My new wardrobe arrived in 12 different boxes -- boxes for the sides, boxes for the drawers and boxes for the shelves. This thing was going to be huge when it was finally put together, but at last, I'd be organized. No more digging around in different dressers and bureaus for socks and underwear.
For what seems like years, my clothes dryer has been one of my storage places. Is that any way for a grown-up to live? No. The time has come to clean up my act. Finally, everything will be put in its proper place. T-shirts, underwear, socks and jeans in one place, everything else to the Salvation Army Store.
What they don't tell you when you buy furniture online is that you will need tools to put it together. Me, I'm not really a tool guy. It took me two hours to find a screwdriver. It was in the dryer. Go figure. Why is the stuff you need always in the last place you look?
The instructions were 12 pages long. Actually, they were one page long -- one page each in 12 different languages. Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic and English. But the English instructions were written by someone who wasn't a native speaker. Someone from a foreign country -- England maybe. I knew all the words, but they didn't seem to go together in the right order.
Good news! There are pictures of what to do! Who needs written instructions; it's all very simple. There are pictures of which screw to use where. Except that the picture of this screw looks exactly like the picture of the three other types of screws. No, not exactly alike. Some of the screws have tight threads, and some have loose threads. Some use a regular screwdriver; the others use a Phillips head. This is way more complicated than leaving my clothes in the dryer.
I'd send the whole thing back, but I'll never figure out how to put all these pieces back in the boxes. Maybe I should have opened them as if they were Christmas presents, gently and slowly, instead of tearing them apart at the seams. I can't even put my clothes in the empty boxes now. Screaming in frustration will surely help. And it did.
My neighbor Charlie showed up wearing a tool belt. He came over wondering if I had accidentally cut off a finger or just tripped over a cat. Sometimes it sounds the same.
"Oh, that looks like fun," he said, looking at the pile of lumber and parts on the floor as if I had just purchased a giant toy we were now going to play with. Within minutes he had the sides and back together without even looking at the instructions. I never asked, but maybe he's from England or Sweden or Arabia -- someplace where all this makes perfect sense.
"I didn't know you owned enough clothes to need one of these things," he said as he was snapping together the last of the drawers. "I thought you'd just buy another dryer if you ever bought anything new."
"What are you talking about? I buy new things." Well, not recently but ...
"Sure you do," said Charlie. "So what if all those bands on your T-shirts split up years before I was born."
"I don't just have old concert T-shirts. I have some from radio stations and bars."
"None of which still exist," Charlie said. "You could donate them to the Smithsonian. They love that old-timey stuff."
"There's a tie in there somewhere. I think."
Within minutes the wardrobe was finished. I helped Charlie stand it up and move it against the wall.
"Do you want me to show you how to fold your T-shirts, or can you do that by yourself?" he asked.
"I think I can figure it out," I said.
"Or you could put them on coat hangers."
"What are coat hangers?"
Jim Mullen is the author of "Baby's First Tattoo: A Baby Memory Book for Modern Parents." You can reach him at email@example.com