Humor Therapy – Up a Tree

Circa 2003

One of the traits men are presumed to be endowed with is the ability to exercise dominion and control over all manner of household repairs. As usual, the source of this presumption lies not in anthropology, but rather in mass media culture. Commercials generally depict husband-types who look as if they tum bled from an L.L. Bean catalog wielding tools like light sabers.

The height of this reign of folly was a commercial last year for a home improvement chain which purported to demonstrate the average guy could tri umph in the arena of building a tree house for his son. The father was not a plaid-wearing man, but rather a polo-shirted warrior trying to bond with his boy. Instead of jeans, he wore khaki pants. Nevertheless, the son could tell that his father was going to get the job done with the help of the people from the local home improvement store.

The father is shown with a store employee patiently explaining which nails to use on the project. This fort was going to be the size of a Manhattan studio apartment and included plumbing. The outtakes for this commercial depict the father popping anti-depressant medication to suppress flashbacks to his seventh-grade shop class. His efforts to construct a bird cage made of Popsicle sticks resulted in crazy gluing his hand to his shirt pocket.

check this out

The commercial climaxes with the father and son lying in sleeping bags in the tree fort. The electricity in the fort goes out, plunging the duo into darkness. Fortunately, the solar-powered backup generator Dad rigged up kicks in. “Thanks, Dad,” says the son. The father smiles back, flushed with the glowing vindication of his parental competence. The absence of a mother and wife in the commercial is conspicuous. The secret message is that the guy can do the job if the woman would just leave him alone.

In reality the wife understood the entire scheme was well beyond her husband’s capabilities and communicated these concerns repeatedly. The wife realizes that even if Martha Stewart and Bob Villa strapped on tool belts, it still wouldn’t come out right. Sadly, this tree fort will take away from important weekend projects the wife has previously assigned that have yet to be completed. This task also has the added advantage of not requiring a building permit from seven different city departments.

The wife temporarily relinquishes her opposition to the tree fort. “Fine, go ahead and build it for Bobby, but don’t come crying to me when you sever an artery with that circular saw. If you get blood on my new carpet, you are a dead man. By the way, you better make sure that thing is comfortable for sleeping.”

The husband is the same guy who nearly passes out when he gets nicked by one of the three blades on his razor. He must now choose between definitely losing face, and possibly losing an arm. Naturally he vows to proceed in the face of grave domestic danger.

check this out

The real visit to the home improvement store is a less than soothing experience. On the first visit, he sustains a flat tire in the parking lot when his vehicle is struck by a runaway fork lift. Once Dad gets into the store, he must pick between no less than thirty-six different grades of lumber. In the absence of any store employees, the hap less Dad must ask another customer for assistance. Surely this customer must know the answer to his question. After all, he is wearing a shirt with “Butch” emblazoned on the front-those guys always did well in shop class. Butch mumbles something about looking for a fine grade of sandpaper and walks away. Where are the helpful store employees? You could shoot a cannon ball from one end of this warehouse monstrosity to the other without striking someone on the company payroll.

Dad buys a load of lumber and then manages to tear the leather upholstery getting it into his wife’s SUV. The prospect that his wife is correct about the tree fort is more than Dad can bear. He must persevere like the pioneer tree house builders. Unloading the lumber Dad pulls a back muscle. He spends the rest of the day under the influence of muscle relaxers, reassuring his wife that nothing is wrong. Indeed, nothing is wrong until the pain medication starts to wear off four hours later.

After wasting several weekends trying to build the tree fort, Dad is at the end of his swinging rope used to climb to the top. He has to hire a carpenter to finish the job at a cost of $1500. The carpenter must work only at night so as not to arouse his wife’s suspicions as to the progress of the project. Finally, it is finished. To his son he is a god. The intergenerational bonding makes sleeping in the tree house almost bearable.

by Gene Feldman

sharing is caring

we did our part - now do yours and share

like a good neighbor, share

Related Articles: