Saturday, May 2, 2009

Some Assembly Required

We can discuss my wonderful basketball hoop that I built yesterday with help from my neighbor. I ordered a portable hoop off of It said it was easy to put together and had lots of good reviews. A lot of reviewers were parents or grandparents of eight year olds and they said that the hoop was the right size for them. The company said it was easy to put together. Which was probably the most important factor in my decision making. They lied like a rug!

The trouble started when I opened the box. The top sheet of instructions was a bright orange piece of paper. This orange was the color of warning labels. It was hunting vest orange. It was obviously important. More than imporant - SUPER important, super duper important. It was in big bold print. It screamed, "Pay attention or your child might lose an eye" important. It was also in Chinese. I did what any other sane mother would do, I threw it away.

I gathered the 1/2 inch wrench, hammer and screwdriver that the box said I would need and it was on to step one. After throwing away the other instruction manual, also helpfully written in Chinese, I found the English and French. So I got the middle pole or MP out of the box. The top pole or TP was helpfully shoved inside the MP. It was also encased in plastic. This appears to have been done on purpose. As there was a helpful picture of a tall man cheerfully pulling the plastic encoated TP out of the MP in one fail swoop. Alas, that was also a lie. The MP had been thoughtfully dented in transit, saving me the trouble and it made it impossible to get the TP out. I did figure out what the screwdriver was for though. I came up with two uses. One, to use as a weapon when I go to take my frustrations out on the person who wrote the instructions. Two, to jam in a tiny hole and use as a lever to try to remove the pole. I think it may be biologically impossible but I'm willing to give it the old college try.

Forty five minutes later I have the pole out with a few gouges taken out of the paint and few more from my fingers when it slipped. I have three quarters of the plactic removed and I have increased the children's vocabulary with many new colorful expressions. Should they want a careet in the merchant marines, they have half the classwork done already and probably could made a season veteran of the high seas blush.

Now, because English and French is obviously a second language for the writer, I match the pictures of the nuts and bolts up so I know how to fasten things. I study the diagrams with the intensity of a 21 year old vigin studying the Kama Sutra for the first time before a big date. I decided to try the French directions hoping that they can give me a clue. Since all the French I know consists of the phrases, "eat shit and die" "do you want to sleep with me tonight" and "shut your mouth" it wasn't that helpful. I give the book to my eight year old daughter and she figures it out. I swear some more.

I have the pole attached to the base. I have the wheels on. I have the brackets in place. Now comes the hard part. Previously, you just had to finger tighten the nuts. Which in my sleep addlede brain sounds like what you would do on a date. I think I may have done that last Saturday, I am not sure. I will need to check the manual. Now comes the time to tighten the nuts for real. Seriously, they need to be tightened or something horrible will happen. It could cause serious injury or death, if the impressive orange Chinese warning lable is to be believed.

By this time, I have a crowd of eight children anxiously surrounding me, jabbering non-stop and bouncing basketballs perilously close to my head. My eye starts twitching which should be a signal, to my kids at least, that it is time to make yourself scarce. They fail to take the hint.

We tackle the backboard next. We are flush with success and have visions of getting it done in the next fifteen minutes so the kids can play while it is still light out. We pore over the instructions. We see that there are two tall people putting it together in the pictures. They appear to be smiling while they do this. We take it as a good sign and one hour later we realize that the tall men in the picture have either been given shock treatments recently or are heavily medicated.

We get the backboard on and we assemble the hoop and get the bolts in places that are actually too small and angled to seemingly go. We get four of the six bolts on and forget the other two in our herculean struggle. We decide that it will work. It stands up and doesn't fall over. I call the kids out in triumph.

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