Over the weekend I had an experience that many of you have had before: assembling furniture bought at Ikea.
I had never been to Ikea before and, well, we'll see if I ever go back. This weekend's experience was not a good one.
First, let me own up. I'm not a natural when it comes to fixing or making things. In fact, my brother - cruel person that he is - often mockingly refers to me as Bob Vila, particularly when I reveal something about myself like a few years ago when I told him that I'd never actually drilled a hole in a wall before. I don't deal much in power tools.
My lack of prowess with power tools has nothing to do with Ikea, however. In case you don't know, Ikea furniture comes flat-pack, which means all the pieces are there and all the holes are there and all you have to do is assemble it. Should be easy. Truth is, I've assembled other things following the instructions and generally I'm pretty good at it (so long as nothing more challenging than turning screws and hammering nails is required).
Unlike a lot of men I know, I'm quite willing to follow such instructions to the letter. I don't feel a manly need to prove that whoever put the instructions on paper didn't know what he was doing.
So I was very confident as I started work on my son's new 6'6" bookcase. It was going great. This piece connecting to that piece and in no time I had the full case assembled. All that was left was the back, which was a flimsy piece of thin fake wood that had to be slotted and nailed on.
That's when my troubles began. The instructions (all pictures, no words) called for me to lie the bookcase down flat and slot the back in from the top. However, that meant I needed a space 13' long and 3' wide, which wasn't available to me upstairs thanks to the size and configurations of the rooms and width of the doorways. I had to 'make do.'
After an hour of trying to 'make do' the sweat was pouring off me and the cheap back was frayed and even torn in one or two places. Worse than that my temper was completely shot. I wanted to kill someone, anyone I didn't care.
Another half an hour and I was calling down damnation on Ikea, all who worked there, all Swedish companies, the Swedish king and queen and eventually all Swedish people, although I exempted Anders Hedberg who was my favorite NY Ranger back in the early 1980s.
My wife, who wasn't home, called a few minutes later to ask a simple question. She probably thought I sounded like I'd been attacked by a rabid dog. She came straight home to help and within 15 minutes the two of us had managed to get what was left of the back into the bookcase and I nailed it in. Done. It didn't look great, but it was done.
I went to turn it upright and then I saw it: the bottom piece, which was the very first piece I'd picked up and connected, was facing the wrong way. The painted side was to the wall and facing out was the ugly, unfinished, unpainted side.
That very nearly started me off again, but my wife calmly told me to go get a can of paint we had in the house, one that was pretty close to the bookcase's color, and slap that paint on the piece. She said no one would see it anyway - it really is out of the line of sight unless you're crawling around.
I muttered and mumbled as I went to get the paint and brush, muttered and mumbled as I painted and even muttered and mumbled as I waited for the paint to dry. Eventually it was ready and I turned it up and put it in place.
Now two days later with all my son's books and other things on the shelves it looks fine, almost nice. My nerves have returned to normal. It's almost something I can laugh about. Almost.