Today, all we have to do is note when swimwear and patio chairs appear in Walmart.
If there had been a Cave-Mart in 8,000 B.C., about now sales clerks would be taking the buffalo robes and rabbit-fur-lined deerskins off hangers and replacing them with yucca string bikinis.
So there I was in Walmart recently, horror-stricken to see bathing suits and tiny shorts. I looked down at my flabby thighs and knew it was time to exchange the Nestle Crunches for ab crunches and work off the layer of winter hibernation fat.
The next day, I spotted a Walmart sale ad for a stationary exercise bike and decided it would be my route to spring fitness. However, one line of the ad already had me sweating: “ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.”
Brain scientists talk about people having multiple intelligences, and I have a fighting chance in a couple of them. But I'm a lunkhead when it comes to any gizmo, gadget, or thingamajig. Heck, I applaud myself when I can replace the roll of toilet paper and tie my own shoes. When it comes to mechanical aptitude, my IQ is less than my waistline.
Sure, I pretend competence and even own a toolbox. In fact, I have learned to distinguish between a flat and Phillips screwdriver, I know what a hammer is and I recognize the difference between a pair of pliers and a pair of scissors. I can patch a wall, hang a picture and even repair a toilet – well, sort of. As long as it’s in the guest bathroom and I don’t have to flush it.
So when it came to my new exercise bike, I approached the unassembled machine with psychological guns drawn and mental spurs chinking. I narrowed my eyes like Clint Eastwood at the pile of parts, told myself I felt lucky and began the assembly process.
Fortunately, nobody witnessed my furious Styrofoam stomping and screams of “Nut T-10 doesn’t fit Screw #12!” But I was thrilled that after a mere 11 hours, an actual exercise bike emerged from the rubble of metal tubes, plastic bags, and a tattered 30-page assembly booklet.
So what if I installed the handlebars backward and upside down. And nobody needs to know that I bolted the pedals to the wrong sides and have to sit facing the rear. The most difficult step was connecting the digital doohickey for the tension and data readouts.
This apparently requires a contortionist or a conjoined twin, but I managed to gain an extra set of hands by balancing the 15-pound handlebar attachment on my head while snapping part 376-B into part 288-D while holding rod 492-J with my teeth.
Despite an ominous clunking, I think I did a fine job and will add this to my slim repertoire of mechanical successes.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pedal my jiggly quadriceps into shape. There’s a bathing suit waiting for me.
At least I won’t have to assemble that.