Some Assembly Required

The UPS guy can get to my house in his sleep. Why? Let's just say that if someone on TV was selling life-size stuffed walruses, within weeks, one would appear in a cardboard box big enough to require a license plate, and shortly after that, it would be gracing our living room.

I'm used to a parade of small boxes arriving at the front door, containing things we clearly cannot live without. But I was stunned a few days ago when I opened the front door and was greeted with a box big enough to be buried in. When I tried to move the box, I momentarily thought there might be a body inside, because that's how much it weighed.

I went back into the house and stared at my wife with one of those Ricky Ricardo faces that says, "What have you done this time, you crazy redhead!?" My wife gave me one of those eye-batting, "Whatever do you mean, darling, and aren't I sweet?" looks and said, "You look so handsome today!" which immediately made me suspicious.

"What did you buy?" I asked. "When?" she replied, honestly. "I don't know, but it's just arrived in a box that's taller than I am, so I'm hoping it's not a casket."

"Let me make your favorite breakfast," she cooed, and frankly it's hard to be angry when you've been stuffed with waffles. It was then she broke the news.

"It's a Pilates exercise machine," she said, precisely timed so that my mouth was too full to speak. I swallowed hard. She'd bought exercise equipment before and it always fell into one of two categories. 1) Dangerous, like the piece of black plastic you slide back and forth on that should have been banned by the Geneva Convention as an instrument of torture, or 2) Unused—well, that's not completely true, because becoming a place to pile clothes wasn't completely useless.

"I promise to use it every day," she added, quickly. "And this will save us a lot of money!"

Now, you have to realize that my wife's sense of economy is based on what I call Lucynomics—the economic system used by Lucy Ricardo on "I Love Lucy." If she bought two dresses and they were on sale at a savings of $20 each, she didn't spend money, she just saved $40.

"Just two sessions with a Pilates instructor would cost more than this entire machine." She exclaimed, with the studied excitement of a talk show host. "And if I don't use it every day, then we can return it."

Well, she had me there, yes, we could always send it back. It would only cost as much in return postage as it originally cost but at times like these there's no sense bringing logic into the conversation.

So I carried the box upstairs, or at least I tried. The box was so heavy and bulky, that I soon realized how it worked. All you have to do is lift the box and try to move it. Talk about weight training!

My wife said that the people on TV said that the manufacturer said that you only need to screw in four bolts and that was it. I think something was lost in the translation, and maybe the word "four" meant "seventy two" in another language.

I carefully laid all the pieces out on the diagram, only to find that I had roughly half the pieces they said I should have had. But I forged ahead, assuming the instructions were wrong, because they always are.

One of my family mottos has always been, "If it doesn't fit, force it," so at least I had an overarching theme from which to work.

My proudest moment came when I realized that one of the tubular mystery pieces was actually a rudimentary wrench head. If someone had been watching, I'm sure that they would have seen a light bulb appear over my head as I realized that I could place a silver metal stick into one of the holes on the side and achieve leverage.

I was so proud—like a chimpanzee discovering how to use monkey wrench.

But no one was watching, because no one is allowed to watch when I assemble something. Otherwise they make suggestions and say things like, "You've put that in upside down" which makes me furious, especially when they're right.

Since there were a number of holes that were underneath and inside various other pieces, I discovered entirely new positions I was previously unaware my body could achieve. I could feel the burn in my wrists, and when I felt dizzy I just draped myself across the thing, even if that meant that bolts were pressing into my kidney—clearly a new form of acupressure.

What a workout!

After rigging more lines and pulleys than were needed in a summer stock production of Peter Pan, I was done. Except for the extra bolt, which didn't seem to fit anywhere except in my pocket.

I sat on the bench which now slid back and forth smoothly, unless your foot slipped, in which case it slammed back with a force that could give you whiplash. I know this from experience.

Don't worry about me. I am resting comfortably now, and the machine's built-in traction settings mean that my legs can be held in mid-air so that blood can return to my brain.

When I regain the ability to stand, I will drive to Washington D.C. and suggest a new protective device to be installed in all televisions. Just like the V-chip that shuts off the TV when it encounters a violent program, my proposed E-chip would shut off the TV when any e-commerce infomercial or home shopping service came on screen. This would prevent certain people in my home who shall remain nameless from buying anything else.

Daniel Will-Harris

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Luckily there's no e-chip yet, so you can't block this one last plug for my new book, "My Wife & Times" which you can buy at www.SchmoozeLetter.com/book :)



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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.