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"The Americanese wall - as Congressman [John Lawson] Burnett would build it," (25 March 1916)
" … but that hope still springs eternal."

A vast part of the Homemade universe contains stuff not so much made at home as assembled there. These items arrive swathed in cardboard, often with cryptic messages imprinted on them. EZ Assembly. Assembles Itself! These come-ons invariably prove to be lies, usually damned lies. They amount to a curious kind of literary test, assessing one's ability to interpret a wholly unique literary form. Part cartoon and part text, they tend toward the disorienting and invariably assume knowledge and orientation rarely present in any homemaker, homesteader, or non-engineer. They hint at more than they declare. They've numbered pieces and prepared schematics, producing what are called exploding graphics intended to introduce the assembler to the product. They first successfully achieve in producing an overwhelming sense of disorientation. What seemed simple enough suddenly seems terribly complicated. It holds more parts and connections than anyone can successfully hold in their head at once. If the purchaser could fit the damned thing back into the box at that point, he'd return it post haste, but he cannot. Just opening the box allowed Pandora to escape along with, as will soon be revealed, three apparently essential screws which seem to have disappeared from the small, unopenable parts bag.

I call these instruction which fail to successfully instruct anyone to do anything SelfDestructions after my friend Wayne's habit of calling all instructions Destructions, as I recounted in a piece called
Destructions, which I wrote over five years ago. Nothing's changed since then. A succession of fresh hopes have arrived via parcel post, none of which I successfully assembled as per the enclosed instructions, or Destructions, as Wayne insists. I might conclude that the Destructions were never intended to successfully instruct anyone in accomplishing anything, but represent a best attempt to describe the fundamentally indescribable. Almost nothing humans do lends itself to successful description, certainly not to pictorial representation, yet Destructions seek to accomplish both. It's a fool's mission, yet whenever a new product arrives needing assembly, a spark of hope ignites in my chest and I think that maybe this time will be different.

Of course it won't be different. I'll have parts left over which I will not be able to throw away, thinking that some day a revelation will disclose where those leftover parts should have gone. The box, promising more than it will deliver inside, elicits a sense of adventure. Our Finish Carpenter Joel yesterday attempted to install our new storm door, and I felt reassured that he, too, found the EZ Instructions incapable of explaining much. The door handle assembly could be connected in infinitely various ways, only one of which was correct but not mentioned in either the pictures or the text. He left last night with the door only capable of opening about half way, some unexplained complication with the door connection unresolved. We have not yet found mention of how the screen or the window manages to stay in the frame, a detail apparently forgotten when they out-sourced creation of the Destructions.

It might prove important for me to not take the resulting failure personally. It was most certainly a systemic failure with ten thousand points of probable cause, and not just me alone who could not successfully interpret this abomination. Something about anything labeled EZ rather than easy, but also those labeled easy as well, just complicates interpreting the content. First of all, it's not easy at all but disorienting. It might seem easy to the ones who designed the damned product, but to the rest of the universe, it's a black box, a novel presence, a reveal unformed and indeterminate. We cannot see what the pile of pieces might one day resolve into. They look nothing like the product illustrated on the box front. Anthropologists disagree on whether it's fool hardiness or courage driving the opening of the box. Perhaps it's a form of lust, a wanderlust-like urge to finally successfully assemble something, to follow instructions and ultimately produce something that more than vaguely resembles the image on the box. True, it's never once happened in the history of the universe so far, but that hope still springs eternal.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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