A few years ago, after a fraught experience putting furniture together, I wrote an essay titled, The Devil is Swedish, His Name is Ikea. This past week I realized that in the world of furniture assembly, the lord of Hell is still running the show. It’s the same manuals with badly drawn diagrams and tiny Allen wrenches that leave you with either hand cramps or permanent paralysis.
Like childbirth, my last painful assembly experience had been dulled by time’s passage. In fact, as I lugged home a huge box of patio furniture, I pictured myself pulling out two chairs, a love seat and a coffee table and displaying them on the deck. Alas, it was not to be. But laying out nine thousand screws and multiple chair pieces did not discourage me, because this is how the devil works. He lures you in with pretty pictures of a life filled with leisure and plants and good weather. And then you open the instruction manual. After a panicked search for actual directions comes the sinking realization that the indecipherable drawings are it.
With the first two pieces, I discovered another stark truth. The drawings were backwards. I hunched over the furniture like Quasimodo, sweating and turning the Allen wrench four thousand times. That was the first screw. I did a headstand, reaching and twisting in a feat worthy of Cirque de Soleil. But this show was Hell’s Deck, and I, its indentured servant.
After several days of assembly purgatory, my patio furniture was finally done. Next, due to local shortages amidst the pandemic, I bought a sofa bed in a box. Though still experiencing hand spasms and night terrors from my previous experience, I began again.
First, there was a detailed and fruitless search for the various parts. Finally I found the legs nestled in a hidden compartment. But not the screws. Calling the company, I got this cheerful reply.
“You didn’t check the compartment inside the hidden compartment! The large packet of screws is under the Velcro, inside the second zippered area up in the far corner. You’ll barely be able to reach it, but it’s there!” It was. After that I had to take a break because my back was seizing up.
The directions on the outside of the box said the sofa would be finished in thirty minutes. Five hours later, after much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I was done. Or so I thought.
Yesterday, I returned to the hardware store to buy a deck box for storage. It’s funny how things work. You can purchase a very large Rubbermaid bin that’s instantly ready for use. But if you need six more inches in length and a two more in height, you’ll have to purchase a cardboard container filled with a thousand screws and many parts, along with the words, Some Assembly Required. The box will stay in the garage until I work up my courage and get some feeling back in my hands.
The Devil may not be Swedish at all. His name might not be Ikea. But whatever he’s called, he’s sure to stock hell with millions of unassembled items. So make sure you end up in the good place. You don’t want the assembly line at the ninth gate, working beside Donald Trump (who goes by many names and descriptions) and listening to him exclaim about how he’s going to make the place great again.
Now that that’s settled, I need a favour. If you see me out and about, remind me to never do this again.