Archive | 7:39 am

BOOM! Nailed it?!

7 Mar

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I moved into my new place in December. I’ve been so focused on getting the inside in order that I’ve straight-up ignored the small backyard, which was a big draw for living in The Fan – the row houses have yards, but they are generally small enough that there’s no lawn to mow – just enough space to work or eat outside on a nice day.

We’ve had an unseasonable streak of warm weather over the last month, which means I’ve been logging a LOT of hours on my front porch swing. I’m loving it, but I’m also worried that my next door neighbors (whose porch is connected to mine) think I’ve deputized myself as part of Neighborhood Watch because they can’t come or go without being seen by me. I sometimes even have a pair of binoculars so I can check out the crows or errant hawk on the street, and I’m sure that’s doing little to dispel any rumors that are forming about me.

All of which is to say: this last week I decided to start getting my back patio in order so I can spend time there (more privately) and give my neighbors some breathing room. First step was to order a dining table and chairs (pictured above, without seat cushions or umbrella). Second step was to install a grill (also pictured above), which Alan graciously gave me as a housewarming gift.

Alan knows me well, so rather than surprise me (always a terrible move for this control freak) we had some discussions about what requirements I’d have for a grill. My list was fairly specific: small so it doesn’t take up a ton of space (I’m never going to be cranking out dozens of burgers for a block party); propane so I can cook on it without a lot of fuss if I ever lose power; and at least one shelf and a warming rack. I would’ve been fine with a NoName grill, but Alan was insistent that it be a Weber. So this last weekend he showed up with a charming two-burner Weber grill – disassembled in a box.

Hold up. I did not realize grills required assembly. “Part of my gift is assembling it for you,” Alan said. (He’s owned grills before, so this was not a surprise to him.)

“Nah,” I told him, “I’ll do that. You know I like building things.” (Which is true – I view Ikea furniture as an adult Lego kit.) Alan knows that arguing with me is generally futile when I’ve made up my mind, so he offered to do it next weekend if I didn’t get around to it – a graceful compromise that allowed me take a stab at it or shelf it for him, depending on how I felt.

When Alan left for his property Sunday morning, the weather was great for an outdoor project, so I decided to tackle the job. I opened the box and started pulling parts and parts and parts out. It felt like a set of infinite Russian nesting dolls, where every time I thought I’d pulled the last possible item out of the box, I’d find that there was a box in a box that contained even more parts.

Once I had everything unpacked and spread out, I realized this was not at all the job I thought I’d signed up for. I had assumed the “assembly” would basically entail building a stand, and then plunking the already put-together grill on top of it. I started to get super concerned when I saw random wires dangling. Oh shit – do I need an electrician?

But then I did what I usually do when facing a new challenge:

  • Estimate what % of the population probably wouldn’t be able to complete it at all: 20%?
  • Come up with a reasonable target completion timeline: 4 hrs?
  • Start the task with a goal of beating both these statistics

Have I mentioned that I’m competitive?

Two hours and 20 minutes later, I dropped my screwdriver with the finality of a cooking show contestant raising their hands to show that they had completed the dish right under the wire. I imagined my competitors, only half-way done. I stepped back and beheld my sweet grill, all shiny and ready to go. It was like my childhood erector set, except instead of a little go-cart that steered itself in endless circles, I was now in possession of of an actual, functional fire-starter.

Well, functional is perhaps over-stating it a bit. The grill LOOKS great, but I haven’t lit it yet. I still need to pick up a tank of propane so I can perform the final test. But I’m not worried. The instructions – all 48 steps – were easy to follow. Pressing the starter button this weekend is just going to be a formality.

Though perhaps in this instance, I’ll hold off on my usual mic-drop declaration for a finished job. No sense tempting fate.

FOOTNOTE: When I shared this triumph via text with my mom, she wrote, “I’m very impressed with your technical abilities. Dad taught you girls well.” And he did! They both did! I am so fortunate to have grown up in a house where gender roles didn’t rule supreme, where my dad always invited us to spend time at his workbench, where my mom would start tasks without needing to solve beyond the next step, and where I was taught that anything could be done with enough patience, research, muscle or ingenuity. Is it any surprise that when a huge box showed up in my kitchen, my first response was to set a timer and get to work?