One Plus One Equals Three

If you’re a writer, you’re about to rebuke me and say, “one plus one equals half,” because that’s the term used when writers show and then tell, or tell and then show.

In this case, it’s to do with receiving goods, and then having to put them together.

I got something. I opened the box. Stared. It was pieces, lots of pieces.

Now, I used to be good with putting things together, building things, planning and strategising and implementing each stage of work required to get to the end product.

That was then, this is now.

My hands don’t work well (probably a few other bits, too, but we’ll leave ‘my boots were made for kicking’ out of this, shall we?).

What did I do?

Call for help. I did. The help arrived, and the instructions were read. Funny things, these intructions. I didn’t understand a word of them. I read them again and again, hoping that something would eventually kick in.


Look at the pictures, see if there’s a logical progression of events.


Page after page showed the same pictures, with only an arrow placed in a different spot.

So, what is a person to do in this situation?

Start with spreading out all the bits, marking them off the ‘list of bits’ section in the instructions, and laying them out by size and shape and location related to the arrows.

Relief. All the bits matched the list of bits. Except the tools. That’s okay, I have the tools. Somewhere.

Right. Ready. Start with the foundation, build up. That’s how a house is built.

Started at 1400 (after the reading, rereading, laying out and confirmation of itsy-bits). Finished at 1700. Three hours to do a one hour job.

Was there a reason it took so long?

Yes. One person reads the instructions and the other tries to fit it to the action and product. When that fails, person one takes over, “Show me.” Often snatching the paper from their hands, turning it up one way, then the other, getting a side view, going from staring at the page to staring at the bits, scratching at the head.

This happened many times. There were many drinks in between. Logic sometimes intervened. Aha! moments happened, followed by ‘bugger’ moments more often than not.

One person plus one helper equaled three hours from start to finish. But the product is complete. Nothing left over (there might be one bolt that didn’t quite have a home until it was shoved into a spare hole). And it works. Well, tonight it works. Tomorrow is another day.

With a hangover, and sore hands. And everything else. And a friend who doesn’t want to talk to me for a while. Maybe a year. Or two.

Next time, I call one of those smart-service apps and get a kid out to do it. Alone. And I won’t be offering drinks. First, though, I may have to get one of those fancy phones, you know, the ones that do more than work as a phone and message device … so maybe I won’t be getting any more stuff that needs a construction background.

Photo by Matej on

9 thoughts on “One Plus One Equals Three

  1. Oh c’mon! You can’t just leave it at that. What. Did. You. Get????
    And I do commiserate. The person who designs the instructions for flat packs is one of the most malicious minions from Hell, but still. What is the ‘it’ that caused so much angst?

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  2. 1.) Sounds like some of the stuff you could buy from Ikea
    2.) Manuals, are those texts you don’t understand until you have fixed the item that the Manual claims it will help you to fix!
    I’m experienced you know…
    But you came out of this alive, and that’s good.

    About manuals, by the way. As a Swedish person I sometimes encounter manuals that are translated from some other language into Swedish. For example German och French. Probably translated with Google or something like that.
    Those times – I hardly know whether to laugh or cry. But I choose to laugh.

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  3. Well, here’s your sister! I wouldn’t even attempt to put bits of anything together. I can’t understand diagrams and I have no spatial awareness so I’m a lost cause in this area. You were wise to have a few drinks – softens the frustration!

    Liked by 1 person

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