1958 Too Many Rights
Note to readers: No vaudevillians, scientists or onlookers were hurt during the following adventure.
This could have been Abbott and Costello. Or Olsen and Johnson. Or Laurel and Hardy. Or Black and Decker. But it wasn’t. It was just “A” and “B” trying to put together a three-drawer plastic cabinet.
The first hint that all wouldn’t be well was the label on the box: one part of it said “easy to assemble.” There is no such thing as easy to assemble. And it’s especially difficult when it says on the box “easy to assemble.”
Also on the box: product descriptions in three languages, one of which was Spanish. One of the things it said in Spanish was “quatro cajones.” You have to assume the word has at least two meanings and the meaning the factory had in mind was drawers.
So Einstein and Kepler unpack the thing, all the while admiring its sturdy all-vinyl construction and its attractive two tone grey finish.
There are 4,000 parts. There are no instructions. Not even instrucciones. Just pictures. Smeared, vague, poorly drawn pictures.
Step by step, though. Now, here’s Kepler trying to put one of the sides into the bottom, while Einstein studies the drawings. Then, Kepler studies the drawings and Einstein gets the second side into the bottom.
Building this thing goes on and on and on. It’s 90 degrees. The vaudeville duo is out in the garage disputing whether it would be cooler with the door open or closed.
What happens when you get a great scientific vaudeville duo performing in a garage on a hot summer-like weekend and looking for distractions and an excuse to return the thing without losing face? There’s no good answer.
Here’s a handy hint when doing this yourself: you can’t un-do some of those plastic things without wrecking them, so get it right the first time.
Next, metal sliders with small wheels, one pair for each of the four drawers and one for each of the sides of the cabinet.
Laurel and Costello look for markings on the metal. Right. Left. Whatever. Some are marked some are not. No problem. Two great minds can figure out which unmarked metal goes where. This is why we win Academy Awards and Nobel Prizes.
Nothing lines up. There is no way to get the drawers into the cabinet without them either sticking in there or falling out under load – load being the weight of the drawer itself.
Reverse things. Unscrew things. Screw things back. Double check the blurry instruction pictures.
Off to the store to inspect the floor model. No floor model. They don’t have these anymore. Small wonder. But a helpful guy shows the two great scientists and vaudeville and movie performers how these kinds of things typically work. Easy. No problem. No problemo.
All it takes is a little patience and quatro cajones.
Finally, there’s a case conference. Should this thing go back? The scent of defeat is in the air. Find an excuse.
Carefully going over ground covered and re-covered for hours, the two superheroes find the face-saving excuse they need: the drawer sliders were counted wrong at the factory.
There are nine right sides and seven lefts. That’s too many rights.
--At last, a really practical practicum. Hofstra University has announced a new, course for the people in the above story. It’s how to get the things you unpack repacked when you return them so that the shipping box can be completely closed.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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