Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Joe vs. Graco

Hello. My name is Joe, and I am mechanically inept. Or maybe a better way to put it is I am an inept handyman. This is sad because I come from a long line of handymen who can fix and build just about anything. My Grandpa and Dad helped build their own houses. My grandfather recently invented and built an automatic can crushing machine. My Dad is an electrician and is employed as the maintenance man at an apartment complex for the elderly.

So what the Hell happened to me? I'm sure it puzzles my family. After all, my (almost) seventeen-year-old brother Chris is already a crackin' good welder, and my fifteen-year-old brother Corey is already on his way to becoming an adept mechanic. Now don't get me wrong, I am capable of doing most simple household chores like, say, fixing the shower door.

From what I understand, one of the more amusing aspects of fatherhood is coping with those ominous words "some assembly required." Those simple words combined with my lack of mechanical aptitude often lead to trouble. But living the life of a poor college student, I've become almost competent at assembling those particle board book shelves and desks that use allen wrenches and camlocks. But baby accessories and childrens' toys are a different beast altogether as I am quickly discovering.

So far, Graco products have proved to be the most confounding. This may change as I get more experience assembling things for Jack but, for now, their instructions have led to the most head scratching. As I'm sure you are aware, instruction manuals can be a tad confusing. You read things like "Attach part B42 to part Q3 at a 72 degree angle using part L81 while reciting Ginsberg's Howl."

Graco's brilliant idea is to do away with as much of the verbal instructions as they can and make the consumer rely on arrows and drawings that look vaguely like the product--and none of the parts are labeled. Okay, that is not completely fair. There are some verbal instructions. It does have the word "Snap!" next to some of the drawings. And it also has little tidbits such as "If you do not install this part properly, your baby will strangle" in three different languages, of course.

These pictures are kind of hard to see, but they should give you an idea of Graco's instructions. These are from the Graco "Pack 'n Play." I have it and the stroller mostly put together. Kate was eyeing the stroller nervously while I was putting it together and cussi...er, muttering all the while. And her response to the carseat when she inspected after I put it in the car? "Maybe you better take it out and do it again. I don't think carseats are supposed to...wiggle so much." She has wonderful patience when it comes to my maintenance inabilities.

I can only imagine it will be in eight years when Jack runs excitedly downstairs on Christmas morning, halts in his tracks, and asks "Daddy? Is that a bicycle? It kind of looks like one but there are no pedals. Is the seat really supposed to be on that side of the handlebars? There sure is a lot of duct tape on it. I told you we should have left Santa Clause milk and not beer!"

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