Funnies - Spa Helper

Well, sometimes you just have to do some things. In this case it was to take the turbo inter-cooled Volvo station wagon on a major run. After tons of research, looking up all the latest in safety reports and what not, a decision had finally been made. No, not Toys-R-Us or any of those discount units, only the top of the line three-hundred-pound monster from Sears would do. Integral glider, bench swing, hanging trapeze bar, two regular swings, and long slide, plus all was clear Teflon coated so would last outside forever. This had to be ordered and it got delivered to the main Sears store instead of our local store increasing travel time from ten minutes to over an hour one way. Upon arrival they could not find the set. Turned out with it being twelve feet long it had been put in the automotive tire area because they did not have a spot in receiving. Then we had to gather up four husky guys to load it into the Volvo. The Volvo has a six-foot-long bed which meant as much hung out the back as we were able to get inside. It took some very clever nylon scrapping on my part to tie it tight inside the car with the front sitting on the folded down center seats. Of course, during loading one fellow tripped and the box fell exploding open sending bags of parts all over. That did at least launch the instruction book so I got to peek at it while the guys were playing MacGyver with another at least ten pounds of duct tape. The box and instructions clearly said only a couple of wrenches and a twelve-year-old could assemble this kit in four hours. With three engineering degrees, twenty plus years of experience working on almost every kind of auto and machine, plus power drivers and wrenches this was going to be a cinch that should only take a couple of hours even with my having a cold.

Well, going home took far longer than the hour to get there as I had to go slow and mostly stay on side streets which meant instead of the planned early start, I began about one in the afternoon, I fully expected both of my little ones aka critters to be sailing down the slide and swinging well before dinner. To get that heavy unit to the backyard by myself I had to carefully unpack the box and move one bag or pile of parts at a time. All the parts were carefully spread out neatly on the spa cover. Many of these bags had addenda sheets to be posted into the master manual before beginning assembly. Hummm... Having years of experience updating Air Force flight manuals, this also was no challenge, but suddenly I had lost a half hour. Strangely, many of the addenda added parts to the other kits along with more manual instructions. Uh oh! Although the initial inventory showed all was there, the addenda modified inventory showed the little nylon caps that keep the kids from being subjected to the exposed bolts were missing. Called Sears and sure enough, that package that also contained the critical nylon bearings had dropped out of the box when the box split open. Of course, this added some serious fear because nowhere had those nylon bearings been referenced as inventory. It took an hour round trip plus a half hour there to find those parts as the fellow that helped had set those parts where we could easily find them. Anyhow, I was then nearly five hours into this four-hour project and still not started, I was seriously beginning to question the instructions. They were written in regular English, but it looked like they had been translated from English to Chinese and back to English multiple times as the assembly process was unbelievable.

Honestly, how was a twelve-year-old supposed to pick up that over two hundred and fifty pounds of frame, hold all in place with one hand, and install the bolts with another. That was not going to happen. Being a really clever fellow, I built the three A-frame sections with the top bar lying on the ground, then used a pulley to stand all up in place. I then got the slide and ladder bolted onto the side. At that point only an hour of building had passed, so it looked like another hour and I would be right on my own projected two-hour schedule. After all, how difficult would it be to build a glider and bench swing, plus hang up two swings and a trapeze bar. Well, the glider seats clearly went to another kit as the holes just plain did not match. Seeing this was going to take some real modifications, out came the electric drill and a little field change and they went together fine, except this unit traveled on four Nylon bearings that fit fine on the bolts, but not into keepers. Taking the drill, holding it with one hand and a file in the other I slowly filed down all four of the Nylon bushings so they would fit. By now we are at six thirty meaning five and a half hours of construction had elapsed. I knew just a little more work and all would be done. I declined to come eat and kept working. My neighbor's cat is loving this as she came over and kept laying on my feet which are in flip flops. Nothing like a hot cat on your feet on a warm day, so I kept shooing her off, but she must of been attached with a rubber band because she was not about to let me have any peace. Don't get me wrong, I love cats and grew up always having one or more, but somehow, I had become allergic. Not only was that cat hot, my sinuses had plugged, my nose was pouring and I had developed a pounding headache.

After getting all the bushings just right and everything ready, I put the glider up only to discover it also did not fit. It was a full inch too wide at the top to fit into the frame supports. Carefully looking over all the parts and scratching my head, I went back to the instructions. Hidden in fine print is a notice that says if you have the XYZBFD kit, you may have to bend the tops of each heavy steel support about one half inch. I was kind of losing patience because there was no way that anyone less than a full-sized gorilla was going to bend those heavy steel supports with just a pair of pliers. I am not either small nor weak, but with my biggest long wrench those supports would not move. A little fumbling, some hammering and sawing made me a long steel rod with a slit that let me bend the supports. Very carefully shooing off my cat friend with a little grumble and I had all four supports bent. Strangely, I was very proud of myself that the results fit right on first try. A few twists of my wrench and there was a working glider.

Back to my spa and starting on the last item, the swing where there was just enough room to put four small children facing each other on a big double bench swing with opposing seats. I Looked at my watch and not very happy at all because the sun had long gone down and it was nearing 10:00 PM, meaning hour nine of construction for my two-hour project. I was tired, hot, dirty, and more than a little unhappy. Plus, my sinuses and headache were killing me and my nose was pouring. Knowing getting angry over that kit would not get it finished, I carefully went through the whole set of instructions and addenda so the swing would go together once. It also had to have all four of its mounting brackets, meaning eight sides bent about a half inch each for it to mount. Fortunately, by then I was an expert and had made the required special tool to quickly make those adjustments. The same with having to trim down the nylon bearings so they would fit in the top bar mounting holes.

All the while I keep shooing the cat away and frankly getting a little less nice with that animal. I was giving my cat friend some pretty firm nudges as my frustrations on this now ten-hour project had badly worsened my already miserable condition with pouring nose, sinuses going crazy and headache hurting so bad I was having trouble seeing. Needless to say, I am more than a little stubborn and not about to let the world know that a swing set could beat me. I got the bench swing finally put together just as I wanted, only having to enlarge a few of the holes. Lifting that heavy unit up while attaching it to the Nylon covered bearings was just not possible. I finally had to go get an auto floor jack to hold it. Then only two of the four suspension rods would fit. This one required different modification to the supporting brackets. I again took it all apart and bent those supports just a little more. I was not so good that time either and it took two more tries to finally get all these bending adjustments just right. I then hung the swing back up and started breaking down the boxes for the trash. Wedged into the inside of the cardboard box were four long thin steel support straps wrapped in paper and plastic. The paper was another hidden addendum that said these support straps had to be put on that bench swing. The only way they would go on was to take it all apart again.

It all went back to my spa with me mumbling rather loudly that Sears lost a customer for life. By then that insistent cat was no longer anything more than a pest to be booted. Finishing my last adjustment and ready to go hang this last piece, that cat came right back and began to lightly nip at my toes. Thoroughly upset I sent it sailing out into the yard. It made an altogether wrong kind of noise. I have lived with cats all my life, love them dearly, and had never heard that kind of noise before. I slipped on my glasses that I need to see. My vision up close was incredible, but more than an arm length away, especially with my eyes watering so bad from the allergies all was blurry. I always do things like building with my glasses off so I can see. Anyhow, I quickly lost my breath as this cat had a white stripe going down its back. It had lifted up its tail and was aiming right at me. I sort of wilted completely and vanished because this "cat" was no cat at all. After a nice glass of wine, I went back out and hung the swing thinking about how close I had come. *Smile*