Stupidus Matris, Geometry is Your Friend.

Sometimes, I can be really stupid.

And I’m quite particular about how I use that word. It’s not a matter of book learning; ignorance is not the same thing as stupid. Having any sort of diminished capacity isn’t stupid either. Stupid is, well, stupid is just plain stupid.

If you bounce through the etymology for the word, it draws back to Latin, stupidus – confounded, or struck senseless.

Normally, I am a sensible person, but on occasion I am struck senseless and find myself doing or saying things that a sensible person wouldn’t do or say.

One of the ways in which I can be stupid stems from my desire to help. I am good at solving problems, and  try to use that trait to the advantage of things I care about.

So when my son’s school sent out a blast email, asking if anyone could lay their hands on a Ping Pong table for the kids to use when it was too cold to play outside, I checked in to Freecycle and sure enough, I found a woman 25 miles away with a Ping Pong table she’d let them have. Problem solved.

New problem. Getting said Ping Pong table from her basement to my garage.

Solution – I’ll just go get it. I have a big vehicle, 20 minutes there, a few minutes to load up and a few minutes home.  Piece of cake.

The real problems didn’t begin until I actually laid my hands on the table. It was heavy. And bigger than I’d expected.

No matter. It has wheels. We can just push it across the basement to the bulkhead.

Tucking Quinn safely in a corner, checking out all the rockets (please don’t touch them) the lady and I moved the table over to the door. Time to navigate the stairs.

Lift. Wait, nothing happened?


We got it up a bit, but it was hard to balance it upright. A little wobbling and we moved it up the first step. Then the second. We were going up the third when I glanced up.


She dropped her end, which in turn made me lose mine, down across my shin. Ow.

“What?’ This woman’s voice could cut glass.

“It’s not going to happen this way. We can’t clear the top of the bulkhead.”

“Let’s turn it flat and take it up.”

Even a quick eyeballing of the measurements should have told her that it wouldn’t happen. The table is at least a full 3 feet wider than the doorway.

I shook my head and began inspecting the metal frame. Three bolts on each corner held the table to the wheeled frame. Piece of cake.

“Do you have any tools? We can take it apart.”

“Sure, sure.” screech screech

She returned with a flat head screwdriver and a hammer.

Ummm. Are we building a birdhouse?

“Ok, Thanks. Do you have any wrenches, or pliers?”

She runs off once more and returns with a couple of grips.

“Okay, if you take these three out, and I get the three on the opposite side, we’ll disengage this side here from the frame.”

Please note: I actually touched the bolts I was referring to.

I set to my task, and within a minute had two bolts clear and in my pocket.

When I looked up, she was busy fighting with her first one. Not one of the three I’d pointed at.

“Try this one here instead.”

“But this one. . . ”

“I think if we can get these three here (more pointing) off, we won’t need to get that other one.”

“Oh, ok.” So she begins again while I tackle my third and final bolt. This one is different – it’s a stack – long bolt, nut, washer, pipe leg, nut, washer, table top.

I only need to disengage the pipe leg. So I only need to take off the first nut and washer pair. Done.

Pop, off comes the pipe.

She’s still struggling with her three – she started with the long stacked set, which was a bit trickier to get out. I left her at it and removed the other two.

Look back down at her work. The first nut and washer set is off, she is now holding the top of the bolt with the pair of pliers and trying to unscrew the second set of nuts, while the pipe was still on the bolt.

That’s like trying to comb your hair with your hat on.

“I think it’s enough now so we can pop the leg off. We have to straighten it out though.”

So without straightening out the leg, she heaved.

“If we lift the end and straighten. . . ”

She huffed and puffed, yanking on the pipe leg. “I’m going to go get a pry bar, this is on there.” scraaaaaaaaaaaaawth screech

“Ok, you do that.” While she was gone, I wedged my foot under the opposite end of the table to level it out. A quick nudge with my other foot and the pipe popped out.

Of course, I had my feet spread far apart, and when the pipe popped off, that side of the table was no longer attached to anything, and weighed a lot. So naturally it toppled over onto me, sending me back to become pinned against a stack of lawnchairs and plant pots.

It only took a minute to disengage myself from the tangle and right the table.

“Got it,” I yelled.

She was just rounding the corner with a catspaw.

A catspaw?

What good would that do in this project?


Astonishingly enough, the same exact process happened with the second side. She still went for the wrong set of bolts, she still couldn’t seem to understand that, once unbolted, if the table were kept perpendicular to the leg, it could be lifted straight off.

This time, being on the other side of the project, I toppled into baskets full of lily bulbs.

But finally, the table was free of the leg frame. I took the frame out to get it out of our way.

“But there are still legs sticking out. Don’t we need to take those off too?’

“I don’t think so (No, definitely, NO!). We can just tilt it down, slid the leg clear, straighten it out to carry it up, then tilt it again to clear the second leg.”


“Here, just tilt the table to the left.” (Your other left)

“There, see? That one is through, so let’s get it up the stairs.”

Up, one. She had to rest. Up another. Stopping to talk about how heavy it is. I know it’s heavy, ’cause you’ve let go and I am trying to keep this thing from sliding back down and crushing you.

We finally get to the end where the other leg piece is sticking up.

“Now we need to tilt it again to get that leg clear.”

No, not up. How could you possibly think tilting it up could help? The problem we are facing is that it is too tall. How is making it taller going to help?

Do you have any concept of basic geometry?

Finally. Out the door, onto the snowy grass. Hmmm. Snow. 200 pound table top.

“Do you have a sled?”

“A what?” rawwwck

“A sled. Like for a kid to slide down a hill.”  We live in Maine. You have kids. Your twelve-year old daughter is taking care of my son right now. You must know what I’m talking about.

She stared at me for what felt like a full minute. Then I saw the bulb go off. It wasn’t bright, I nearly missed it, but there it was.

Off she ran, returning with a sled.

“It’s too small.”  squaaawk

“All we need to do is put one corner in it. If I stay on this end and pull the sled and you go on the other end and stabilize it, we’ll fly across here.”

Stabilize. Not push. But she pushed, and I, in my crappy soled shoes raced to keep ahead of her, slip sliding around plant pots, clothes lines and very nearly into the back of my truck.


I have a Ford Explorer. Anticipating that the table could be slid inside, I’d opened the tailgate, but one look told me that was not going to happen. But if I put Quinn in the front and collapse the seats, it might squeak in on the diagonal.

Tape measure.

“Why don’t you measure across. That’s the wide part.” brawaark screeeeeek

Well, Pythagoras, the diagonal is actually longer. Ever measure a TV?

I was good. All that stayed in my mouth. I just measured and found myself 1.75 inches shy of my goal.

Dammit. It has to go on the roof. How are we ever going to get this monstrosity up there?

“Do you have any boards?”

She nodded (thank you!) and went into the garage, returning with a pair of  2×4 boards. We shall not discuss how she carried them, or what happened to my face as a result.

Up against the truck, now lean the table against them.

“If we slide it up, eventually it will hit the tipping point, then we can use the boards as levers.”

This too, was incomprehensible to her.

“Just push, but watch your knees.”

“Watch you knees.”

“Watch your knees.”

Bang. Screw it. It’s payback for my face.

“Keep pushing.”

Then. . . it was there! We did it.

I had a delusional moment of happy dancing before I remembered the other half was still in the basement.

Some parts were easier, the car lift was harder, there was more screeching and squawking, another minor injury which is making it hard to type, but eventually, it was done.

An hour and forty-five minutes after I drove in, I headed home, hating Ping Pong, marveling at the fact that my ears weren’t bleeding and thinking about the kids that would use the table.

My kid? Not one of them. He’s too little for Ping Pong now, and we aren’t going to be able to pay for tuition to the school during his older years.

So this whole endeavor? Senseless.

Stupidus matris.



2 thoughts on “Stupidus Matris, Geometry is Your Friend.

  1. People who don’t know how to use tools make me shake my head in dismay. How can you make it to adulthood and not understand simple hand tools? (At least our Montessori kids won’t be those adults! Well, that and their moms know what you do and don’t do with a hammer.) On another note, it sounds to me like you were quite gracious with this individual. I don’t think I would have been. I have a weird quirk where I get unreasonably angry when I have to lift something heavy.


  2. Pingback: Rant Rave Write for GroupThink

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