I first discovered SG’s notable skills when assembling furniture – from an array of shops, although he favours Ikea … think about that – when we moved in together last year. He whipped up book cases, dining tables and beds in remarkably little time and, wielding his water scales, bored holes into walls and fitted in shelves in mere minutes. Indeed, just yesterday, he timed himself with the three book cases of differing sizes we picked up at Ikea and managed an average of … wait for it, five minutes per case.
Gliding through the assembly of our apartment one shiny white plank at a time, he seemed unstoppable and I, deeply impressed. But six weeks or so after we moved in, he clipped a hurdle and nearly brought it, him and us crashing down. The hurdle was a large, wardrobe shaped one with a sliding mirror door. It was the latter feature – and a little pronunciation confusion – that must bear the most responsibility for what has come to be known and referenced as the ultimate Meltdown.
Quite like I have a lot of trouble pronouncing, with any level of differential crispness, kuchen, küche and küken and generally mix them all up into one hybrid word that suits all occasions (as much as cake, kitchen and chick can suit all occasions), SG, like many Germans before him, does something similar with ‘bottom’ and ‘button’. In a clear headed moment, when wanting to use the word bottom, he goes for the reasonably similar ‘buttom’. In a hot-headed, pressure-filled moment, he completely blanks on bottom and goes straight for ‘button.’ And pressure-filled was the moment when, labouring beneath the behemoth structure that would eventually become our wardrobe, things started slipping and SG needed my assistance.
He had been grunting and swearing for a couple of hours, alternating between abusing the instructions, the pieces and the world, when things started getting critical. The skeleton of the wardrobe was almost complete, albeit shaky and scarily flexible. Breathing hard and contorted into a position necessary to bear the weight of the furniture, SG suddenly barked my name. I darted over to proffer what assistance I could. He panted,
‘Hold the button!’
I searched frantically for the button and found a couple of large plastic buttons on the back of the wardrobe.
‘Quick, hold the button!’
‘Which button? There are two on the back.’
SG was slowly disappearing beneath a landslide of shiny white wood, his face an alarming shade, his grip slippery. ‘THE BUTTON, HOLD THE BUTTON.’
And then I knew. He meant bottom. I had to confirm, before I threw myself at the bottom of the wardrobe, in case he actually did mean button and holding the button was going to save him from certain death. Obviously the moment was not ripe for the old pronunciation double-check, so I tentatively posited,
‘Do you mean bottom?’
He roared, lion-like, one last desperate attempt, ‘HOLD THE BUTTON.’
So I held the bottom. I took a punt and dived down, ignoring the buttons, splaying my hands along the bottom. The wardrobe, and SG, survived. It took us a few weeks to laughingly mention ‘THE BUTTON’. For a while, we pretended the wardrobe simply erected itself. We continue to pretend, when we move again, the wardrobe will magically dismantle and re-assemble itself.
This time around, we’ve re-settled with no such meltdowns. Ikea was a quick, pain-free trip executed with scary efficiency and fueled by four hotdogs (SG.) The bookcases are up and looking smashing. There have been no meltdowns.
Weiden, let’s try this again.