Within the laughable range of one-hour assembly, I found this story quite amusing and unusually personal for a feature in a major daily:
- We asked Christopher Byrne, a contributing editor of Toy Wishes magazine, to pick five of the most popular Christmas toys that have to be assembled.
OK, we asked him to name the five popular toys that are the most difficult to put together. Then we gave reporters an hour to assemble them.
….BILL LUBINGER – Barbie Happy Family Sounds Like Home Smart House, $69.95
..Luckily, the Barbie Happy Family Sounds Like Home Smart House requires no tools, except something sharp to open the box and a Phillips screwdriver to pop the battery cover.
…The tools you do need are patience, a steady hand and maybe some bifocals. When Susie wakes up Christmas morning, she’ll want that Barbie house to feel like a home. That means peeling and sticking 71 decals, from stained- glass windows and family photos to kid drawings on the fridge.
The stickers are numbered. Outlined shapes in each room guide you. But how tedious. Most of my allotted hour was spent on that.
….CONNIE SCHULTZ – Bratz Tokyo-A-Go-Go Dance N’ Skate Club, $69.95
A fellow competitor in this endeavor, who shall remain nameless, actually tried to disrupt my focus with mock outrage that I would assemble a toy that depicts girls in such a negative light.
..”Look, Jim Sweeney (oops!),” I said. “This isn’t about me. This is about you and how you’re still crouched on the floor over your Hot Wheels contraption trying to figure out where the goo goes long past the allotted hour we had to assemble our toys.”
..Inserting the batteries with a screwdriver and assembling the disco was a breeze. The hard part was 40 minutes of ripping, cutting and prying every single accessory from enough packaging to protect a small country. In the end, it was worth neither the energy nor the price ($69.95).
….JAMES SWEENEY – Hot Wheels Slimecano, $39.95
No wonder most real volcanoes erupt only every couple of hun dred years or so. Apparently even God can’t get them to work more often.
My task was to assemble the Mattel Hot Wheels Slimecano, which features a racetrack through a volcano that shakes and spews sticky red goo that is like room-temperature lava.
…Slimecano can be assembled without tools, though opening the battery compartment requires a Phillips head screwdriver. I also used a screwdriver to snap off a piece of plastic protecting the virtue of Slot B against Tab A. It didn’t seem to hurt the toy, and I was running out of time.
I finished building Slimecano in just under an hour, but then I had to load the goo, which was a whole ‘nother set of directions.
….MICHAEL McINTYRE – Home Depot: Tabletop Workbench, $29.95
I always have the best intentions when I set out to build something. I watch Norm in “The New Yankee Workshop” — how cleanly he cuts the lumber, how tightly his rabbits fit into his grooves. Inside of an hour, though, after I’ve measured once and cut thrice, after my circular saw has wailed and kicked and nearly removed a thumb, I chuck the whole project and park myself in front of the TV.
…The box showed an imposing-looking workbench. I rolled up my sleeves and read the instructions — all pictures, no words. Each piece of wood was cut to the precise length. Every hole was pre-drilled. All of the screws were the same length.
I started to feel cocky. I began to screw, and screw and screw. Each piece fit together as if Norm were crafting this for his own shop. Only twice did I screw in a piece backward and only once did I say, “These idiots forgot to drill holes here” before I realized I was the idiot who was seeing the piece upside down. When I had finished, 78 screws and 58 minutes later, I had produced exactly what I saw on the box: a workbench about the size of a toaster oven. [Cleveland.com]
As I said, good story, but in the REAL real world toys like these barely even qualify as “assembly required.” If you want to know the meaning of the word “assembly,” pick up one of these little babies.
From the time I was about 21 I have belonged to and attended — often with something approaching religious fervor — a gym. For the entire ’80s I belonged to the SportCenter in Redondo Beach, and after moving back to Ohio, belonged for most of the ’90s to Wellness Works in Solon, owned by our good pals the Wellers, where both my wife and oldest daughter worked for a time, further enhancing what was already a family feel to the place.
The point is, I’ve been a gym guy for over 20 years, spending as much as five days a week working out, socializing with friends from the gym, all of that dopey crap.
But gyms — even when you’re friends with the owners — are pretty expensive and require a large commitment of time, and when Dawn and I got married we moved farther away from Solon, and then after Lily was born and Dawn stopped working in Solon it became harder and harder to find the time to get over there and harder to justify the expense, and then when we started Blogcritics there was NO time for such nonsense and I started piecing together a “home gym,” which initially consisted of a 30 year-old flat bench I found stuffed in my parent’s basement, a crappy bar and some plastic-covered weights.
We’ve been supplementing over the last few years with this and that, getting closer to something less embarrassing and more serviceable, but finally when Dawn saw this Dream Factory (go ahead, read the assembly instructions, I dare you) WAY on sale at Sam’s Club, she suggested I take a look.
Now this is a freaking home gym: heavy, adjustable bench with leg entensions and curls and preacher curl; serious durable squat cage; pull-down, pull-up and fly pulleys; olympic bar and weight set. Heaven.
With the help of a remarkably wirey young man of 6’3″ and 155 lbs, we wrestled that mother, in a variety of boxes ranging from the manageable to the appalling, into the back of the truck and were on our merry way Friday evening of Thanksgiving weekend.
Particularly attentive readers may recall I pretty much disappeared that weekend, and now you know why. With the help of my brother, brother-in-law, and son, we opened the boxes and carted the disassembled mess down to the basement; and grimly determined, I spent eight hours Saturday and four hours Sunday painstakingly sorting, assembling, socketing, screwing and occasionally hammering that ridiculous 3-D puzzle conceived by demonic engineers with advanced degrees in sadism until my back was broken, fingers bloody stumps, knees raw, and eyes barely functional roadmaps of red dismay.
TWELVE HOURS, in the basement, with the cats staring at me, playing tag over my prone twisted body, donating regularly to their boxes behind the bamboo screen, the sweet smell of cat piss dancing in the air.
But now we have our mighty Weider Club C650 home gym and that baby rocks: it really is as sturdy, flexible and functional as it appears — how many things can you say that about? — and after picking a few more accessories here and there we really do have the “club experience” in our own basement. THAT WAY to the beach.
Next up: cardio!