Monday, 9 October 2006

Bob the Destroyer

For a very long while now Jo has not been in love with the piece of furniture (for lack of a better word) we use to store our CD's in. And while esthetics don't bother me much, I do agree that we could use a bit more in the way of floor space and a more tidy appearance overall.
We decided on putting shelves on at the side of our kitchen, but couldn't find the right size of shelves in IKEA. So we decided to try for some pro carpenter help.
Jo had a couple visit us when we were both at home at the first week after my operation. One came and talked for half an hour about everything but the work itself, leaving us with not that much of an impression as to what his grand design was. Another came and was obviously less than enchanted with the small piece of work; after lots of pursuits he left us with a quote that left no doubt about that.
He did, however, specify he planned to get the shelves from Bunnings, so last week we went there for some scouting. Yes, we decided to do the job on our own. We had lots of pain getting the Bunnings people to give us advice, but eventually we ended up with the right equipment for the job. Or so we hoped.
Because yesterday, when we got up early to install the shelves and started working, we found out that a lot of the Bunnings advice was worth its weight in shit. I think Jo would be very happy to stick some of the nuts and bolts (and a drill bit as well) up the rear ejection hole of one of the guys that helped us there.
Wrong advice aside, the biggest problem was with our walls: they were stupidly inconsistent. One hole would go smoothly - even too smoothly; the next would require minutes of drilling on hammer mode, generating terrible noise and severe inaccuracies in the drilling. The worst, however, would be the ones that start easy and then cause the drill to jump up or down when a hard layer is encountered but a soft one is right over it; we ended up with a few holes that seem to have been created by hollow point bullets.
And thus we got the photographed shelves up and running. We prefer to think of them as the likes of an Escher painting: on their own, each of the six individual shelves look straight enough; but together they're a work of art, each with its own slightly different deviation from straight.
Given that we're both "Australians" by now, we're considering committing suicide for the ultimate sin we have committed: by our own hands, we have probably reduced the value of our "greatest investment" [hint to those that don't get it: I'm mocking the love affair Australians have with their investment properties].

On Sunday afternoon, while still terribly tired from the just finished ordeal, we went to see friends of ours. We were still excited with the shelves experience - my main argument with going ahead and doing it on our own was that this is going to be something we will remember in 20 years time, recounting war stories.
And then our friends gave us a demo of their recently installed music system. There's a central power-amp connected to a PC; on its other side the amp is wired through the roof to sets of ceiling mounted speakers, a couple in each room. Now I'm not a big fan of such setups; they're neat and tidy, but they cannot provide the sound quality of a real stereo setup. But never mind that; I can't really remember the last time I used my stereo the way it should be listened to for music. What really astounded me with the friends' setup was the neatness of the installation: everything was so smooth and so good looking. We can't put a shelf up straight, and they have this Rolls-Royce of a setup up and running; if ever I received a display of how incapable I am, that was it.
Don't get me wrong: It wasn't like I felt ashamed of myself or anything like that and it's not like I was jealous. I did what I did with the shelves and I never thought that I was good at it. What I did feel was just a combination of admiration towards our friends' achievements - as in, wow! - and a lot of humility inducing thoughts about how one man's pile of gold is another one's trash.
You can even take the metaphor further away to explain the importance of travel and why we should all go out and see the world: when you see things from the perspective of another who is significantly different from you in one way or another, be it their ability to put shelves up straight on the wall or the food they eat or their entire culture, you learn a lot about yourself, too. You see things in a different way and you realize there's more than one way to go about living, and that the social paradigms to which we stick are nothing but a convention that sort of got stuck into too many people's heads and became the norm for the group of people we commonly refer to as "us". But in actual fact it's far from being the final word of god on how to live one's life.
Or, use Alanis Morissette's words, as said on our way to our friends place through our MP3 player: "Isn't it ironic".

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