When I lived in Zurich, Switzerland getting my Ph.D., I decided one year to move out of my one room student housing and take up with roommates in a larger apartment in a different part of town, a Wohngemeinschaft. I realized I needed to get some furniture, so one weekend I rented a truck and went to the used furniture store. This Swiss used furniture store was a cross between a warehouse and an antique store.

I ended up buying a huge armoire, a self-enclosed closet, for my bedroom. I drove the rental truck to the apartment with the armoire on board. At the apartment, I was able to get this huge piece of furniture out of the truck and onto the ground, but I couldn’t yet imagine how I was going to get it into the elevator to the fourth floor of the apartment building, and then down the spiral staircase to the bedroom area. I walked around the armoire, studying it, contemplating the problem, and waiting for a good solution to appear.

At that moment two of my roommates appeared and wondered what I was doing. I explained that I was studying the armoire and contemplating a good solution for getting it to my bedroom. They scoffed at my contemplative approach and told me, “Forget it, thinking about it won’t help. Come on, we’ll help you haul this huge wooden box to your bedroom.” Though I wasn’t convinced, I gave in and we ended up, the three of us, pushing the armoire up the staircase. It did not fit in the elevator. At every turn, we scraped the wall, gouging it and damaging the paint. (I ended up receiving a letter from the building management requiring that I make repairs to the damage caused by our move.)

We got the armoire into the apartment. We began to lower it down the spiral staircase to the bedroom area. Once again, we scraped and gouged the wall and damaged the paint, but this time we ran into a snag. There was no orientation of this huge boxy wooden armoire that would permit it down the round spiral narrow angles of the spiral staircase. We retreated and returned the armoire up to the living room floor; it didn’t seem possible to lower it to the bedroom level. It was at that point my roommates told me they needed to attend to other things and they left me there to ponder.

Alone again, I resumed my contemplative approach. I pondered, and I contemplated, and I studied. Then I noticed a small round plastic cover on the inside of the armoire. I noticed two at the top and two at the bottom on each side. What were these? Wait, they had screws! I took a screwdriver and removed one of the plastic covers to find a specialized bolt and nut inside with a hole made especially so that, with the same screwdriver, the nut could be loosened and removed. This armoire had been constructed in a way that with a single screwdriver, the covers could be removed and the nuts loosened in a way that the top could be removed and then the sides and then the back. The entire armoire could be cleanly disassembled into very manageable pieces.

I disassembled the armoire, brought each piece easily down the spiral staircase without ever touching the wall. I reassembled the furniture in my bedroom. It took only a few minutes to reassemble. When my roommates returned later that day, they saw the rental truck was gone and the armoire was no longer in the living room. They figured I must have returned it to the store. They asked me about it, “Did you return the armoire?” I told them, “No, it’s in my bedroom.” In disbelief, they actually ran down the spiral staircase to look in my room to see if it was really there. It was.

Kevin