Imagine being asked to play the keyboard, inside a dark closet bursting to its hinges with discarded shoes, having little prior experience with playing a keyboard or any musical instrument, with colors rather than musical notes as a guide.
That’s how I felt when I went to help my grandma put sheets on her spanking new hide-a-bed, only to completely fail at opening it and discover a cryptic diagram and instructions (basically this but with extra, useless words): Locate pliers. Remove staples on bars.
First, how to find the staples? And the bars?
We located pliers and I set to work, with more determination than skill, on removing the four staples once we had located what we believed to be the two correct bars. (It seems like there was a lot of locating going on, doesn’t it? But I am using the word loosely here; according to Merriam-Webster, to “locate” is “to determine or indicate the place, site, or limits of,” so perhaps “to guess, blindly and with sparse background knowledge” would be more accurate.)
Picture the raw grit of it: one girl in jeans and a sweatshirt, one surprisingly complex hideaway couch and one grandma in the role of cheerleader and provider of wisdom. I managed, with some helpful suggestions from Grandma, to take off the first staple fairly quickly. As Grandma entertained us both by reading aloud from Mother Angelica’s book of witticisms (don’t feel bad, I hadn’t heard of Mother Angelica either), I attacked the remaining staples with little visual aid, little space to move the pliers, and little success.
“Boldness should be the eleventh commandment.” I boldly attacked the left top staple, having momentarily given up the bottom right (how do they expect a person to fit in there and take off the metal “staples”? Seriously? For one thing, they’re more like tiny metal clamps of doom than “staples”; for another, I began to question the intelligence of whichever company designed the hideaway), and as I turned my hand to an unnatural angle and squinted towards the little metal exercise in patience, I couldn’t help but laugh. The whole thing was hilarious, and I acknowledged my ineptness. This was one of those rare situations where I was actually more amused than frustrated while it was actually happening. Did the manufacturer need to make it so damn complicated? And what kind of independent woman was I, unable to properly maneuver pliers on a hideaway couch?
“If you’re breathing and you’ve got two legs, you are called to holiness,” Grandma read. “Mmm,” I replied, my pliering efforts growing desperate. “So what, if you’ve lost a leg, you’re off the hook?” Grandma asked with a laugh. I began to think about all the different, breathing two-legged creatures there are, and about the stigma of disability. Okay, I’ll be honest, I thought of that a bit later. Right then, I was thinking about my beloved, sixty-some year old grandma wrestling with the purportedly ninety-something nun Mother Angelica, and it was making me grin.
Grandma brought me a different set of pliers and I made good progress after she suggested I pull out the bed to get at the back staples. The whole time, we were half joking about the staples I was confronting being the wrong ones, so when I finally got rid of all the staples and bars and pulled on the part that said “lift,” I was frankly stunned that the dang thing actually worked.
All told, it took us an hour to do the pliers thing, get the bed out, make the bed, and put it away. Grandma said she was proud of me (hey, I succeeded with pliers after having no clue what I was doing), and I admitted I was pretty proud of myself as well. “You give a girl some pliers, and….” I began, “…and back off!” finished Grandma.