Efficiency in the Home, or Watch Out for Swedish Furniture

Efficiency at homeGreetings all, Steve here. Back again. Hi. Those of you who lack the ability to entertain yourselves will have noted with some anxiety that I’ve been absent from this space for a couple of weeks, but I did have a very good reason. The doctor ordered me to take some time off after I nearly killed myself putting together my new computer desk.

What happened was this: I decided that I needed a proper computer desk rather than just doing all my computer work on the couch (or rather, a love seat), in order to improve my efficiency and save my back. It’s part of my ongoing campaign, as I approach the age of 30 at an alarming pace, to act like a grown up.

Anyway, I asked my older brother Greg to drive Meghan and I to the Swedish-Super-Duper- Awesome-Mega-Furniture-Store to buy a computer desk, which he did. We looked around for quite a while, finally settling on a medium-sized model with an optional shelving unit named Mikeal, though in retrospect it should actually be called Eric The Viking, because the good people at the Swedish-Super-Duper-Awesome- Mega-Furniture-Store forgot to list among the many features of this particular desk the fact that it will try to murder you. To be fair, I don’t suppose that would have been a good selling point, but even so.

After navigating through the Swedish-Super-Duper- Awesome-Mega-Furniture-Store and locating the pre-fab Erik The Viking, we paid for it and left the store. I noted only in retrospect that the employee at the cash register didn’t say, “Have a good night,” or “Thanks for shopping here,” but, “Good luck.” Not a good sign.

The next day I set about constructing Erik The Viking. With my supportive girlfriend looking on, I consulted the instructions for with the air of someone who wouldn’t need to consult instructions even to assemble a battleship and who is merely reading them for entertainment, but I was actually somewhat concerned since I don’t have a great track record with home improvement projects. I once tried to lower our curtain rods by a few inches and nearly lost our security deposit. My best friend, who works as a lumberjack, once took me into the woods for a day to help him clear some timber. It was a simple job, he said. Anyone could do it. There, in the midst of nature, or what was left of it, I was forced to call into service the full scope of the masculine practicality that my fine art training has endowed me with. I assume because he feared for his life, he never asked me again.

Actually, the instructions for Erik The Viking were quite entertaining, as they featured a full page of diagrams warning the owner not to injure themselves during assembly. Meghan and I got a good laugh out of that. Who could possibly injure themselves constructing a pre-fab, idiot-proof desk from the Swedish-Super-Duper- Awesome-Mega-Furniture-Store? Ha ha, ha! Yeah. Ha.

Anyway, I began attempting to assemble Erik The Viking from the instructions and I did well for the first five minutes or so, after which the project ground to a halt. It turns out that pre-fab idiot-proof Swedish desks are actually relatively difficult to put together. I tried everything I could think of, including staring at the instructions and swearing at them, but eventually I had to swallow my pride and ask Meghan for help. She is actually much better with her hands than I am and with her assistance, the project was once able to move forward. For a short while. Glancing in a manly, practical fashion at the instructions, I took in all the pertinent information and continued assembly. At least, I thought I had. Some people are practical, detail-oriented people. I am not this kind of person. I’m the other kind, the imaginative, big-picture people, the sort of people you shouldn’t allow to use power tools or borrow money. Anyway, I didn’t get all the pertinent information and I actually ended up inserting some of the little peg thingers into the wrong doohickeys. Actually, I didn’t so much insert them as pound them in with a hammer, since they didn’t seem to want to fit. I’ve been looking for uses for my hammer since I bought it.

It turned out that my pounding efforts meant that I could not get some of the major parts of Erik The Viking to fit together. Meghan helpfully suggested that I call my older brother Greg, which actually wouldn’t have been a bad move. Greg and I have matured as we’ve grown older and we realize that each of us has different strengths and weaknesses and we respect each other on that level, but, even so, I’d be damned if I was going to call my older brother and tell him I couldn’t assemble a pre-fab, idiot-proof Swedish desk. I decided I’d better go to the hardware store.

I develop extreme Freudian anxiety in hardware stores, as I fear that the handy, competent staff will see through my confident veneer and realize that I don’t know a gasket from a gopher, so I practiced what I was going to say on the way over.

“Hello, I’d like 4 medium-sized, 45 degree brackets.”

“Good day, I’d like 4 medium-sized, 45 degree brackets, please.”

“Hi there, I’d like 4 medium-sized, 45 degree brackets.”

I arrived at the hardware store and strode confidently inside, marched up to the man at the front desk and said,

“Hello, I’d like 4 medium-sized, 45 degree brackets.”

He responded, “45 degree brackets?”

To which I responded with some annoyance, “Yes, 4 medium-sized, 45 degree brackets.”

“You mean 90 degree brackets?”

“I’d like 4 medium-sized, 90 degree brackets.”

Having thus obtained the brackets, I proceeded home and --to make a long story short-- I did finally MacGyver Erik The Viking together. I suppose it might have been fatigue, or frustration due to the fact that a job I had budgeted 90 minutes for had taken 9 hours, but I guess I let my guard down and let Erik get the jump on me. Having failed to drive me insane, he was now proceeding to try and kill me. Having almost finished assembling Erik The Viking, I turned very quickly to the right and didn’t notice that Erik had moved into my path and stuck his optional shelving unit out. I hit the right side of my head on it. Hard. After a few minutes of swearing and holding my hold, I turned back to finishing the task at hand and that damned Erik did it again. I hit the left side of my head on the optional shelving unit. Really hard. I finally managed to subdue Erik The Viking and get him assembled and into the corner and I suppose it was because I was still stunned from his two previous attacks that I didn’t see his final assault coming, but he got me one last time. I hit the front of my head on the optional shelving unit. Really, really hard. And then I fell down. I phoned my brother, who offered to drive me to the hospital. That's Greg. Always ready to help.

And 10 days later my concussion healed enough for me to catch up on the work I’d missed, which the desk was very helpful with. Or could have been, probably. I don’t trust the thing and I’m writing this column on the love seat.

Until next time, keep your pen on the page and watch out for Swedish furniture.

Steve Sharam

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I apologize for laughing at your misfortune but what a great tale~! Glad to hear you are recovered... best of luck with 'erik the viking' in future ;P

my artwork

Vicious furniture

Hi Steve.

I would have thought you were completely insane, except that a small shelving unit bit my (then) 1.5 year old son across the bridge of the nose while my husband was assembling it last year.

Usually about the only aggression I get from 'some assembly required' furniture and fixtures is a nibbled finger.


Greetings Fellow Traveller!

I only laugh because I know your pain.

"His life was a constant war with insensate objects that fell apart, or attacked him, or refused to function, or viciously got themselves lost as soon as they entered the sphere of his existence." - Pnin - V. Nabokov



Well, thank you all, your a very supportive bunch. It occurred to me that readers of the site might make fun of me when I revealed my problems with Eric, but it's actually only been the crowd that works on the site that's given me static. Meghan's been very supportive, though I think that her asking me "Are you o.k.?!" said more than she meant it to:P

Steve Sharam

Erik the Viking

OMG, that's the most awesome story I have read in quite a while. I hate to admit it, but I have just about laughed myself silly, reading it.

I really do hope you are able to tame Erik at some point. I suggest duct tape on the optional shelving unit...

p.s. I'm glad you are feeling better, too.


As Ghandi said, Swedish furniture is not to be trusted, Lawrence.
Yeah, I'm really glad the concussion is better, purple cheese whiz airplane.

Steve Sharam

In Search of Larry Leisure

Steve, I too share your pain. Since I am too cheap to purchase assembled furniture, I have attempted assembly of desks, computer stations, bookshelves, a workbench and even an entertainment center....with varying degrees of "success".

Only once did I find the instructions to be helpful. The instructions started off by introducing a character named "Larry Leisure". Larry was a kind and patient man that walked us through the assembly process slowly. We divided up the duties into two categories: gluing and screwing. My wife was in charge of gluing, at first.....until I developed a large blister in the palm of my hand. The next present I received was a power screw driver.

I've never encountered Larry since that first project, but am ever hopeful that his kind face will appear every time I open an instruction manual.