“Hey, Satch, another load of bikes came in yesterday. Get them assembled quick for the floor display!” a breathless and balding middle-aged manager likely yelled down to a Marlow’s Department Store basement seventy-five years ago.

As the Christmas holiday rolls around again this year in Knox County, I think about my dad, who, for a reason I can’t remember, was called Satch by his friends at Marlow’s. I can imagine him, with his slightly larger than normal nose, mischievous smile and dirt under his fingernails, assembling all the bicycles and other equipment the store would sell over the holiday, greasing gears here, oiling chains there, giving a final buff for an even shinier blue fender. Satch was an ingenious and industrious lad — and dad.

Unfortunately, stores no longer hire people like my dad to assemble all the things they sell. These stores now ship a box with a small Allen wrench and assembly instructions in French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and sometimes tortured English to the chumps willing to buy them.

The business model of online companies today is clear. Forget the teenager’s exploitation with low wages to put together products that take up storage space: make the chump who buys it take an Allen wrench and countless little black screws or bolts out of a box and assemble the rest — for free.

Otherwise, the delivery trucks would need to be huge, like the size of a Mayflower or Atlas Van Lines, complete with big fuel costs, packing, blankets and at least two employees. A much smaller UPS-like truck now shows up packed with hundreds of small and large boxes, with one driver who, in between grunts and groans but with nice manners, dumps the package off for a sucker to unpack it.

My response would be to hire a local teenager to do the dirty work, but I can hear his or her response to my ad.

“Like, only $15 per hour? With an Allen wrench? Forget it, man. Plus, I’m waiting for my own Amazon order.”

We have a deck at our Tenants Harbor home, and I made the mistake of wishing for some outdoor furniture to bedeck it. I don’t remember whether I looked on Amazon or Walmart online for inexpensive options, but I did find some with free shipping!

l bought two deck wood benches online. The intricacy of putting them together belied their advertisement as easy to assemble. Although the directions didn’t say so, it really takes two people to do this: one to hold the Allen wrench and spew profanities, the other to listen and shake their head.

“This ______ thing! I’ll never put together another piece of _____ like this again.”

The other person, who knows that in show business this is called a cue, puts on a face that looks aggrieved, and nods their head in complete understanding and agreement.

What’s a deck without a wooden table for dining? I bought a long-slatted table — with two dozen slats requiring two hex screws each — with, of course, six to-be assembled chairs. The enormous box came with a bag full of screws and several Allen wrenches. When I started the assembly process, my wife disappeared and let the nearby maple trees listen to my day-long curses.

Wherever my long-departed father is, I suspect he said to others, “He may look like me, but we ain’t related.”

I recently bought a swivel desk chair, a small one without arms, boxed with an attractive picture on it and many advertised advantages. The box felt light and snuggly fit in the store cart.

I successfully put the casters on the swivel chair bottom. Hey, this isn’t so bad, I thought. Then I attached the seat back to the seat itself. I was relieved to see it took only two long screws with, of course, Allen wrench slots. I got those inserted and screwed in, only dropping the wrench a half dozen times. My wife then came into the office and asked,

“Why is the seat-back upside down on the seat?”

Satch would have been mortified.

Christmas is now a couple weeks away, and I am moved to buy a treadmill for the family, the kind that promises a youthful rejuvenation of the body and mind with minimal effort, all this while watching YouTube on its tiny screen. My kind of treadmill.

After reviewing several online sites, though, I discovered that all exercise machines require some level of assembly, likely with a _____ Allen wrench. Huh.

I sometimes want to go on strike against these online companies for shifting what I think is their work to us customer chumps. Yet, I also think my dad is still looking over my shoulder, encouraging me not to give up.

For that, I say, “Thanks, Satch, and Merry Christmas. By the way, I still miss you, and will try like the dickens not to swear as much at those _______ Allen wrenches anymore.”

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing, local bookstores, and Amazon and Kindle.