Fingerprints and Hex Keys and Coronavirus

I was raised by a high school woodshop teacher. And we had a woodshop in the backyard. And in the summers my parents sold their woodworking creations at art shows around the Pacific Northwest. I spent endless hours in those shops- the one at the high school and the one next to the field that housed cows and llamas over the years. With this as my heritage, it wouldn’t be crazy for you to think I had some minimal creation skills.

Unfortunately, while it wouldn’t be crazy, it also would not be correct.

You see, in all those evenings spent hanging around the shop, most of my time was devoted to sanding. I am a champion wielder of a hand sander to round the edges and shine the surface of beautiful handcrafted salt and pepper shakers. And I can sand cuttings of wood into lovely magnets that would put any vendor on Etsy to shame. Most importantly, I was a pretty stellar player of the “who can hold their finger on the belt sander longest” game. (This game was played only when the shop was vacated by anyone over the age of 10. I think we were probably supposed to be sweeping up sawdust or maybe feeding the chickens. We were definitely not supposed to be sanding off our fingerprints in a bid to be toughest.)

All of this is to say, I should have some minimal tool skills.

I do not.

Switching gears to three decades later, in stark juxtaposition, rather than running around the yard in short shorts with the white piping (all kids of the 80s had those, right?) and using the fence as a balance beam, I am holed up in a small DC-area apartment, social distancing with the best of them. Green grass, spray planes, and thongs (in an era when that word meant a totally different piece of clothing) have given way to concrete, Pentagon helicopters, and yoga pants (lots and lots of yoga pants with not a downward dog to be seen).

As a part of this grand social contract where we are isolating ourselves from families and friends and neighbors and colleagues and DoorDash delivery saviors, I am now working remotely 100% of the time. This means my apartment (that same small one reference above) is my home and my office. I am here. All of the time.

I teleworked on occasion before COVID came into our lives, but it was just that. On occasion. It did not precipitate the ownership of any office-like trapping beyond my laptop. Work happened leaned against my headboard and then shifted to the floral chair/ottoman combo in the corner of the bedroom, and then once hunger struck, to the dining room table and maybe an afternoon laying on the living room floor. That works for a day. Or even two.

It does not work for a month. Or two.

Feeling slightly guilty about online shopping and creating what might be deemed unessential work for warehouse workers and delivery people alike, I broke down and ordered a desk from one of the many (many!) household good sellers on the internet. (Anyone else notice that these places all have the exact same items with different names and different price points?)

Side note- the line between essential and unessential is quite thin and blurry at times. Somethings are obvious. DC folk- you did NOT need to crowd the seafood market at the wharf last weekend. There is nothing edible from the sea, even in the best of times. Stay away. Or pickup basketball dudes in the park- I know, we all want to get out when the sun is shining, but sweating on/near each other and breathing on/near each other is not essential. Go for a solo jog or do some cartwheels or learn to do a backbend. There are lots of physical options that do not entail sharing your germs with others. These are easy to parse out. The more complicated ones are whether purchasing a desk that you know is going to cause someone else to work is essential because it means you aren’t going to deform your back to the point where a chiropractor seems like a good idea, when your one clinical interaction with a chiropractor convinced you the entire “specialty” is fake news. Where is the line?

But back to my larger point. I ordered a desk online. Online desks do not come looking like desks. They come looking like a cardboard box filled with Styrofoam and pieces. Lots and lots of pieces.

This is when those minimal tool skills I mentioned above that I do not have would have come in handy.

But they do not exist. Yes, my index finger prints bear the mark of a not so smart “game” we played as kids (this has been seen on many a fingerprint card/reader, but I’ve gotten pretty good at just pressing harder…maybe I should have opted for a life of anonymous crime), but I retain little more from those days.

So here is the equation. Me + box of parts + a hex key (that tells you the level of skill needed) = ?


(I’ll be you didn’t see that one coming!)

In less than an hour (including my in-box break) I had the desk deboxed, parted, assembled, locked together, and ready to Wednesday morning service. I don’t think that means I have any more skill than I banked on having going into this quarantine project, but I do think it means I have a bit more than my dear siblings and friends (and mother!) gave me credit for. (Think about that for a moment. How little faith in me do they have that they thought I would be bested by a small piece of furniture held together with a handful of washers, screws and a few twists of an Allen-wrench. None. No faith at all.)

With coronavirus still spreading its lung-busting plague around the United States and the world, I’m doing my best to responsibly obey social distancing guidelines by working from home (all hail Dr. Fauci!), but also not end up with a pretzel-shaped back from hunching over my laptop for endless hours day after day. Hopefully this desk (and the flamingo-patterned chair I bought to go with it, that will also need put together when it arrives…) makes isolation (literally) a little less painful.

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5 thoughts on “Fingerprints and Hex Keys and Coronavirus

  1. Cool looking desk!!

    On Wed, Apr 8, 2020 at 6:39 AM In Search of the End of the Sidewalk wrote:

    > Michelle Ross posted: “I was raised by a high school woodshop teacher. And > we had a woodshop in the backyard. And in the summers my parents sold their > woodworking creations at art shows around the Pacific Northwest. I spent > endless hours in those shops- the one at the high scho” >


  2. That is really a nice compact desk! I did think you were kidding about the flamingo chair, but I should know better by now! I am also hibernating as Dr. Fauci has asked, but I do have a wife who is home with me, a large Mac, iPhone, iPad, ridiculously large flat screen and the ability to face time. I am also a professional online shopper! I have had to set my alarm clock for midnight to get up and establish grocery delivery times in this century, however!


    • I have been coveting it since last fall, but didn’t buy it because it felt like too much in my small apartment. But now I had the excuse I needed to buy it anyway. 🙂 Now, I await the arrival of the flamingo chair!

      I’ve had the same problem with groceries- the only way to get a slot is to be there at midnight and then it is two weeks out. I have been walking to the store that is about a mile away a couple times a week to get fresh stuff, but am now holding off on my next run until my new mask from Aunt Colleen arrives in the mail later this week.


    • Isn’t it cool? I’ve been eyeing it since August, but finally broke down and bought it. The woman at the front desk here said she is seeing a lot of desk and computer deliveries as we are all setting up more stable home offices in our apartments.


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