Paul W. Barada
I’ve been trying to decide which day is more exciting: Christmas Eve Day or Christmas Day. How, one might wonder can today, Christmas Eve, compare to the joy of Christmas Day itself? Well, there’s the thrill of the anticipation of looking forward to tomorrow morning. There’s the comfort, at least for some, that all the shopping, wrapping, ribbon-tying, name-tag attaching, and tree decorating is complete. And there’s the complete sense of peace that finally comes from being able to sit down and bask in the warm soft glow of the Christmas tree lights.
Now, for children it’s an entirely different story. The anticipation of Santa’s arrival is the best kind of excitement there is. It is difficult for children to go to sleep on Christmas Eve and very easy for them to wake up before dawn tomorrow to see what Santa has left them. That’s one of those stomach-tingling events that most adults can remember from their own childhoods.
The only parents out there who aren’t looking forward to reaching that point this evening where flopping down in a comfortable chair is the ultimate goal are the ones with some toys yet to assemble that have written on them, “some assembly required.” Those three little words may rank as the most classic understatement of all time. To read, “some assembly required” means at least a dozen plastic packages, a new set of tools, and the flexibility of a contortionist to undertake the task. The first step is finding a pair of scissors to be able to get into the plastic packages that contain all the little parts that are required to give real meaning to “some assembly required.”
Then, of course, there’s the assembly manual which, as I recall, contains at least 35 steps in the assembly process. Furthermore, most toy assembly instruction manuals are printed in at least two languages, sometimes more – same drawings, but totally different languages. Ordinarily, that’s not a problem unless you’re lying on the floor trying to figure out how Tab A fits into Slot B. A quick glance for further assistance and you notice that, somehow, you’ve managed to turn to the section of the manual that’s written in Spanish!
One of the other assembly joys is discovering that you’re one piece short – not that it isn’t in the house somewhere; but, in the process of assembly, it’s somehow managed to hide itself in a discreet place far away from the assembly area. Usually it’s not just any old piece without which the toy will work just fine, but that one essential piece without which the thing won’t work at all!
By now, it’s getting close to midnight, and you’ve resorted to the trusty claw hammer to bang a “doesn’t quite fit” piece into place and you’re thinking about getting out the electric drill to enlarge the holes into which the two-dozen Phillips-head screws are supposed to fit, but don’t.
Finally, however, you’ve got most of the toy assembled; and there are only a few spare parts that don’t seem to fit anywhere, instructions or not – except for the decals. Decals must have been invented by someone who intended the adhesive to hold cement blocks together! Boy, if you get a decal in the wrong place or not quite centered on the spot where the instructions on page 42 say it’s supposed to go – just try and get that decal off without tearing it…an almost impossible task. Worse yet the decal may pucker when applied to the toy instead of lying smoothly in its proper place. The chances of smoothing out that pucker are very slim, if it can be done at all.
Now, it’s about 1:30 in the morning, and you’re starting to lose patience with the toy that’s nearly assembled, but not quite. Looks good to you, but your spouse has the temerity to suggest that little Huey will notice that Tab A isn’t securely inserted into Slot B, which means backing up a few steps and doing them all over again!
I can remember several Christmas Eves trying to bang the lock nut into place with my hammer so the wheels would stay on and wondering what sadistic maniac created this impossible “toy.” Along about 2:00 a.m. you find yourself no longer caring if the thing gets fully assembled or not; but, rather than disappoint the child, who will be waking up in just a couple of hours, you press on until it’s finally assembled and ready to be placed under the Christmas tree. At that point you fall into bed, completely spent, only to be awakened a few short hours later by enthusiastic screams of little ones too excited to sleep another minute! So, everyone but you rushes downstairs to see what Santa has left. You stagger down the stairs, hoping that you remembered to put all the tools away and out of sight.
Things go swimmingly until little Huey comes to a present sent by a loving relative. As the wrapping paper flies in every direction, the child’s pent-up excitement reaching its crescendo, you see before you a fabulous new toy that your child can’t wait to play with, but for those three magic words on the outside of the box, “some assembly required.”
That’s –30- for this week, and have a very Merry Christmas!