What do a golf cart and a grill have in common? 

Hampstead: John Edmondson. Photo by Allegra Boverman/Eagle-Tribune Friday, February 01, 2008 ORG XMIT: jvkup577

I don’t golf, but I spend a lot of time in Arizona tooling around in a golf cart. It’s just something lots of us do in a retirement community when the posted speed limit is 10 miles per hour.

And I don’t feel a sense of accomplishment when I’ve assembled a household item that comes delivered in a large cardboard box. It’s more like a sense of relief, like when I pushed that red ignition button for the first time on the gas grill I’d put together, that I was sure would blow up my home, kill my children, and become the lead story on the 11-o’clock news.

A golf cart and a grill, taken separately, appear to have nothing in common. But they come together in a tale that only I could tell.

It turns out driving a golf cart is a lot of fun. Complete strangers wave at me with giddy grins on their faces. Or maybe it’s my dog, Jack Bauer, they’re waving at, who likes riding in the cart almost as much as he likes chasing rubber balls.

My wife, Betty, is certain our fellow residents at Pueblo El Mirage are waving at our dog.

The point is, the more we ride around in our golf cart, the more it needs to be recharged. It’s not a problem. I back it into the driveway, plug the cart into the battery in the late afternoon, and by the next morning, it’s completely charged and ready to roll again.

I just need to remember to position the lever correctly, after the cart is charged, to either roll forward or backward. So about a week ago, I slip into my fully charged golf cart, adjust the lever, and lurch in reverse, slamming into something that made a horrible, crunching sound.

Before I looked back, I thought I’d crashed through the side of the house and into the washer and dryer. But when I checked I saw that it was the small electric grill. Its two front legs were bent and its top askew. It looked like one of those alien creatures in “War of the Worlds,” upright but teetering before crash-landing and just missing Tom Cruise.

This wasn’t my grill. I knew I had to replace it for the owner we were renting from. I found the same brand and model online. It was small. It was basic. Why pay extra to have it assembled? Even a guy who’s not exactly a Handy Andy can put that thing together, right?

That’s what I thought, at least, until it was delivered. I opened the box and glanced at the instructions. In my mind it looked to have about 3,000 pieces. I needed help.

I know people who enjoy a challenge of this sort, and have the self-discipline to avoid swearing and throwing things, or force pieces together that don’t belong together. That’s where Dave and Suzanne come in.

Dave came with his tool kit and cool demeanor. I came with the desire to stay out of his way as I handed him legs, wheels, and a beer. And pretty soon Suzanne was there, quickly proving to be the person I will never be. She has the annoying ability to look at a pile of parts, select the right ones, and put them where they belong without looking at the directions.

After about two hours of good conversation —how can Dave and Suzanne talk and assemble at the same time? — the grill was upright and ready to roll out into the driveway. A day later, Betty and I were enjoying grilled salmon. And I began to check, every time, the placement of the lever before going forward or backward in my golf cart. Just in case.

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