"So," he says. "What tools do we need?"
I flip through the bulky 63-page multilingual assembly manual. "It just says 'one screwdriver.'"
I'm on the cold cement floor of the sunroom with a book, carton, packaging, boards and several thousand screws belonging to our new piece of furniture. The husband stands over me, a skeptical frown on his face.
"Really?" he asks. "Just a screwdriver?"
"That's what it says -- a Phillips head," I look up at him with a smirk. "It also says 'Assembly time: one hour.'"
At this, we double over in laughter. It ain't our first rodeo of assembling cheap furniture from a big box store. And he and I don't argue much, except when faced with some damn assembly required.
Still chuckling, he fetches a Phillips head from the junk drawer, and I begin attempting to screw shelf LL into B2 using screw J38. I twist and twist and get nowhere.
Screwing: Sometimes, it's completely futile.
"This isn't the right size screwdriver," I tell him. "I need a bigger one."
He hoists himself from the pile of particleboard and gestures dramatically at his swimsuit area. "Well, I got a big one for ya! Heh-heh!"
Oh, how that man amuses himself.
As he heads back to the kitchen to root around, I realize that I haven't eaten anything yet today, which is very bad news for him. Because I don't get hungry, I get fungry: fucking hungry.
You wouldn't like me when I'm fungry.
"Hurry it up," I yell. "I'm starving!"
"I'm coming, dear," he says. "Why don't you just have a cheese stick?"
Ah. Behold the power of the cheese stick. It's the disappointing solution for a snack at our place. In fact, it's often the solution for breakfast. Also lunch. Sometimes dinner.
In fact, are you hungry? Well have a freakin' cheese stick.
But I can't have one now -- we are out of them. My stomach growls. My head hurts. My mouth waters. Years pass, and the husband returns with a big screwdriver, a different, even bigger screwdriver, and no cheese sticks whatsoever.
The mid-size Phillips head does the trick, and we make some headway on our project -- for a while. Until Step 7: Screw side piece CC into shelf LL using screw B-11-a. I push and wrestle with B-11-a, but try as I might, I can't get it to bite into shelf LL.
"You know," I tell him, "I think the cordless drill might work for this."
He grabs the manual and flips back through the pages. "I thought the instructions said we'd only need a screwdriver?"
I stare at him with eyes as empty as my stomach. "It does say that. Now go get the cordless drill and the Phillips bit."
He slouches his way back through the rubble. "Yes, dear."
While waiting for him, I think back to the groovy day, to the 70s and 80s, a time when furniture -- made of actual wood, mind you, by actual Americans and carried by actual delivery men -- arrived already put together. True, compared to our income, this furniture was so prohibitively expensive that my mother could only afford one piece every decade or so, but by God, it was worth it, because it was what?
I snap back to the present and glance around the room, filled to the brim with some damn assembly required items, all of it clumsily put together by my husband and I. It is a strong marriage that can survive cheap furniture. We have been married 20 years now. That's a lot of IKEA. From the tables to the kids' beds to several large shelves, our home is chock full of "wood" fabricated in faraway countries, likely by small, hungry children.
And speaking of hungry, that reminds me...
"Hurry IT UP!" I yell.
Glaring, he re-enters the room with the cordless drill case in hand. He opens it up, pushes in the battery, pulls the trigger and...
Nothing. As usual, the battery is dead.
"I'm not sure why we even have that thing," I say. "It's never charged."
He studies the dead drill in his hands. "I'll go get the electric one."
"Yes," he hisses. "I will hurry it up!"
I wait for him again, growing ever older, ever angrier, ever fungrier, and study the diagram in the the instruction book. If it gets assembled, this particular piece will be a snazzy-looking television stand with a built-in electric fireplace. It was my idea to buy it.
Obviously I have had better ideas.
But this is no comfort, as I sit in a mountain of MDF, tool boxes, several thousand screws, a half dozen screwdrivers, one dead cordless drill, and exactly zero freakin' cheese sticks.
"Assembly time: one hour."
Yeah. Sure. One hour.
"Tools needed: one screwdriver. "
And one screwdriver indeed.
With double vodka.