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Inside the Chrome Dome (archive September 2007)

Please refer to the Inside the Chrome Dome main page for columns published in other issues.




 Some Life Lessons are Mechanical in Nature

It seems like every day there is another important lesson to be learned in life.

Recently, I ran into an old friend in the parking lot of the National Road BP, and he told me he saw me and another guy working on my car in the back yard. He wanted to know if that was my son.

Yes, that was my son Richard, but he wasn’t helping me work on my car. I don’t work on cars. I was watching him fix something, and as he was performing certain tasks, he was actually explaining what he was doing and why. I occasionally nodded my head.

The job took a couple of hours, and I couldn’t tell you a single thing he told me during that time. Most of my life I’ve had issues with the “f” word, or “focus.”

That’s because I have a “Type Z” personality, which means when intense focus is required, I prefer to catch a few z’s instead.

My son did get my car fixed, and then it was off to see my girlfriend, Misty, where I had been promised a home-cooked steak dinner. By the time I got there I had already had a rough couple of days, standing in the sun watching Richard work on the car for hours. That followed standing on the football field for a couple of hours watching the Panthers get clobbered by Hagerstown, which was both tiring and painful.

As soon as I walked in her door, Misty pointed toward a bookshelf that she wanted me to put together. The box weighed a lot more than I did, and I immediately realized this was no ordinary Big Lots bookshelf. This was a Hutch-in-a-Box. A very big box.

I knew I was in trouble.

This is a lesson for you younger guys out there. When it comes to performing mechanical tasks, the married guys have already been exposed as complete failures and have endured all of the ridicule allowed by law. But it’s not too late for the younger men.

The lesson is, the last thing you want your girlfriend or wife to do is discover that you are an inept idiot when in comes to mechanical stuff. They just always assume you aren’t, and if the truth emerges, the penalties are severe.

The hutch came with a 32-page instruction booklet, and said “No tools required.” The small pieces, numbering in the hundreds, were either a hard plastic or wood, and simply needed to be either pushed or turned into place.

I thought about faking a heart attack. I then thought about just slipping out the door and driving away, but I could smell the steak cooking.

I then remembered the time I tried to put together one of those portable basketball goals on my son’s fourth birthday. I took it upstairs, placed the parts on the bed, and put it together according to the instructions. There was the backboard, the rim, the long pole, and three L-shaped legs to steady the unit.

I then tried to stand it up, and the backboard hit the ceiling fan, which was on at full speed. The fan was destroyed and the backboard was damaged. I stood the goal on the floor to inspect the fan, and the goal fell over, crashing into a glass table and lamp. The table was destroyed and the drama-queen lamp shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.

I had somehow managed to put one of the three L-shaped legs on upside-down.

I’ve never been mechanically inclined, but my son has always had a knack for that stuff. When he was three, we were entertaining for Thanksgiving dinner, and the huge dining room table was covered with dishes of food from end-to-end. I was called in to carve the turkey, and when I bellied up to the table, barely touching it, the table collapsed, sending all of the food crashing to the floor.

My son had found a screw driver and made his way through the entire house removing every screw from anything that had one. The table had been sitting intact, just waiting for the right bump so it could fall over.

You had to admire his attention to detail at that young age, careful that he removed every screw from a 10-foot long oak table.

Feeling slightly ill, I read the instructions for the bookshelf. The Hutch-in-a-Box didn’t require any tools, provided you can use your hand as a hammer and your fingers as screw drivers.

But it really didn’t look all that hard. I started working on it shortly after 6 p.m., and I finished at roughly 10 p.m. Of course, there were “extra” parts scattered all over her living room, but I explained that those companies always provide extra parts in case some are lost or stolen in the future.

The hutch looked good, she was pleased, and I ate steak, which she somehow always cooks to perfection. As I was eating, she thanked me, and I told her it was no problem at all. I said if I ever had to put one of those together again, it would be much easier the next time.

Then she dropped the bombshell and told me she was ordering two more.

That’s another lesson for you younger guys. If you ever actually do something right, don’t brag about it.






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