Jake Old: Unpacking a pack rat

Jul. 19, 2014 @ 01:57 PM

I’ve been labeled a pack rat because I hang onto items long after I’ve stopped using them regularly. I have an emotional attachment to memories associated with many of these things. But don’t we all have useless items that we keep simply for sentimental value?

I happen to have a bunch of old junk around my home that I’m not willing to throw out yet because of the sentimental value. This includes CDs that I haven’t listened to since CDs were still a thing back in 2003, dusty old guitar magazines, and other items with little value or use.

A lot of these things were left back in Murfreesboro, but after a recent trip back home, I had boxes full of these things and nowhere to put them.

This is how I found myself recently in the horrifying reality of trying to put together a “media tower,” which I am pretty sure is just a fancy name for “very weak bookcase.” I decided to go down the path of self-assembled furniture, a popular option for the hoarder on a budget.

I went in thinking, “This should be incredibly easy.” I came away thinking, “Never again.” The thing had a total of about 10 shelves on each side. The broad, vague instructions that came with it might as well have had two steps:

Step one: Attach part “A” to part “B.” Step two: Build the rest of the media tower.

Probably the most useful part of the instructions was the diagram that showed every individual part sort of floating in the air, near where it would be assembled. It looked a bit like an incredibly boring Transformers character.

There was one random hinge thrown in, but nowhere was there any indication as to what the use was. It was in a bag labeled “G.” Perhaps they could have just put “????” on it.

I checked the box. There was a number to call if any parts were missing. Unfortunately, there was no number to call if random parts are included that are never accounted for in any of the documentation that comes with the product. For any purpose the hinge could serve, I would think more than one hinge would be necessary.

Sure, if I were more of a handyman, I would just build a shelf (sorry, “media tower”) myself. But I’m not, and I’d rather have something that looks cheap in my home than a pile of two-by-fours sitting in the corner of my living room with rusty nails poking out and severed fingers stuck to random parts. Maybe that’s a skill I should work on in the future.

After thinking I had completed the project, I realized that I had managed to mix up the top and bottom parts. I was tempted to just flip it over and call it a day, but the idea of having to explain my own incompetence to anyone who might wander into my home and notice the unfinished wood at the top caused me to start taking it apart.

I looked through the instructions to see where I messed up. I couldn’t see where I made the mistake, so I looked again.

The instructions actually make you assemble the product incorrectly. On the first page, the top piece and bottom piece are identified, and later they are mixed up.

On the bright side, this cracked me up, so the process of taking apart the assembled pieces and installing them correctly spot was madeless painful. I was really hoping there would be a page in the instructions that said: “OK, now take it apart and try again.” No such luck.

I could have been one of those people who call the number on the box and get all huffy about it to some poor guy who works in a call center, but I passed on that. It was not that big of a deal, just a ridiculous inconvenience.

I’m at the point to where if I accrue additional junk that needs to be stored, I’m much more likely to just toss a bunch of my stuff. That would be easier than the convoluted process of assembling cheap furniture myself. Or, you know, investing in actual, reliable furniture.

So perhaps I’ve discovered the key to unpacking pack rats: give them awful, self-assembled furniture for storing their frivolous stuff. If they’re anything like me, the emotional ties to these things will evaporate.

Jake Old is a reporter for The Mountain Press. Call 428-0748, ext. 214, or email jold@themountainpress.com.