How to Use a Drill by
(237 Stories)

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

The infamous futon

My siblings and I called our father Swearing Sid. He earned this nickname whenever he had to assemble anything that required using tools and following directions. After giving the project a brief attempt, a stream of profanities would be followed by labeling whatever had to be done impossible. It may have helped if he owned more than a screw driver and pliers.

Now, I remember why I hate Ikea.

My husband, on the other hand, is a compulsive direction follower who will tackle any project and patiently persist, and he has a decent collection of tools. We used to order things requiring assembly (translation — cheap) from the Sears Catalogue store. After we schlepped these boxes home to assemble the item, we usually discovered essential parts were missing, usually hardware and screws. To avoid the cycle of packing up, returning, and reordering the item, my husband actually opened the box in the store and counted out all of the pieces mentioned in the directions. Needless to say, this was a bit embarrassing, but nevertheless he persisted.

But this was far from the worst experience we had in DIY assembly. After college, we drove our daughter from Duke to Atlanta, where she had rented an unfurnished apartment near her job as a veterinary technician (in prep to apply for Vet School) and close to her then boyfriend’s place. After a trip to Ikea, we returned with many boxes of items to be assembled: a dresser, coffee table, book cases, and the infamous futon. It was the latter that did us in.

Directions like this are meaningless to me

My approach to the tasks at hand was to try to be logical about what went where. I hate following directions, but my husband and daughter believed in step-by-step assembly. The futon was impossible. Too many parts, and no matter how careful they were, it kept coming out backwards and had to be redone several times. As they became more frustrated, they became careless and dropped the partially assembled futon on our daughter’s big toe, resulting in a painful hematoma under the toenail. Yes, you might ask who assembles heavy furniture wearing flip flops, but the deed was done.

It was now midnight and, in our state of exhaustion, we didn’t relish spending the rest of the evening in a strange ER. My husband is a psychiatrist, but he had gone to medical school and knew how to fix the hematoma — drill baby drill. Putting on the very thin bit, he used all of his therapeutic techniques to calm our hysterical daughter while drilling a small hole in her toenail. Actually, that part of fixing the futon mess went pretty well. Eventually (maybe the boyfriend helped?), the futon did come together. Now, I remember why I hate Ikea.

She survived having her father use the drill to fix her

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

Visit Author's Website

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Wonderful story Laurie!

    I can just see Fred opening the boxes in the store checkingfor missing parts, and then drilling a hole in your daughter’s toe nail – ouch!

    Am sure assembling that infamous futon will ever be a family story!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    So much to love (if that’s the correct word; maybe “admire”?) about this story, Laurie. First – “Swearing Sid”, just that appellation cracks me up, as it conjures up the scene perfectly.

    I admire your husbands diligence, even to the point of opening the box while still at Sears to make sure all the nuts, bolts and screws were actually included. Smart!

    I love the Keith Haring futon itself, as seen in the photo. No doubt it was difficult to assemble (isn’t everything from IKEA?), but the design looked really cool. However, having your husband operate on your daughter’s toe with a household drill is just beyond. I cringed at the thought, but I gather it all turned out alright, as seen in the smiling photo. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Actually, drilling into the toe to release the blood (gross) was what they would have done at the ER. He had seen it done in his training but never tried it himself. It took longer to convince her to let him than to do it.

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Thank you, Laurie. After reading Suzy’s story about an onerous, but successful, IKEA assembly, I was beginning to wonder if I had been too harsh about its notorious DIY assemblies. Your delightful story confirms my own views about and experiences with the assemblies. So I could not agree more with your last sentence. Though I guess I have to amend that to read: “…except for their meatballs and cinnamon buns.”

  4. OMG! I don’t think I’ll be giving this a second read, Laurie–it took all my gumption to make it through the drilling operation! Anyway you crafted the story well and had my attention all the way through. The fetching photo of the finished futon was also a good lead-in, though the futon itself was only the second most fetching element of the picture.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I think I should say thank you for your last remark. Nothing cuter than a 21 year old recent college grad who is so happy with her first apartment and the puppy she got to keep her company. The boyfriend didn’t last, but she kept the dog!

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    Love this story—especially how you all came together eventually. I am the methodical type, and working in tandem with someone who just dives in is a recipe for frustration for both. Another approach to the subungual hematoma is heating the end of a paper clip to glowing, then burning through the nail to relieve the pressure from the trapped blood—it works, as does the drill. Don’t know which is more psychologically alarming to the patient, but the immediate relief seems to return the smile in either case.

  6. Jeff Gerken says:

    I have had to resort to such methods to remove what I refer to as “blood blisters” under a toenail or fingernail.

  7. Marian says:

    What a story, Laurie, and a combination of laughter and cringing at the hematoma cure. Swearing Sid reminds me of my dad. What a clever idea of your husband’s to count all the parts in the store before leaving with the box. And of course the futon, now unforgettable in family lore. The drawing illustrated is totally baffling!

  8. Suzy says:

    I just love this story, Laurie, especially the toenail drilling. My favorite sentence is “My husband is a psychiatrist, but he had gone to medical school and knew how to fix the hematoma. . . .” I always wondered whether psychiatrists retained the medical training that they never used in their practice, so it’s nice to know that Fred did. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you to watch him drilling your daughter’s toenail! Or did you leave the room while he did it?

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    Maybe Sears can turn itself around by opening a surgical supply division!

Leave a Reply