Keeping many balls in the air isn't just on TV

May 04, 2002|By ROB KASPER

GUILT IS A powerful motivator, especially this time of year. Part of me feels compelled to start building and planting. But another part wants to plant itself on a couch as I watch televised sports.

Today, for instance, my inner couch potato reminds me that there are baseball and lacrosse games on the tube this afternoon and an NBA playoff game on this evening. At the stroke of 5 p.m., I will pick up my julep cup and commune with the multitudes watching the Kentucky Derby.

At the same time, however, the great glob of guilt that functions as my conscience tells me that I shouldn't be a slug, that I should get off my haunches and fix something.

Today, in other words, presents an ideal opportunity for multi-tasking, weekend style. This type of multi-tasking is related to, but different from, the weekday variety.

When you multi-task on weekdays you actually attempt to complete two or more real jobs at the same time. For example, you acquire a company as you talk on your cell phone to your bookie. But with weekend multi-tasking the real work takes a back seat. Here you devote the bulk of your attention to one task, namely watching a sporting event on TV. When there are breaks in the action - a time-out or commercials - you make feeble attempts at accomplishing some simple weekend chore.

Last weekend, for instance, I assembled two wooden bookcases in an upstairs bedroom while watching three NBA playoff games.

The first step in any weekend multi-tasking operation is gathering your vital equipment. First and foremost is the TV. (In extreme cases - rare weekends without anything worth watching on television - you can haul out the radio.)

You want a TV set that is lightweight and easy to tote to your "work" site. Recently, after I got my teen-age son and his buddy to do the hard job of carrying the heavy boxes of bookcase parts up three flights of stairs to a top-floor assembly site, I walked down the hall and lifted a small TV set from my son's room. It was a little black and white number that he bought several years ago for $5 at a neighborhood fair. The sound is tinny but the picture is pretty clear. And when you attach a coat hanger as the antenna, it is a TV that looks like it belongs on a construction site.

Next, you have to find yourself the right kind of chair, a dual-purpose number. It must function both as a "leisure" chair, where you sit and watch the game, and it must also be a "work" chair, your command post when the game goes to commercial and you have to start hammering.

Last weekend I snagged a kitchen chair for bookcase assembly duty. It rode close to the floor and let me stay seated as I screwed in the bolts, hammered in the dowels and positioned the cam locks on the bookcase frames that were spread out on the floor. This chair did have a comfortable, padded seat, where a man could rest his bones.

There comes a time in any assembly operation when you have to read the instructions. It is a plodding, sometimes frustrating period. But it is also why God gave us the pre-game shows. Last Sunday, for instance, as the pre-game show leading up to the three NBA games began, I turned down the sound and read the entire four pages of instructions that outlined the 11 steps needed to put together a JN-008 bookcase. Once the games started, I turned up the sound and started working.

Work did not proceed at a lightning pace. The stronger my interest in the game, the smaller the progress. By the end of the first game, a spirited contest between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, only one side of one bookshelf was complete. By the end of the second game, a much less interesting tussle between the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves, both bookcases and their six shelves were standing in the corners.

By the time the third game (between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers) rolled around, I was stretched out in a big easy chair with padded arms.

The other day, when I went back to admire my handiwork, I noticed that the shelves on the bookcases were not even. The second shelf of one bookcase was 30 inches from the bottom of the bookcase. But the second shelf on the other bookcase was only 28 inches from the bottom.

I knew there were two reasons behind that misalignment. First there was the technical explanation: The dovetail snaps supporting these shelves had been attached to different holes in the side panels.

Then there was the personal explanation of what happened. Instead of keeping track of which holes got the dovetail snaps, I had been yelling at the referees working the Celtics-Sixers game.

Once a weekend multi-task project is completed, there is often a small flaw - some might call it mistake - showing the state of mind of the worker.

I prefer to think of the uneven bookcase shelves not as a screw-up, but as a memento, a reminder of what was happening in sporting history on the day the bookcases were born.

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