I thought it would be a simple project.
After weeks of price comparisons and shopping around, I finally decided on a new patio table from Target. The display set was simple and quaint and exactly what I wanted. Not to mention fully assembled. When I found the giant box that contained all the pieces of my future table and chairs, I was only slightly deterred.
How hard could it be to assemble two chairs and a table?
The box was as heavy as steel furniture should be, and after my mom and I together loaded it in the car, I was left to unload it myself. So, I scooted the giant box out of the hatchback and directly to the garage floor. It seemed like a good enough place to assemble the pieces.
I did a quick glance at the instructions, tore off all the plastic and cardboard wrapping, and went to work. A little Allen wrench was included, and as the instructions suggested, I started with the table. One at a time, I quickly wound in the four screws on the base, and the table top fit snuggly over it. Done.
Just as easy as I thought.
Then, I began to work on the first chair. As I screwed together each piece, I made them nice and tight so that the chairs would be secure. Before long, however, I noticed that the shape of the pieces I had attached together did not match up to the next pieces that needed to be added. At first, I assumed the chair was defective. Then, I remembered something my dad had told me on a past project: keep all the screws loose until everything is attached, then go back and tighten them once it all fits together.
Sure would have been nice if they had mentioned that in the instructions, I thought to myself. I grabbed the little booklet, and sure enough, at the bottom of every page was the warning not to tighten the screws all the way until the end.
So, I went back over each of the screws I had twisted in tight and made them loose enough so that the pieces would move into the position to receive all of the other pieces of the chair at just the right angles. Once everything was loosened, the pieces fit together. Like magic. Or, really, like logic.
When I started the next chair, I thought I had learned my lesson, keeping the screws relatively loose until the end. But when the final piece just wouldn’t fit snug the way I pictured it, and the whole chair wobbled when I thought I was done, I went back over the whole chair, loosening again, even removing some pieces and starting over.
Two hours later, the table and chairs I had purchased emerged from the pile of steel pieces and parts.
As I sat on each chair, testing its strength and stability, I thought of my dad’s lesson on looseness. It seemed exactly like something my dad would have taught me.
Even if it had nothing to do with tables and chairs.