Thursday, February 16, 2012

Do-It-Yourself Girl

In the preamble to my final 2011 post, I alluded to my having had to buy a new computer.

That purchase followed windstorms that begat power outages that begat my realization that a strong surge protector should not be underestimated…

Yes, I now have a new surge protector.

As for my new computer? Once I set it up on Sunday, December 4th, I stood back. What’s wrong with this picture? I asked myself.

… You should probably know, before I continue, that my computer (and therefore my office) is in my kitchen. I live in a one-bedroom apartment, you see. And so I am sure you’ll agree that any other options for the computer simply aren’t palatable.

Bedroom? Absolutely not.

Bathroom? ... Hello? Health Department?

Living room? Then what is living…

Yeah, so anyway, the workstation is in the kitchen where, luck of the layout, there’s a nice corner that accommodates space.

... I was looking at that space shortly after I set up the windstorm/power outage-inspired new computer. And I noted, with my new Microsoft Word 7 eyes, that the corner needed to be refurbished in a big way.

See, I had this workstation whose name was Jan. (You might know him. He comes from Ikea.) And Jan was cool for the simplest of functions. He had the top shelf, for the monitor. And he had the pull-out tray, for the keyboard. His lovely blond wood (a color you might expect from a workstation named “Jan”) also was featured in the shelf well below that keyboard tray. Other than that, there were the two upside-down-U-shaped black metal brackets that kept all his parts together.

Jan was never exactly flush with the wall. I suppose he could have been, but – in placing my office in my kitchen – I somehow had a need for the more open feeling that comes when one is not at right angles with a wall. And because Jan was not flush with the wall, there was this triangle of space behind him. A triangle designed to tempt cats.

Okay, I know what you’re saying: ”What doesn’t tempt a cat?”

Good point. You can rest your case now. (But please don’t smirk. It isn’t polite. Besides, it makes you look needy.)

Bottom line is, my entire work area was a study in cat-proofing. And it was ugly that way.

So, when I looked at that corner – just after setting up my new computer – and I realized it needed to be renovated, I immediately recalled the corner desk/computer stand that I’d seen at Staples during the 90 minutes or so I spent there while the tech guys were making sure that the life inside my old hard drive was fully captured in the new.

And so… on the second Saturday evening in December, I stopped at a Staples that was on my way home from other errands (i.e., not my usual Staples), and I purchased the corner desk.

The guy who helped me finalize my decision indicated that they could have it assembled and delivered by Monday. But I didn’t want to wait.

“I can do it myself,” I suggested. “I mean, how hard can it be?”

He mentioned the need for an Allen Wrench and a Phillips head screwdriver.

No sweat, I thought. I’ve got a drawer full of Allen Wrenches, thanks to the Ikea furniture I’ve assembled over the years. I also have at least three Phillips heads.

(And, by the way, won’t it be nice some day if tools – like hurricanes – are allowed to be named after women? But I digress…)

Yeah, so back at Staples: I bought the corner piece as well as a rolling two-shelf cart in the same cherry stain.

The sales associate loaded the boxes of the to-be-assembled furniture into the back seat of my Corolla, and off I went – my Saturday night agenda crystal clear.

As I was driving home, I sent all my hope to the possibility that either my neighbor across the hall or my friend downstairs would be home. Because, without a man to carry those boxes up the stairs, there would be no furniture-assembly activities in my immediate future.

(This dilemma reminded me of when I had first moved to the building. I had just left my marriage and so I was appointing my new place slowly. Invariably, I’d come home with a piece of furniture tied to the top of my car. And pulling into my space in the carport, I’d immediately remember: “Oh, shit. I don’t have a husband to carry this upstairs.”)

Fortunately, my cross-the-hall angel-neighbor was home, and he was happy to apply his Adonis physique to the task at hand.

Once the two boxes were in my living room, leaning against the couch, I proceeded with the preliminaries: clear out the kitchen; vacuum and wash the floor; and then – carry the corner desk box into the now empty space.

At this point, I uncorked the Kendall Jackson cabernet.

I was feeling relaxed and ambitious at once. Oh, how I love a project!

Okay, I should probably tell you right now that a little red flag got flown as I was bringing the large rectangular box into the kitchen. That red flag? A tiny piece of hardware, hopping out of the box.

It was at that point that I realized how shoddily the box was taped together. It was at that point that I realized that this box had already been opened. A piece already built and then dismantled perhaps?

I didn’t want to know about it.

Because – not only do I love a project, but: when I decide to pursue a project, I cannot be stopped.

Sipping the Kendall Jackson, I shoo’ed away any concerns that were floating through my head.

I emptied the box (as someone had apparently done previously), and I leaned all the large pieces against the walls of my kitchen.

I then opened the hardware bag, and I let the various screws and things go where they might on the tray table I’d set up for that very purpose.

I didn’t have the patience to count hardware and compare those totals to what the instruction manual told me to expect. I mean, seriously, who has time for that shit?

I did, though, take a quick inventory of the large pieces (that is, the pieces that would actually create the desk).

I forget what letter of the alphabet was assigned to the piece that was clearly missing, but when I noticed its absence, I immediately flipped through the instruction manual to glean its function.

Hmm… seems the missing piece, which appeared to have all the depth of a piece of cardboard, was meant to live under the keyboard tray. But, was it necessary? I decided it wasn’t. I also decided that, if I discovered it was necessary, I would find something in my apartment that was otherwise unneeded and could take its place.

And so I proceeded.

I got through the first few steps without a hitch.

Then, I got to the part that required particular screws that had come with the kit.

These are not screws that one generally has in her otherwise-impressive screw collection.

These are screws that play a dual role. First, they are burrowed into the hole they are assigned to. Later, their tops meet a pre-drilled tunnel in another piece of the furniture, and a whole other piece of hardware must be placed in that tunnel. Then, the pieces are blended together with a quick twist of the Phillips head.

I know, I know, I’m probably losing you. I should have left it at the fact that these are unusual screws.

Anyway, when I did the count of these unique little pieces of allegedly included hardware, I realized that I was missing one.

One screw I couldn’t substitute. (In spite of my vast collection.)

Acknowledging an unforeseen dilemma, I revisited the design plan, and based on how the desk would ultimately stand, I decided which of the eight needed screws could be omitted.

After that step, I moved on, and as I did, I discovered how many “regular” screws were missing from the hardware bag.

But, as mentioned, I’ve got quite a collection, so I was able to choose from that collection strategically and according to my interpretation of the design. I was able to determine which of these misfit screws would not be within view – ever.

… I have never needed so many hours to assemble a piece of furniture.

I have never been so frustrated by a process.

But, I did it, and I love the result.

...As I have for several years now, I do all my typing in the corner of my kitchen.

But now, it’s a clean corner.

It’s organized and without clutter.

I like it.

And I like remembering the chutzpah I brought to the current design.

(Though, admittedly, I have a few loose screws.)


shelly said...

This sounds like something I'd do but without the bottle of wine.

Andrea said...

This story reminded me of my Dania bookshelves. I love them now that they're standing tall, all 8 feet by 12 feet of them, but the journey to this peaceful wall of books was fraught. Fraught! And they're only bookshelves, not a complicated workstation. Congratulations, Katie. Proud of you!

Reviewer11 said...

Wow, all the sacrifice it took you to get the results. Glad it is to your liking now. Awesome! :)

Anonymous said...

I followed your every move there Katie! Delightfully told and oh so familiar. I had the opposite problem when we moved offices recently. I am known for my "jack of all trade" attitude so I get the job of fixing and mending as well as a multitude of other things that I was never trained for. Having rented the office with several desks in place, we decided one was not needed where it was and must be moved. Moving it meant dismantling it to get it through the ancient and extremely narrow, doorway. I was trying to work out what should be unscrewed first and was getting on ok until I found myself holding one side up lest it split the wood whilst balancing the desktop on my head and trying to put a screw back because I had undone the wrong one. Shortly after this, I decided the desk needed to stay where it was. Handy being in charge!