If you were to ask my wife what her biggest complaint about me is, well, I hope you’ve got your evening free.

But no doubt, during that conversation, she would lament that I am not exactly the best at following directions when it comes to assembling things.

I was hyper-aware of this concern when Santa delivered a new basketball goal to our home Christmas morning, and I decided I would make it a Christmas miracle by following every step of the directions and assembling just as the directions said. Which is why it took a mere three weeks to have a working basketball goal in our yard.

I started off on the right footing – I began to open the box and cull through the roughly 28,000 pieces that would allegedly form a basketball goal. This was about 2 p.m. on Christmas day. My wife said, “Are you sure you want to start this now? It says it requires ‘two capable adults.’” I looked up and saw that she was reading from the assembly manual. I took it from her hands and told her that I was, for once, going to follow all directions, and as soon as a second person was needed, I would find a capable adult. And probably a second.

I assembled the base like a champ. It only took me about an hour, which is probably only about five times longer than it would take most possums.

I then moved on to the pole assembly. Seemed pretty straightforward: There were three large poles that would be put together to form the pole that would support the backboard and goal. This step called for me to put the middle pole inside of the top one and then “bounce middle pole section into top section using a wood scrap.” Dutifully, I put the two pieces together and began to pound the everlasting stuffing out of them until they were snuggly married.

I then read the next step. It said: “Important! Align dimple of top pole section into trough of middle pole section.” OK, slight problem – those two pieces of pole had already become one, and I had done so with no alignment whatsoever, thereby throwing off all the pre-drilled holes and such and, essentially, making the pole worthless.

My first thought was to pull the pieces apart. This proved to be an unachievable goal. I utilized rope, pliers, a sledgehammer and WD-40 in my efforts to separate the two pieces. They were not going to be divorced.

After about 30 minutes, I realized defeat was at hand. My son, who had been helping by standing clear of me swinging a sledgehammer at his new basketball goal, turned and said, “So, we’re not going to get it put together?” I looked at his sad little Christmas face and, mustering all of the possible yuletide nurturing I could, said, “WHY WOULDN’T THEY TELL ME TO ALIGN THE DIMPLES FIRST!?!?!?!” Parker backed slowly away and went off on his scooter.

I went upstairs to tell my wife what had happened. “I know you get on to me all the time about not reading directions, but I followed the directions,” I said. I showed her the instruction manual. “Yeah, that’s confusing,” she said, in a sympathetic tone that, between you and me, also said, “It wouldn’t have hurt to read forward a bit.”

The next day, I called the company and told them of my conundrum. The exceptionally kind woman asked me if the parts were defective. I told her that, yes, they are now, because I didn’t read and memorize all of the instructions prior to assembly. She told me she would send replacement parts. Based on her lack of surprise, I am just guessing that this is not the first time this has happened, and just a hunch the good folks at Spaulding may have reworked their instruction manual by now.

A day later, the replacement parts arrived. And it only took me about three weeks to get back on the project. When I started assembly, I had my wife there for every step. “This is what I’m about to do. See if you agree.” She would read the instructions for far longer than I ever have and eventually give me the go-ahead. After about four hours, there was an actual basketball goal in our front yard, ready to host hoops games for the kids. I’m just glad that we have the goal up and ready for use, and that I learned an important life lesson: Before any assembly project, let my wife read the directions cover to cover.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken and is a graduate of the University of Alabama. Contact him at mwg1234@yahoo.com.