The assembly of a weight bench. When you’re standing there in the store and it’s all put together, it seems so simple. It’s almost as if there’s just two parts and they fit snugly together like one of those old model cars that didn’t require glue, just pieces that snap. It’s really no wonder they don’t display the box you actually buy, including the 1,267 pieces that come inside the box. So the picture here to the left is the first thing I saw when I opened the box and looked at the manual. Initially I thought this was the only page which displayed how to assemble the thing – and immeadiately I wet my pants in fear.

After changing my pants and cleaning up, I discovered that there was – hark – step-by-step instructions further on inside the manual. Whew. After sitting down and finally peering inside the box at the multitude of screws, posts, pads, adjustable beams and bars, I passed out. When I came to, the box was still there and it looked exactly the same as it had before. I stood up, looked away, then I quickly pivoted and turned back, expecting to see less parts in the box. No dice. I settled in for what promised to be an exciting afternoon of assembly. It was noon.

The first thing I did was lay out all the nuts and bolts on a tray I had set up. There were roughly 30 large screws, 20 nuts, 25 washers and 4 spacers. The instructions claimed I needed the help of an additional human and a small rubber hammer, along with two screwdrivers, a ratchet set, a wrench, six camels, two pick-up trucks, Dionne Warwick, a crane and four penguins. As is the case with all instructions, I was determined to ignore as much of it as humanly possible, since most of them are probably 3rd grade classs projects. As it turned out, the instructions were more helpful than anticipated, although I didn’t need that small rubber hammer and couldn’t figure out for the life of me what it would have been used for, because the instructions never called for it after the initial “here’s what you’ll need” list. There was probably an occasion or two when I might have needed the assistance of another person, too, but the male chromosome got the best of me there. When I needed another hand, I simply relied on a table or another part of the set to help balance the two 50 pound frames I needed to hold at the same time to get the crossbeam in place. Good times indeed.

So four hours later, after some interesting twists and turns, including having to lubricate two of the bolts with some grease I found in an old can lying around the house that must have been 360 years old, here’s the result. As far as weight benches go, this seems like a solid, middle-of-the-road set. It’s very swiss-army like, too. A lot of the pads are adjustable, meaning you can change it on the fly: from a normal bench press, you pull the bench up into a seat-like thing, throw some weights on the end and do leg curls. There seems to be, according to the manual, roughly 50 different weightlifting options on this baby. The weights didn’t come with it – I was able to acquire the weights when some friends moved to New York City recently. I know one thing – when I move, whoever is moving in here is going to acquire a weight set, ’cause I’m not moving that thing again.

My final thought as I cleaned up was one of total bewilderment at how it was even possible that a weight bench like this could fit into a box that actually fit in the trunk of my car. It just doesn’t seem possible. Nor did it seem possible when I opened the manual and saw that drawing at the top of my post. But as more time goes by, I seem to be able to handle these somewhat complex tasks. Ten years ago, I probably would have simply given up on it and either left it in the box or brought it back. But I seem to be developing a certain fiesty-ness when it comes to this stuff and that’s a good feeling. Unlike my day job, it only takes hours for there to be a tangible finished product to look at and proudly declare, “I did that.” It’s a good feeling.

Now I need to figure out how to properly work with electricity, because most of the lights in our house are simply embarassing. That’s the next challenge I’ll be trying to stare down. Talk to me in 2008.

Song now playing: The Lyres – “Don’t Give It Up Now”