While Pete the salesman at Furn-A-Kit was checking the computer to confirm the bookcase I wanted was in stock, he asked if I was aware the furniture needed to be assembled. He said many people ship the item to their home, only to realize they must put it together.
I assured him I knew the deal, as I had purchased many items from Furn-A-Kit previously, and I was taking it home with me. As a matter of fact, I mentioned their furniture came with great assembly instructions and that I love following instructions.
We chatted about how some people will glance at the instructions, or use them for reference, then end up with an entertainment center that looks like a rocking chair. Not me, Pete. I’ve always respected written instructions and documentation in any project I’ve taken on. He vigorously shook my hand, thankful there were others like him out there in the world.
I come from a long line of family members that never had to follow assembly instructions. My father’s generation would build things from scratch, so they never needed no stinking instructions. My mother may have followed recipes, but she cooked by feel, a pinch here and a handful there.
When I was a kid, I fell in love with plastic models, especially action figures like Batman or monsters like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I built space ships, fighter jets, race cars and submarines. They required patience, but more importantly, you had to follow the instructions. You couldn’t put the pieces together willy-nilly. The instructions carefully laid out the correct sequence that needed to be followed. Many of my friends had no patience and ruined their model’s half-way through. You couldn’t glue on Batman’s cape just because you put his torso together, you needed to follow the instructions and put his arms in first.
While waiting at the Furn-A-Kit customer pickup, I noticed the young guy with the strong back bringing out an impossibly small parcel for the large, five-shelf bookcase I had purchased. Surely, he had pulled the smaller, two-shelf unit by mistake. But we checked the SKU numbers and sure enough, it was a match. To be honest, I marvel at how manufactures today can fit all the pieces of furniture into a tiny box. Somehow, my five-shelf bookcase fit into a box that was 12-inches wide, six inches high and three feet long.
How is that even possible?
Once home, I laid out all the pieces, made sure I had all the bags of screws and fasteners and took a few minutes to peruse the instructions. To me, putting furniture together is a solitary experience. Sometimes the kids or the wife ask if they can help, but I can’t take any chances that someone will go rogue and begin step six while I’m still on step four. Granted, there are times you need another set of hands to stabilize the project, and they are always available for that.
If you don’t know, assembly instructions today don’t contain a lot of words, just pictures, numbers and arrows. I guess they got tired of duplicating the instructions in Spanish, German, French and Swahili. It takes a little more work on your part to interpret the wordless instructions, but that’s the challenge in all of it.
After confirming I had everything I needed, I dove head-first into the project. I had music on in the background and I took my time, following the assembly instructions to perfection. Soon, the bookcase was taking shape and before long, the project would be completed. As I triumphantly finished the last step, I raised the bookcase and placed it against the wall, to admire and bask in the glory of a job well done. What had once been a cardboard box containing indiscriminate pieces of wood packed in Styrofoam, was magically transformed into a beautiful bookcase.
What—you thought when I finished it was going to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Not if you follow the instruction.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.