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April 2002 - Made for Idiots

Regular devotees of this monthly load of old nonsense will already be well aware that's it's not difficult to confuse Nick Harvey; but I have to say that the last week or so has seen me far more confused than is normal.

As with most things of a confusing nature, it's all the fault of 'er indoors. Don't women seem to have an awful lot of clothes?

The problem would never have reared its ugly head in the first place if it wasn't for the fact that she has about ten times the number of items of clothing that I have.

I think if I really searched all the nooks and crannies I'd probably come up with a pair of slippers and about three pairs of shoes belonging to me. So why, I have to wonder, does she need about seventeen pairs?

All I've got to say is thank heaven I'm not married to that Mrs Marcos woman who had thousands of pairs. The confusing problem for Mr Marcos must have been much worse than the one I'm about to tell you all about.

It's not just shoes though, is it? It's all kinds of clothes! A man has three or four pairs of trousers to the twelve pairs and twenty skirts of the lady of the house.

And having all these clothes is no help to her either. If we're going out for the evening, I throw on a few things in a couple of minutes; but then sit around for an hour or two while she gets everything out to look at, before deciding which to finally put on.

It's this quantity of female attire and the tidy storage thereof which started my recent problems.

Ever since we moved into our current humble abode, we've had a bit of a problem with the storage of belongings, and her clothes in particular.

A little, built-in cupboard is fine for the handful of items of clothing the male of the species possesses, but the wide range of female attire can make exactly the same cupboard bulge at the seams.

Indeed, it soon becomes obvious that one cupboard won't be nearly enough, so others get commandeered, and all my important items like tools get consigned to a cardboard box on the floor.

It also becomes obvious that even with the addition of extra cupboards, many of her precious items of clothing would have to join my tools, in various boxes.

This has been the state of affairs for a considerable time now, with regular hunts through the boxes preceding the laying out and choosing; and the eventual wearing of something to go out for the evening.

Now, if I may digress for a moment, as is my regular habit, I DID tell you all about her undying passion for painting and decorating around the place, didn't I? Yes, I thought I might have managed to refer to it in one of my previous epistles. Well, the week before last, she finally arrived in the bedroom with her brushes and roller.

It was as she was moving everything out, and into the tiny amount of spare space I have left here in my office that I had an extremely foolish five minutes and promised to go out and buy a wardrobe.

You have to understand that I was under an enormous amount of pressure at the time, expecting to be trapped in here behind all the piled up items from the bedroom, for the duration of the exercise, with only more and more exciting editions of Comment to write to alleviate the boredom.

That's when I cracked up completely and promised her the wardrobe.

Now, far be it from me to bore you all to tears with tales of my being somewhat financially embarrassed, but suffice it to say that we had to choose our wardrobe to fit our cloth, to rather invert a metaphor.

This was why we found ourselves in a well known store that you may just have heard of. Well, it just seemed like a good idea at the time!

With the enormous benefit of that wonderful thing, hindsight, I now know what a huge mistake we were making as we stood there thinking what a bargain it was to get a whole wardrobe for only 29.99.

Well, the one we were looking at in the showroom was all in one piece and looked quite good, considering the price. With a flash of the Visa card I struck! I purchased it!

"Can you deliver it?" I asked the salesman as I paid. "Yes, I'm sure we can" was the reply, "but go and see the man at the collection point over in the corner".

Off we went and presented our little computerised chit. Off went the man and returned quite quickly with a flattish cardboard box. After a little discussion it became apparent that the box contained a wardrobe.

After more discussion it also became apparent that the box contained a disassembled wardrobe. "Do you put it together when you deliver it then?" I foolishly enquired.

"Well, we COULD deliver it" said the man, "but it would cost twice as much as the wardrobe as you're more than ten miles away". I'd better not embarrass you with details of his reply on the subject of putting the thing together.

I'll just say that it finally dawned on us that WE had to assemble the thing when we got it home; and that was the reason it was 29.99 and not 199.99.

The little man WAS very helpful as he explained how to get it into the car though. Flatten the backs of both front seats, shove it in the rear driver's side door and into the passenger's footwell. Easy!

Well, it was easy getting it IN the car, under his superb supervision; what wasn't so easy was 'er indoors uncomfortable ride back home in the tiny space left behind the driver's seat; or our attempts to get the thing back OUT of the car, WITHOUT his supervision.

After much huffing and puffing, the box finally ended up on the floor in the newly decorated bedroom. This is where, more than halfway into this month's exciting edition of Comment, our story really begins.

Nowhere on the box can we find the legend "open here", so we just start ripping the thing open at one end. WRONG! We eventually realise that it's impossible to get six foot long pieces of wood out of the end of a six foot long cardboard box in a ten foot long bedroom!

Eventually, after much heaving and straining, there's an empty box out in the hall and a collection of bits of wood, an instruction sheet and a bag of "accessories" on the bedroom floor.

First we check it's all there. Yes, all the bits of wood appear to be present and correct; but the count of the accessories is a completely different matter.

There should be sixteen little black screws, but there are only fifteen. Perhaps we have to use the fifth funny plastic hook thing, of which there should only be four, in place of the sixteenth black screw?

All the things they refer to as barrel nuts seem to be in order, as do the hinge brackets and hinges. It doesn't say how many tacks there should be, so perhaps we're okay.

Shall I now bore you with all the concise details of the three hours which followed, as we struggled to insert the black screws through the hole in wooden end "d", into barrel nut "k", which they'd omitted to mention had to be inserted in its hole with its thread fore and aft, as opposed to sideways like I'd put them all in?

No, perhaps I'd better not!

In any case, all the barrel nuts were involved in the exercise of putting the sides together; and that was easy compared with the problems of the front and back.

Why don't they explain up front that when it comes to tacking the back on you need seven people, each with a minimum of three hands? For some reason, the back comes in two halves and a plastic strip for the middle.

The trouble is, the plastic strip doesn't actually grip the two halves of the back, so you're trying to hold two bits of floppy cardboard, six foot by two foot, and this six foot long strip in place with nine of your hands, while your other three are needed for holding the tacks and hammering.

But after this bit, you get to put the thing upright and look inside!

They really ought to warn you that the sides are so thin that the tacks holding the back on come straight through and push lumps of what might possibly be veneer off the inside. They've carefully told you to tack the back on with the thing lying on its front, so you don't realise what you're damaging as you do it.

It's when you put it upright and have a look that you realise.

In any case, they ought to tell you to put the doors on and adjust the hinges BEFORE you put the back on; that way you wouldn't get trapped inside the thing when you do the hinge adjustment.

Having put the doors on, as you can expect, they don't quite fit. They either jam at the top or the bottom, so you need to fiddle with the adjustment screws.

The only sensible way to do this is from inside; that way you can see whether the door is heading in the right direction as you screw. But, careful folks, as half a turn in the wrong direction jams the screw at its end point and also jams the door solidly shut, imprisoning you until your partner in the operation forces the other door open.

You see, it can get quite dangerous!

Why on earth do they call it Made For Idiots I wonder? If all the idiots in the world bought from that particular store, there wouldn't be any idiots left; they'd all be dead, suffocated while adjusting the hinges in their new wardrobes.

I'll certainly never make that same mistake again. Next time I'll just get the nice, big, wardrobe sized cardboard box and she can keep her clothes in there!

Assuming I don't get trapped in the wardrobe again, the next in-depth analysis of some matter of import will appear here at the beginning of May, so I hope you'll all join me then.

Does anyone know what I can do with this spare funny plastic hook thing? Right, I'm off, where's me little black screw?

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