Asheville Citizen-Times 06/08/2014 –
Columnist Ted Alexander buys a manly gas grill from an Elvis wannabe and quickly loses his manly leg hair.
The first red flag was the outside salesman. According to the badge his name was Rex, but he looked like an Elvis wannabe — gold aviator sunglasses, black pompadour, half-grin. The second note of caution was that the price was low even for a discount store.
“You look like a very smart guy,” Rex said, firing off a hunk, a hunk of burning love in my direction. “This is the best sale price I’ve ever seen. And look at the size of this baby. It’s a man’s grill. No veggie burgers for this sucker. You can cook sides of beef. Plus it can be assembled very quickly, give or take a few minutes.” He glanced at his watch. “You’ll be done by dinnertime.”
He backed off one yard, and continued to stare at me, unblinking — nothing but a hound dog waiting for the master to toss him a bone.
The low price and “man’s grill” pitch had my attention, but I think it was the “You look like a very smart guy,” that clinched the deal. No one had ever said that to me before — actually quite the opposite.
And because my wife was convinced that she was married to the Fred Flintstone of home handiness, I wanted to demonstrate that I was capable of handling a big-league project.
Back at the house, it started to rain so I decided to piece the grill together in the den. I quickly discovered that 75 parts had to be assembled.
The instructions consisted of a tissue-thin 8-inch by-8-inch piece of paper. One side had tiny instructions in Chinese that were covered with ink smudges. The flip side was a fuzzy explosion chart graphically demonstrating how the different parts were interconnected to create the grill.
Rex had told me it could be assembled by dinnertime, give or take a few minutes. He just never mentioned which day or that I had to be bilingual.
Forty-eight hours later, now in clean shorts and T-shirt, I was pleased that the job was at last completed. I invited my wife to take a look.
“That’s a very large grill,” she said.
“Perfect if we have a lot of guests,” I observed.
“Is it supposed to sway?”
“That’s an optical illusion.” Very quick thinking on my part.
“Okay, one last question Dr. Einstein, how are you going to get it outside?
“Through the door, how else?
“Looks like a tight squeeze to me.”
I looked at the doorway. I looked at the grill. I looked at the doorway. I looked at the grill “Nah, no problem.”
I looked at the doorway. I looked at the grill. I looked at the doorway. I looked at the grill. “I may have to remove a part or two. I’ll call you when I’m ready.”
Six hours later the grill was on the patio and my wife was back.
“Any reason you have parts left over?” she asked.
I kicked the three pieces into the weeds. “Clearly a factory packing malfunction,” I stated.
It was time for the moment I had been waiting for, the miracle of controlled combustion. I turned on the propane and then placed a match to the burner beneath the grating.
P-F-O-O-O-O-M, a giant blue flame shot out a foot below the grill. In what will one day be recognized as a major beauty spa breakthrough, my legs were completely hairless in less than a second.
I knew what to do in the face of catastrophe.
I leapt over a fence and was 50 yards away when the all-clear whistle sounded. My wife had simply closed the valve of the propane tank and then walked back inside the house.
I called the store. “Let me speak to Elvis.”
“Rex, pick up on line one.”
I explained how annoyed I was with the lousy instructions and the rogue blue flame that had super-waxed my legs.
“Don’t be cruel, man. Get some liquid bubble stuff the kids use and splash it around. Where you see the bubbles, it’s a gas leak. Fix it.”
I picked up the solution, returned home and walked into the backyard where my wife was happily grilling veggie burgers, humiliating the man’s grill. “Hi,” she said, “the fitting on the regulator hose was leaking. I tightened and sealed it.”
It’s all Elvis’ fault. If I hadn’t been all shook up with the assembly instructions, I would have gotten the grill together by dinnertime…give or take a few minutes.
This is the opinion of Ted Alexander, who lives in Asheville. His first novel is scheduled for release later this spring.