Many people somewhere in their house have a dusty, never opened, thousand-piece monstrosity mocking them with their three-pronged superiority. They may have a scene from a book or a movie, a far-flung European castle or perhaps a strangely adorned Geddes baby that these days would maybe classify as child abuse.
Tucked away among my latest haul of Christmas presents last year was a Where’s Wally jigsaw puzzle. I’ve known people who find these a fun, challenging pastime, but personally I’d rather put them in the “frustrating” category — they’re something that I would start earnestly and would soon give up on, destined to lose a large portion of the kitchen table for at least five months to it’s partially completed presence.
Determined not to let this one needlessly clutter up the spare room, I opened it with confidence I didn’t feel. A puzzle is usually completed, if at all, in the following manner:
- Sort through the jigsaw puzzle in search of all the border pieces, building yourself an extended rectangle on the kitchen table.
- Study the box in minute detail, and proceed to pick out notable areas that will be easy to find in the box.
- Celebrate at how smart you are to complete so much of the puzzle so quickly.
- Proceed to ignore it for the next few days, bar snapping in the occasional piece or two as you wander past.
- After gentle coaxing from your fellow dwellers about the lack of kitchen table space, sit down and try to finish it.
- Lose track of time.
- Find Wally.
- After many hours of hardship, and through bleary eyes, declare a partial victory and realise you’re missing a few pieces of the jigsaw.
- Search carpet/vacuum cleaner/household pets/nearby children for missing pieces to jigsaw.
- Finish jigsaw puzzle.
- After subtle hints and a few days of walking past it and gazing proudly, dismantle it and put it in a box.
While I have known people who frame their completed jigsaw puzzles, I don’t need to be constantly reminded of my sense of achievement. But at least I can say that, for a few days at least, I achieved a thousand pieces of greatness. I even have the photo to prove it.
Matt Smith teaches journalism at La Trobe University and blogs at the End of the Spectrum