It all started when my wife said, “Let’s go to the Twin Cities.”
“Why?” I asked.
I am always a bit leery when she suggests going to The Cities because usually it involves shopping.
“No reason,” she said.
So I agreed to go.
Then she had to add, “Let’s take the pickup.”
“If there is no reason,” I asked, a bit suspiciously, “why drive the truck? The car gets better mileage?”
“We are taking the truck,” she said, “end of discussion.”
An hour and a half later, as the skyline of downtown Minneapolis struggled to peer out of the urban haze, the other shoe dropped, “Let’s stop at IKEA!” she cried, “after all, we have the truck.”
So I spent half of yesterday assembling a pickup load of flat pack furniture. The other half of the day I spent screaming at the cats for batting odd bits of IKEA hardware down the heat registers.
It proved what I have always suspected about myself. I can hose up even the simplest of things and IKEA instructions are about as simple as you can get. In fact, they are so simple, you might call them sketchy because that is what their instructions are: drawings.
I suppose when you sell furniture all over the world, the cost of writing instructions in thirty languages becomes excessive – and handing out twenty-nine sets of instructions to people who can only read one, well, that seems ridiculous – so IKEA uses sketches to illustrate each step.
Which means you (the customer) spend half your day squinting at anemic scribbles while muttering to yourself, “Is this the part they are referring too?” and “do I have it oriented the same as they show?”
But the genius of IKEA products compensates for that. It’s in the way the furniture is held together by an intricate thicket of steel pegs and half-moon clamps. The idea is that at some point in the future, you can collapse your entire household into a single flat pack box and toss it into the trunk of a Volvo.
And therein is the genius. What is easy to assemble and dis-assemble is also easy to re-assemble – in other words, you can constantly and effortlessly fix your repeated mistakes.
Which is what I did yesterday when I was not squinting at illustrations and shrieking at cats.
What my wife wanted was a hide-a-mess; an armoire desk. So we bought her a gleaming white one. The thing is, everything from IKEA is made from the same gleaming white pressboard panels. Trying to identify what is what is like putting together a two thousand piece jigsaw puzzle of the prairie sky.
But I did it… most of it anyway.
I managed to assemble both the base and the armoire section of the hide-a-mess and then required assistance when the illustration showed two people gently lifting one piece onto the other.
If you know anything about IKEA, you know they are a modern, progressive and inclusive company – which is why the illustration depicted a woman lifting the armoire section and a man helping her. Since I put it together, I recruited my wife as the helper.
Our conversation went like this:
Me: “Why don’t these pegs &^%$# line up?”
Her: “If you swear I am not going to help you.”
Me: “If I can’t swear I am not going to put your desk together.”
Her: Gazing at the instructions on the floor. “We are not doing it like it shows..”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Her: “The woman is doing most of the work and the guy is helping her.”
Me: “You’re kidding?”
Her: “Just try it…”
Her: “Admit it, it worked.”
Her: “You are too proud to admit it, aren’t you?”
After she leaves the room.