I have been in urgent need of a free-standing linen cabinet for my bathroom. I’ve urgently needed one for the two years that have passed since the bathroom was renovated.
A year ago I handed the task to my sister, Roz. She is like a slot machine for these kinds of problems: I just put all the factors in an email to her, pull on the arm and wait to see what pops out. She’s a detective solving a not very important crime.
For months, she sent me links. No, nearly, yes but too expensive, too short, too tall, wrong colour, too wide, wrong shelf, too cheesy … the list went on. Last week she hit pay dirt and found exactly what I wanted. After a year.
“It’s on sale. Hurry up, go get it,” she told me.
“OK. I’ll head over later today.”
“I know you. You won’t. I checked — the store near you has eight in stock, but they’re going to go fast. Call and reserve one.” I did in fact forget to go that night, but the next day Ari, 20, wanted the car and I told him he had to pick up the cabinet. I offered to write it down. He said he’d remember. The phone rang 30 minutes later.
“I’m in the store. What’s it called again? I don’t see it.” This is the way men shop. They stand in a store staring sadly at shelves, then call home to ask under their breath what it was they refused to write down in the first place.
He brought it home and plunked the heavy box in the living room. Ari is the one who builds things. I am the one who stands above him asking if he’s doing it right. Christopher, 22, is good with sledgehammers. With success sitting so tantalizing close, I couldn’t believe Ari wasn’t assembling it immediately. He muttered something about how a day or two hardly mattered after all this time.
I carefully opened the box and took out each piece. One by one, I checked off each component against the master list. Each panel, each dowel, each hinge. This took me about an hour. Ari wandered by as I squinted at tiny screws I imagined gnomes might use.”You think if I see all this stuff I’ll do it for you, don’t you? You’ll think I think you’re pathetic; I see what you’re doing here,” he said. I shook my head. “Actually, I’m having fun. Look, I made sure I had all the pieces first.” I waved my arm like Vanna White revealing a letter.
Ari remained in the room as I began assembly. He glanced over as I triumphantly fastened-and-doweled a front arch together. He frowned.
“It’s not lined up. I think you did that wrong.” I explained that you couldn’t expect perfect machining on heirloom furniture that came unassembled in a box. It was close enough. Half an hour later, I was frantically trying to wriggle the pieces apart — I’d glued the dowels — because one was indeed upside down.
It slowly took shape, my sense of accomplishment going up as the unit did. A glass door, burnished handles and small drawer finished it off. I had no pieces left over, a sure sign of triumph.
The drawer wouldn’t go in. Ari peeked inside and told me the roller things were upside down. He grabbed the screwdriver to remove them.
“You don’t even have to say lefty-loosey in your head, do you?” I asked him.
“No,” he said, smiling.
“I know you do.”