I should have known that there would be some challenges along the way. The project was simple enough. My employer had generously offered to cover the cost of a new chair for my home office, a nice big cushy one to boot. When I opened the box the chair came in, I groaned when I saw the small, bold-faced print: Some assembly required.
My wife and I started strong. We first poured ourselves two glasses of wine. We needed something to keep us going and then we pulled out the simple tri-fold instruction manual with small grainy drawings and large blocks of 8-point text. I merely looked at the text and my eyes started to glaze over, but I kept a positive attitude: We were going to be successful!
We laid out all 20 pieces on the floor and read the note congratulating us on my purchase. They gave a web address to a video in case we ran into any trouble. We laughed at the notion. The video was for losers. We weren’t going to have any trouble, we were going to be toasting our victory in no time!
We started with Step 1: “Turn the Base (7) upside down, then press the Casters (8) into the holes at the end of each base leg.” When we had it completed, I almost jumped for joy. Simple enough. One step down, twelve more to go.
Our luck would soon run out. We ran into our first problem. Let me say up front, I tend to be the inpatient one. I’m the one who jumps ahead two or three steps. I want to fly through to the end. My wife on the other hand usually follows along step one, step two, step three, etc.
What stumped us? We couldn’t tell the front or back of the chair seat. We thought we knew, but the more we looked at the small image included in the instruction manual, the more we got confused. My wife argued that the big lumpy part was the front. I looked at the sides and argued the exact opposite. Tomato, to-Mah-to, who’s right, who’s wrong? We went back and forth for five minutes, until finally saying “the heck with it” and going with my wife’s choice.
We moved hesitantly onto the next several steps. We must have made the right choice, because everything seemed to be back on track. The truth of the matter is that we were moving ahead Hell or High Water. The manual called for us to attach the seat cushion and backing, but the more we pulled and maneuvered the back cushion, the more it looked like we were going to rip the leather backing.
My wife and I said it at the same time: “This can’t be right.” When I went back and re-read the directions, I noticed a small warning note hidden underneath a picture: “Note 2: Do not tighten all of the bolts to 100%, make sure it have space to adjust in the next steps.”
My first thought seeing the note: “Where did that come from?” Of course, my second thought was to wonder what happened to their proofreaders. (They broke a classic grammar rule putting a singular pronoun with plural verb.)
After some backtracking and little pushing and pulling, we were finally able to get the chair together. I screwed in one side; my wife screwed in the other. In a few minutes, I was scooting around the room. I looked more like a ten-year-old kid than a middle-aged adult, but my excuse was that I needed to test it out. It took another ten minutes to get the tilt and height tensions adjusted properly, but by then I could see the finish line.
So yes, I’m horrible with building things and following instructions. I love the structured nature of instructions, but I hate how confusing they can be. When I’m asked to read instructions, I’m instantly taken back to middle school Math, reading test question after test question and trying to figure out if special emphasis is placed on a certain word for a reason or if it’s just a poorly written question.
Despite it all, my wife and I completed the task. How did we celebrate? Some more wine? Chair races? No, no, of course not, we started work on my next big project: an adjustable standing desk.
Ugh, shoot me now!