Assembly Required
John Norberg, humor columnist s

The holidays are over and it's now time to pay off our debts and our calories.

December is for celebrating. January is for recovering.

From Thanksgiving through New Years Day we're on an eating and spending spree until we suddenly realize on January 2 that our credit cards and our jeans are both maxed out.

January is a time for penance. And for good reason. Let's face it, penance is all we can afford right now.

In my family, our holidays were wonderful and I have the waste line and bills to prove it.

All of this is nothing new. People have been overspending and overeating forever in December. Our traditions remain the same year after year, decade after decade.

But I've discovered some things have changed. For example, when our kids were little I spent all of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and a good part of the following six months trying to put together all their Christmas stuff.

Dads today face that same problem. The three most feared words in any dad's vocabulary are "some assembly required."

"Some assembly required" means this toy comes in 10,000 pieces. "Some assembly required" actually means "some knowledge of nuclear engineering and theoretical physics required."

Why don't the toy manufacturers just be honest and post on the box: "some intelligence required." Then most of us dads would know right up front that we don't stand a chance putting this together.

Christmas gifts that require some assembly should come with a list of possible side effects, like medicines.

It is just as difficult today as it always was for dads to put together the kids' Christmas gifts. But now there is an added problem.

Before dad gets to watch his sanity spilling out on the floor while he tries to assemble this stuff, he first has to figure out how to get it out of the box.

Kids' toys today are sealed so tightly and completely in a box that you can't pry them out with a jackhammer. Why do they make it so hard to get things free from the box?

This is what I see happening in toy company offices as they discuss their new products:

Company President: "This is the greatest toy in the history of the world. Every kid in America is going to want one of these under the tree Christmas morning."

Company Vice President: "Right you are J.R. But before we start shipping it to the stores and marketing it, we have to send it over to engineering."

President: "Right, to make sure it works properly."

VP: "No. To make sure it's impossible for dads to get it out of the box. Our engineers can find ways to lock things into boxes so completely that foreign governments aren't able to crack them. Our engineers use stables, plastic twists, screws, and glue with a bond that's guaranteed to hold for centuries. We actually spend twice the value of the toy boxing it so the toy can't be removed by the average dad."

President: "Right. But remind me why do we want to do this."

VP: "Because we know the dads will get so frustrated trying to get this stuff out of the box that they will ultimately break the toy. Then they'll have to buy a new one. Our sales will double or maybe triple."

President: "You're right. But what if the unthinkable happens?"

VP: "You mean . . . ?"

President: "Exactly. What if the dads give the toy to their wives to open. The wives will carefully figure out how to do and our entire business plan will be ruined."

I'm still trying to get some of our grandkids' stuff free from the bindings in the boxes.

Wife: "Aren't you don't with that yet? Why don't you let me try?"

Me: "This is a man's job. I can do it. Just give me another couple months. Wait, this one is almost free. Darn!!! Do we have a jackhammer?"

As long as dads are men, they will never admit their wives could probably do something better.

Maybe Christmas toys should come with this warning: "Some disassembly required."

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