Some Assembly Required…

October 4, 2008

I know I mentioned that Cayden recently had a birthday, but what I probably failed to mention is what we bought him. In our infinite wisdom, we decided that every boy’s dream is a brand new high-speed bicycle complete with trick pegs and padded handlebars. So off we went to where every parent goes in search of the perfect childhood gift, Toys-R-Us.


Luckily, I was at work and unable to help Mack and Connie make the choice, but they did a great job. They bought a tricked-out, orange, Mongoose 16 inch bike, completely assembled and ready to hit the open road. Cayden was thrilled with his new bike, but sadly our weekends are so packed with wonderful mandatory fun such as soccer, guitar lessons, boating and so forth that we were unable to eek out even five minutes of road time for Cay’s new hot rod.


However, Monday through Friday, Cayden had ample opportunity to try out his new ride. For some reason, he was less than thrilled by the bike’s performance. I had limited time to investigate the cause of his dismay due to the pressing concerns of Headquarters Marine Corps (my day job), but vowed to make it priority number one on my weekend to-do list.


So when Friday night rolled around, I grabbed a glass of wine and ventured into the garage to see what type of fatherly magic I could produce to make his machine function more efficiently. I flipped Cayden’s bike over so that I could over inflate his tires (the extent of my bike mechanic expertise). As an aside, the presence of testosterone is not an indicator of mechanical ability. Believe it or not, ladies, men are not born with an innate ability to fix complex machinery, but without fail we are expected to do so.

For example, one year our toaster damn near burned down our home so Connie asked me to fix it. Just to set the record straight, I have never been to “Toaster Repairman College”. I have no “Online Toaster Repair Technician Certificate”. In fact, chances are I’m probably the guy that broke it in the first place, but damn if I didn’t throw myself into the task at hand. To fix the toaster, I took the approach that most men take when asked to fix something they have no understanding of, I disassembled it. I took the toaster apart, or more accurately I broke the toaster into approximately 8,500 individual components. Next, I cleaned each piece extremely well. Then I organized all of the pieces and cursed at them, a lot. Finally, I hit some of the more offensive pieces with a 16oz. hammer, not exactly a finesse move, but I recalled seeing my father follow the exact same protocol while working on my sister’s Ford Thunderbird and it seemed to work for him. End result: 8,500 extremely shiny parts that would never again be capable of lightly toasting anything. Who was I kidding? What do I know about toasters? Until the minute I was asked to fix it, I was pretty well convinced that toasters worked off Pixie Dust liberally distributed by Keebler Elves. The only one who was surprised by my inability to repair the appliance was Connie; I think she actually believes that the presence of a penis signals mastery of the mechanical underpinnings of small, medium and large kitchen appliances.  She was extremely disappointed by my performance.


Back to my story…
After pumping the tires with air, I spun the back wheel to gauge my success. Surprise! It didn’t spin. The motion that did occur was actually more or less a wobble. It seems Cayden’s back rim was more warped than my sense of humor. When I examined the front wheel, I found it to be equally warped and, better yet, the front brake was permanently set to extreme friction mode. I thought about this for a minute as I took a pull from my chalice of Carlo. Cayden had defied the odds for a solid week. He somehow managed to propel himself forward on a bike with two extremely warped rims and a permanently set front brake. How’s that for determination? No wonder he was frustrated.


I could only imagine what Cayden must have looked like as he tried with all his might to keep up with his older brother, his knobby little legs pumping for all they were worth, sweat shooting from his furrowed brow, as black smoke billowed up from his locked front tire. How he managed to go anywhere is a mystery in itself; how he managed to move as fast as Mack is beyond belief. Needless to say, as I examined his bike that Friday night, I came to understand his lack of desire to compete in the Tour-de-France. By comparison, if Cayden would have had a completely functioning bicycle and applied the same level of physical exertion, he would have easily dusted Lance Armstrong.


Once I informed Connie of the issue, she immediately headed back to the store to replace the crippled bike. She returned shortly thereafter with a box. She did not return with a bike, but a box of bike parts that if placed in the hands of, let’s say, a brain surgeon, rocket scientist, or that kid who makes $9 coffees at Starbucks, would one day be a bike (please refer to the toaster story above to gauge my level of dismay at the thought of assembling my son’s bike). This is where the story takes an awful turn because, in our home, if it requires assembly then it lands in my inbox. I would turn it down and ask Connie to do it, but being of the male gender, I am completely incapable of turning down an opportunity to utilize every tool in my workshop arsenal, regardless of how much harm will come from my haphazard efforts. It is a vicious, painful cycle.


So, once again, I am in the garage and this time Mack and Cayden have come to bear witness. Mack knows me pretty well. He came prepared with a roll of paper towels, a fire extinguisher, a bottle of antiseptic and the phone set to speed dial 911. Together we cracked the lid on the Box-O-Bike. Have any of you ever purchased a non-assembled bicycle? There is a damn good reason they charge the average consumer money for pre-assembled ones. Located at the back of every store with a bike inventory is a team of seasoned bicycle assembly technicians whose sole purpose in life is to make the lives’ of dads a little more bearable, simply because they know that the average Dad has a better chance of creating a functioning time machine or discovering an alternate fuel source than getting their kid’s bike right on the first try.


Cayden, Mack and I spread out the parts, which took up the better part of my garage floor. We separated the bolts, nuts, washers, widgets and various “pieces of eight”- the likes of which I have never seen in any hardware store. With the sheer volume of parts, I figured the instruction manual would resemble a hard bound copy of War and Peace- not even close- I got a one-paged, blurry, photocopied how-to quick guide. Better yet, the one page instruction sheet was subdivided into directions in French, Spanish, German, Swahili, Pig Latin and I believe what appeared to be Teletubby. So, all said and done, I got about one sentence worth of viable information to help me put this monstrosity together. The bottom of this frustrating piece of literature told me to enjoy my new bike. Seriously, like the kid who would be riding this thing is the same guy putting it together. What that little salutation was really saying to me was this: “Hey Cheapskate, next time pay the extra ten bucks and ride the damn thing off the showroom floor”. Noted.


I gathered my thoughts, looked at Mack’s bike for an example, and went to work. Three hours later, Connie opened the garage door to ask me how things were going. The kids had long ago abandoned me, partly my fault as I stopped being fun to hang out with after the third bandage application to slow the bleeding on my severely skinned knuckles. I had pulverized the brake cable, once sleek and metallic, it now resembled a bird’s nest. I lost two bolts, one washer and the seat post. How I managed to lose anything is beyond me as my ass had been planted for the entire time on a plastic step stool which by now would surely need to be surgically removed from my rectum. I had used every tool in my workshop in an attempt to put it together (surprisingly many of these tools were not required by the super helpful bike assembly guide), but no joy, the object I was working on was not even close to being a bike.


Connie pulled me from the fire. She made me walk away before I did something rash. As I walked away from the debris, I started to wonder if Cayden would like a new skateboard. After all, how many parts could possibly come in a Box-O-Skateboard?

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Connie posted the following on October 5, 2008 at 10:28 am.

LMAO! Just one of the many occupational hazards of being called “Dad”. I love you- me

Terrilyn posted the following on October 6, 2008 at 7:26 pm.

Oh my gosh – too funny! bwahahaha I am still laughing!! Partly because I’m sure I’ve put Rob into similar situations and partly because I’ve met you and I can totally picture you with all of those parts sprawled out on the floor of the garage trying to make sense of the thing. *giggle* Great post Shane!

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