WHEN YOU'RE not rich, you buy everything on sale, right?
You buy snow tires in July, leather boots in March, bathing suits in September. We once bought a half-price canoe in January, and by the time the waters were ice-free we'd paid it off.
Well, we just bought a barbecue grill -- big pre-Labor Day sale.
Ah, no more matches, no more lighter fluid and no more trauma. I rejoiced. It's a gas-fired grill.
No more yelling from the kitchen window as I shucked the corn and tossed a salad, issuing commands like -- ''Stand back from the grill, hon, please, you're too near!''
Usually there were two ''hons,'' as it takes two men with beers in hand and lots of macho to think they can light the grill in one strike with one short match.
So we see this great upscale charcoal grill. It has a serious-looking propane container that hangs on it like a sidecar. The grill has a cover, a nice no-rust steel grate and special coals that don't burn up. Don't ask me why, OK? And then there is a thermometer and some buttons and knobs that are neat-looking.
The salesman tells me something every woman hates to hear: ''Even a woman can do this, little lady.''
I am ready to bash him, but I say, ''Well, I've been lighting fires all my life. In fact, I wired our whole house and built our fireplace before we moved in" (lie).
The directions were simple. Just turn on the propane, turn a knob to the right to preheat, and then push a red button three times slowly and you have ''IGNITION.''
I could hardly wait for its debut. There was just one thing -- it came knocked down, as in disassembled!
We got it home, and like we do with other do-it-yourself-appliances we spread a white sheet on the ground and methodically put all the parts in clockwise order.
Let me just say here that we almost got a divorce over methodology -- that is, assemblage, and I'm sure some people have. Because there were 82 separate parts, and I was never very good at math. Then the direction sheet was as big as a fold-out map in the National Geographic. There were 22 steps.
It took us three days, counting the debate over whether Step 15 was incorrect and the fact that we lost fastener No. 5, and we could not find our adjustable wrench.
My husband has built houses, but he never took brain surgery.
Each night we'd dream about our unfinished project. I'd dream about giant pliers that were coming to get me followed by '''extruded holes'' ''hex nuts'' and ''venturi/orifice engagement -- that was in Step 14. No kidding, these are terms on our map of the grill.
These were not good dreams. To say nothing of the fact that there were dire warnings about electrodes emitting sparks and things like ''please do not operate grill if ''O'' ring is broken,'' or ''Some yellow flames may be visible during the first 20 minutes of operation.''
Now the good news is that we are still married and we got the thing together, but not before we made a pact never to buy another disassembled appliance.
I know you'd like this to be the end, but it isn't. When we tried to start up the grill, it didn't!
After spending a lot of time on my knees looking up at the grill's bottom and praying and sniffing propane, I called the company's 800 number. They sent us a new igniter. Then we called a friend who works at a nuclear power plant to help us install it.
On the seventh day, the day of rest, we had ''ignition'' and we cooked a batch of chickens with black-eyed peas for good luck.
Ask me in a year if I'm glad we got this new-fangled grill.