By Ray Lesser
A sukkah is the temporary hut in our backyard that my family rebuilds and has our meals in for a week every fall. This is to commemorate the time when our people wandered for forty years in the wilderness and lived without screened windows to keep the flies and mosquitoes out of our houses. Our family sukkah was purchased many years ago as a kit, and is assembled each year in much the same way as an IKEA shelf unit might be, if an IKEA shelf unit measured 8 x 8 x 16 feet and you had lost the instructions on how to put it together ten years ago. So this year I’ve written my own set of updated instructions, to make sure I never again forget how to put this thing together.
Step One: Your wife suggests that you put up the sukkah today, while it’s warm and sunny, instead of waiting until the day before the holiday like last year when you put it together in a thunderstorm. You agree and assure her that it won’t take more than a couple of hours, so she should run out and do her errands and then you’ll take her out to dinner later.
Step Two: You go to get your rechargeable screwdriver, only to find that the battery is dead. It will need to charge overnight. You could attempt to screw in all 100+ screws by hand, but that could take you all day and leave you with blisters and muscle cramps in your wrists. So instead you call up Mike, and ask if you can borrow his screwdriver.
Step Three: You go over and talk to Mike for an hour about which new sports car to buy if either of you were ever buying a new sports car, while he rummages around his house searching for his screwdriver, which he’s sure he has left somewhere on its charger, ready and waiting to be used. But when he finally finds it, the battery is dead.
Step Four: Larry says he’ll lend you his screwdriver. You go over to his house to pick it up and end up spending an hour talking about what a lousy football team we have this year. His screwdriver seems to work fine, but when you get home and start to screw one of the screws you realize that the screwdriver doesn’t have enough torque to screw anything. So now you’re screwed.
Step Five: You call Steve, who only buys the best tools, and is the guy you should have called in the first place. He has a powerful drill/screwdriver that works and is charged and he’d be happy to lend it to you except he’s at the airport on his way to Chicago. Too bad you didn’t call an hour ago when he was still home.
Step Six: Your wife returns home and sees that the sukkah kit is still a pile of two-by-fours sitting in the exact same place as when she left. She starts to get irritated. You explain to her the problem you’re having. She reminds you that this is the same problem you had last year, and you said you were either going to get your screwdriver fixed or buy a new one, and you haven’t done anything about it. You remind her that she was the one who told you not to buy an expensive new screwdriver when you really only need it once a year to put up and take down the sukkah. She reminds you that you smell bad. You remind her that her clothes are looking a little snug lately. She asks where you made a dinner reservation. You tell her, and she says, “Good, I’m going to call up my friend Anne and go with her, instead of you. You’d better have this thing done when I get back.”
Step Seven: You call up the hardware store to see if they have that good screwdriver that you wanted to buy last year, but they just sold the last one an hour ago to some guy building a sukkah. All they have are the same cheap models that you and Mike and Larry already own that don’t work. You can buy a new one for $39 bucks, but you’ll need to charge it overnight before you can use it.
Step Eight: You start screwing all the pieces of the sukkah together by hand. After about an hour you’re halfway done and most of the skin is peeling off your palm. That’s when you remember that you should have put on your work gloves before you started. You look for them but they’re lost, so you get your good leather driving gloves, because you have to put something on or your hands will be bleeding soon.
Step Nine: After another hour most of the screws are in, but your good leather gloves are torn. To replace them will cost you more than a top-of-the-line drill would have cost, if you’d remembered to buy one last week instead of waiting until the day you needed it.
Step Ten: Now you need to raise the walls of all the two-by-four framing by yourself since your wife has abandoned you and all your friends are over Jake’s house watching the lousy football team. You try to raise the western wall by yourself and brace it with two-by-fours while you race over to raise up the southern wall and then try to attach the two together at the corner, but while you’re raising the southern wall, the western wall collapses and hits you in the head. When you come to, you are laying on the ground with a giant lump already forming on your noggin. So you’re off to a good start.
Step Eleven: You go over to Jake’s house to try to enlist some help for the sukkah raising and they give you a beer and put an ice pack on your head. You decide to stay to watch the fourth quarter, because it’s such a close game and the team looks like they might actually have a chance to win, and Jake and Larry and Mike all promise to help you as soon as the game is over. But it ends in a tie and goes to overtime, and then the team manages to lose in overtime, and Jake and Larry say it’s too late to help now, they promised their wives they’d finish DIY projects today and now they’re late, and Mike has already managed to vanish without a trace.
Step Twelve: When you return home the sukkah is completely put together. Your wife and her girlfriends have finished the job and even finished putting all the tree branches on top of the roof and all the decorations on the walls. They are relaxing inside the sukkah drinking white wine. When you come in, the conversation briefly stops as they give you knowing, pitiless looks, and then continue talking about fashion, or weddings or something that you have nothing to contribute to. Your head hurts, your hands hurt, your pride hurts, and you still smell bad.
Step Thirteen: You go to take a shower and the cold water handle comes off in your hand. You remember you promised to fix that last week. Wonder if the hardware store is still open.