Friday, October 1, 2010

Assembly Man

Even after 26 years of marriage, LK is still capable of surprising me, and it happened again this week in a big way. She didn't object when I decided to assemble and start up a device that has the capability to blow up our house.

That's right. The woman who won't let me shop at Ikea because there are such dramas whenever I try to assemble things (and also the same woman who banned power tools from my life forever and begged Andrew to fix our toaster before I killed myself) decided it was OK for me to assemble a gas patio heater.

I felt so proud that she would trust me to correctly link a 20-pound bottle of highly explosive material to a heating element and then place it on our deck. No way was I going to let her down, even if it meant eventually reading the directions.

Of course, anything this challenging is going to have its ups and downs, and putting the heater together was no exception. That's what they look like in the store, and that's more or less what I expected to see when it was delivered. I thought all I would have to do is hook up the gas bottle to the hose. I was a little taken aback when the delivery man just left a large cardboard box.

But it seemed to me that the assembly would have to be pretty straightforward or there would be huge warnings all over the box saying Do Not Do This Yourself. How hard could it be when the directions even have pictures?  So, with LK actually not even bothering to pay attention to what I was about to do, I started to assemble the heater.

I was glad early on that she had chosen to ignore whatever I was doing. Because I think it would have concerned her to see me undoing everything I had already done and starting over again. It was not really my fault. The directions said to remove the lid from the base, so I undid all the bolts holding it in place only to notice - once the whole base was in pieces - that there was in fact a small lid on the other side of the base. 

Technically I believe I could make a case that what I was removing was also the lid of the base (the BIG lid, to be precise), and I blame the directions for being unnecessarily vague and not even bothering to show a picture of the little lid on the other side of the base. I am not sure LK would have agreed, and I'm pretty sure she might have started having second thoughts about this newfound freedom she had granted me.

From that stumbling start, though, everything went swimmingly. Well, for me. The posts eventually lined up and could be screwed in place, the column fit so well you would think I knew what I was doing and the hose went through the column all right (although I still cannot figure out why they said to push it UP through the column, when it was much easier to drop it DOWN).

I even followed protocol and did the soapy water test on the gas connections to make sure they were tight. The directions had even warned not to use a match to test if there was a gas leak. They must get some real morons putting these things together!

I brought it all out to the deck to put the final bits together and give it a test run. And that's when it hit me. If I had made any serious errors, this tall silvery heater might end up being little more than a glistening rocket flying over Blackmans Bay. Or, I suppose in a worse case scenario, it might just explode and burn the house down.

So I sat down and went over all the directions one more time. Trying to make sure that we got heat but no fire. LK saw me and thought it was so cute that she took this picture.

I don't know if she would have thought it was all that cute if she'd known that I was actually taking comfort in the safety feature that shuts off the fuel supply if the heater falls over. Because a lot of things I assemble do seem to fall over.

Anyhow, no dramas. It worked. Nothing blew up.

In fact I believe I learned so much that I am seriously thinking of writing an essay for on how to assemble a gas patio heater. I am sure there are knowledge-hungry people who need an expert to help them.

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