When it comes to friendship, some assembly required

Our new massage chair. It’s pieces weighed 150 pounds and required the dexterity of a Russian gymnast to assemble. But Jim and I got it done.
Our new massage chair. It’s pieces weighed 150 pounds and required the dexterity of a Russian gymnast to assemble. But Jim and I got it done. Submitted by author

A true friend, I used to think, was someone who would show up and help on the day you moved. Now I have a new definition: a true friend is someone who would show up and help on the day you put together a massage chair.

Jim is that friend who showed up after I sent this email: “Sandy and I just had a massage chair delivered. It’s heavy and came in four big pieces. Since you have a massage chair and know how it works, I wonder if you’d be willing to help me put mine together.”

Jim called right away, offering his help, no questions asked and no caveats. That in itself was wonderful. Most people would have found a good reason to beg off. Can’t blame them.

Sure enough Jim showed up exactly when he said he would, at 2 p.m. on a Friday. Not only that, he was perky and optimistic. He had watched a YouTube video of a guy putting together a similar chair and it looked easy. At least to Jim. In fact, the man in the video said we only need to insert and tighten two large and two small screws.

I was uplifted by Jim’s optimism. The disassembled chair was delivered two days previously in two large boxes strapped together with industrial strength bindings. Once the boxes were inside and the delivery man gone, I attempted to take the chair parts out of the boxes. The smaller box, containing the sides of the chair, wasn’t too bad. The larger box was another story.

The two bulky pieces inside – the seat and back – each seemed to weigh 150 pounds. The only way I could get them out was by cutting the box completely open and dragging them onto the floor.

All four pieces lay there when Jim arrived. We went to work identifying each of the four pieces and the general pattern of how they might fit together. Jim pulled up the YouTube assembly demo on his cell phone, and we were ready to insert the four screws.

Except there weren’t two small and two large screws as the confident man in video promised. Nor was the video clear about printed manual’s directions to “insert the side panels along hook B to holder A.”

So Jim and I, as the self-assured septuagenarians we are, plowed forward. Surely two guys with all of our life experience and wily skills could do this.

About a half hour later, we still weren’t sure if we had first side in the right position. We turned it around and around and upside down. Finally, after looking at the illustration of the assembled chair on the front cover of the directions booklet, we determined the correct positioning.

Now we had to insert the two long screws we found in the box. (There are no short screws, YouTube man!) Neither the video nor the directions booklet gave us a clear answer, but Jim and I agreed there was only one place each of the screws could go.

To insert each screw in the appropriate threaded hole, however, it took the agility of two contortionists, the strength of two body builders and the dexterity of two tiny agile hands.

Since we had none of these features, Jim and I simply used sheer will power and maneuvered our bodies into ways no old guys should be forced to do. We were on our backs and on our stomachs, pulling and tugging and squeezing our hands in the tightest places simply to align the screw with the threaded hole. Neither Jim nor I, I’m proud to say, resorted to especially foul language.

Eventually we were able to align hook B to holder A, while simultaneously inserting the screws in the threaded holes. Finally, we successfully attached one of the sides. However, we were already an hour into the job and we were only one quarter done.

Because my allotted column space is limited and I’d prefer my readers experience no more virtual pain, I’ll move to the end of the story. Two hours later, the second side was attached, the back attached to the seat and all wires and tubes connected. We plugged in the chair, and it worked.

It took three hours, lots of sweat and two beers, but we did it. I couldn’t have done it without Jim. And he could have quit at any time, simply by saying his family needed him at home. But he didn’t, because he’s a true friend.

John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email john.spevak@gmail.com.