Monday, January 16, 2006

Some assembly required

Almost a month after it'd been delivered, we would finally assemble our bedroom suite. Yesterday morning, I open the first box. Helena is on hand to help. The bag of screws and nuts and fasteners captures her attention. I'm quick to make up some diversionary task for her, to move one pile of planks from one side of the room to the other. I have a sense now of what lies ahead, the size of the project. Break for lunch.

Though it's really a job just for me and J-F, it's impossible to keep Helena and the cat from sniffing around. One by one, they lose interest. The cat settles down for a nap on top of some packing cardboard. J-F attends to Helena, gets her a beverage. That's the last I see of them. I'm on my own and proceeding at a good pace.

The instructions, related entirely in pictographs, begin with a warning, a right-way/wrong-way of doing things. Do not lift alone; enlist the aid of a smiling Swedish friend. I lifted alone. And then I cried out loudly, "Help! Help!" J-F finally woke up and came shuffling to my side. There was never a question of hurting myself in this operation. It could've been much worse, but I did ding an edge — "You'd have to know it's there." J-F falls back asleep.

And I realize, the house is quiet. I leave the bedroom in shambles and crack open a beer. What better opportunity to surf the internet?

I'm on the brink of replying to an email from a friend, who, it seems, is also enjoying an easy Sunday afternoon, the kind where a touch of alcohol dissolves all those tedious tasks and obligations hanging over our heads.

Helena is crying. She has a fever and will not be consoled. I carry her, rock her, stroke her, kiss her. She finally falls back asleep and we spend much of the rest of the afternoon this way, her comatose in my arms.

By evening, Helena's spirits are restored. I'm determined to finish assembly of this one piece before bedtime, though realistically I will be satisfied to have cleared a path to the bed. Helena follows me, her fever serving as my own personal heat source.

What the pictographic instructions do not detail is how to negotiate with a toddler that she relinquish a required piece, how to remove screws from places they don't rightly fit in pieces said toddler insisted she "work on," how to build an impromptu fort from pieces not yet incorporated into the assembly, how to negotiate that said fort be dismantled, how to keep hammer out of toddler's hands at all times; how to keep the cat from falling asleep on the instructions, how to keep the cat from reflexively batting screws into the far corners of the room, how to keep cat fur from clinging to the interior of my brand new piece of furniture; and, most importantly at a time like this, how to keep my man in the bedroom. Nevermind product-specific instructions, I'd like right-way/wrong-way pictographic warnings regarding how to proceed to accompany my household.

One chest of drawers. Estimated time of assembly: 11 hours. Only 4 more pieces in the suite to go. Before bed, I also manage to finish the beer I'd opened.


Diana said...

Nice, Isabella. Felt like I was there.

Hope Helena's feeling better soon.

Seeking Clarity

martha said...

You can be very very proud of yourself for managing to put one of those damn things together with the help of a toddler and a cat. I always feel an absurd sense of accomplishment when I manage something like that--maybe because it's not a skill set I think of myself as having. Especially with the added "helpers". Good luck with the rest of the set, and I hope Helena's better soon.

Suzanne said...

I am most impressed that you were able to put even one piece of furniture together by yourself, toddler and cats or not!

Lizzie said...

Funny, I always feel absurdly proud of myself when I'm able to do something like that, too. As a matter of fact, it really is the only thing I've ever done that qualifies as "handy." Mostly, I think it's because I have the patience (and the determination, because of my stint as a tech writer) to read the damned directions; most people ignore them to their peril: Swedish iconography or not!

Isabella said...

Actually, I've always loved assembling Ikea furniture (there, I said it: Ikea!). I'd be happy doing that as a day job, provided every day was a different item and I could watch TV while working. If the pay were decent. And if there were no toddlers or cats within 50 feet.

Chest #2 was assembled this afternoon. The girl's better, well enough to be off to daycare in the morning, I hope, as I have paying work to do still this week.

Lizzie said...

Gee, that was a real revelation, Isabella: Who else makes Swedish furniture?

(uh oh, I've opened a can of worms...)