Monday, October 10, 2005


The reason people like myself want a home office is that they have home computers which help them run home-based businesses. Home computers come with big monitors, printers, scanners, telephones, fax machines, about a mile of wires and cables, and sometimes little TV cameras so that your clients can enjoy seeing what you look like in your underwear when they call you unexpectedly at 8:30 in the morning.
The problem with all this office paraphernalia is that there has to be some place to put it. For years I’ve been using the ancient oak desk which saw me through ten years of university, and upon which I used to change the diapers of both my children. The desk is about as big as a king-size bed, and has drawers in it I could rent out as apartments. Unfortunately the desk was designed at a time when the Underwood typewriter was the latest in word processing technology, meaning that the desk had lots of surface area, but no shelves. I could spread an entire library of books on its expansive, scarred surface, but by the time I stacked all my high-tech telephone and computer accoutrements on it, there was hardly enough room left to for me to scribble notes on pieces of scrap paper.
But after eight years of trying make do by adding side tables and stacking hardware on top of dictionaries on top of the desk, I finally gave up and went to an office supply store to see what was new in computer desks.
And I found the perfect solution! A combined corner desk and “computer unit” that had shelves and cubby-holes for all the hardware, monitors, disks, and reference manuals, all while tucking all those unsightly cables and wires neatly out of the way. True, it was fake oak on pressboard unlike my old desk which is as solid and heavy as the tree it came from, but who cared? With this unit, I could finally organize and tidy my home office and become the productive, creative “homepreneur” I know I can be.
“How much?” I asked the salesperson.
Surprisingly little, as it turned out for such an elaborate piece of furniture which, incidentally, is not called a computer “desk”, but a computer “console”. This particular unit was called “The Bridge”, presumably after the control center of the Starship Enterprise.
“There is one thing, though,” the salesguy added. “There is some assembly required.”
He looked sheepish. “Well, a lot, actually. The unit does not come assembled – at all. It is shipped in two large, flat cardboard boxes. You have to put the whole thing together yourself.”
I looked at The Bridge, at the drawers, cabinets, adjustable shelves, the ergonomically correct footrest, fully adjustable desktop, the slanted monitor shelf and the printer stand with the cute little built-in light.
“How much extra for you to put it together?” I asked
“A hundred and fifty bucks.”
Never mind. I mean how hard could it be to do it myself? A few screws, a little glue…
When The Bridge was delivered four weeks later, it came, as advertised, in two large, flat cardboard boxes each weighing approximately what I do. After wrestling them into the hallway, I started to unpack the contents. The first thing I found was a large plastic pillowcase filled with the most amazing assortment of screws, fasteners and nails, as well as a huge collection of plastic and metal bits and pieces the likes of which I have never encountered anywhere before.
And a book of instruction about the size of the average James Mitchener novel.
Step 1. “Sort and count contents of hardware package. If any parts are missing, please contact…” some remote place in Paulo Alto. The stuff in the plastic bag, in other words, might not all be there. At a guess, I would say there were about half a million little bits and pieces in the bag. I would also guess that at the end of the project, I would be more likely to have pieces left over than any missing.
Step 2. “Insert flanges 1AA (29) into pre-drilled anchors 2B and 15F (27) using a Grindstaff Lever (not supplied), and attach with the long Wilson Dowels. CAUTION: be sure to apply the glue AFTER the resin damper has evaporated completely. If you use the SHORT Wilson Dowels, you will damage the Doodads.”
It went on like that for some 15 chapters in the instruction book.
But, as The Bard almost said, all’s well that ends.” After only 10 hours of work, I am now writing this on “The Bridge” of my new computer console which hardly wobbles at all. Best of all, I have enough grommets, screws, spindles, nails and bits of wood left over to make myself a decent little coffee table to go with my new desk.
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