and my father’s maniacal screams for help reverberating down the second floor corridor.

It seems the purchase was one that he could not refuse. When the bulky carton arrived at the house, my father was happy, but his smile changed into a grim horizon when he noticed those words written in black capital letters: SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.

Initial chagrin turned into something much more serious when after removing all the pieces, my father found the instruction sheet, which was written in Japanese. My mother said he tried, and he tried. He borrowed a saw from someone and glue from someone else and spent the afternoon inserting here, detaching there, and cursing whenever he could in between.

But alas and alack, it was not meant to be, and we grew up without a rocking horse. There are worse things, I know, but still I feel a bit cheated. I do, however, always try to look on the positive side. There is hope and light at the end of the unable-to- assemble tunnel. The next time you attempt to use that screwdriver or hammer, just close your eyes and think of all the others who came before you and couldn’t do it. Confront that nail in the wall as if it were an enemy bridge you are about to cross. Close your eyes and pound it into the wall before it can get away.

(photo courtesy of Igor Dolgov/