Sunday, April 13, 2008


There are big things happening in our house. We've been expecting big things for a long time now -- almost a year. It's been a long set of months, waiting and hoping and wondering what the new addition would look like, and then, finally, yesterday was the day!

It didn't even take as long as I thought; I was expecting to spend a couple of hours, maybe the whole day, but it only took a few minutes. It was over before it began, really. Somewhat anticlimactic. But I looked past that because I was excited about the new arrival, which won't actually be in our house for a few days.

No, no, no. It's not a new baby. I can barely handle the kids we already have. I'm talking about Frankencouch, the newest piece of furniture we've purchased.

You remember the furniture classifications, right? I am pleased as punch to say that I have advanced from the level of people who have to put their own furniture together to the level of people who can march into a furniture store, pick out a couch, and have it delivered, assembled and everything, just like one of the big shots.

It's like I'm Donald Trump or Jay-Z, assuming that Donald Trump and Jay-Z, when they march into a store to buy a couch, are looking for the least expensive possible couch they can get, and also assuming that Donald Trump and Jay-Z, when they march into a store to buy a couch, are so concerned that they might have to talk to a salesman, and so also concerned that the salesman will make them spend more than they want, since they don't really trust this furniture store ever since they bought a recliner for their then-pregnant wife Sweetie and paid for delivery at the store (they are sure they paid for delivery at the store) only to have the recliner delivered several days later and have the delivery guy tell them there, while he's standing in their bedroom in front of their very-pregnant wife, that they owe the delivery guy $50 for delivery, which they paid but which they were not very happy about paying, so now when they go back to that store, they don't expect to be treated fairly and they'd go shop somewhere else but this is really the only furniture store in town, so they go to this store but they take their iPod along and hope that encourages the salesmen to leave them alone.

If that's what Donald Trump and Jay-Z do, then I am just like them. Because that's what I did when Sweetie and I pulled the trigger on a new couch purchase this week, having finally decided that the old green loveseat we had in the family room had seen better days. "Better days" in that sentence means "days in which Stormy our middle cat had not peed on the couch and done so in some fashion that keeps the smell from coming out of it no matter what types of cleansers you use." Those were the better days the loveseat had seen, and you can't have that kind of couch in your house for more than, say, 1 hour after that happens without drastically reducing not only your own but your neighbor's property values.

Throwing out the green loveseat would have been a no-brainer, but we could not just throw it out and go on with our lives, much as we'd like to have done that. We couldn't do that because the green loveseat served the vital household purpose of standing in front of the bundle of wires and outlets and junk that was installed by the guy who owned our house before us, the guy who didn't know anything about electricity or wiring or, it seems, safety, but didn't let that get in the way of his trying to wire up everything himself. It's like he was trying to create the house of the future using the materials of the Amish.

This particular bundle of wires and outlets is so scary and unsafe looking that the home inspector told us "I wouldn't touch that," when he inspected our house. Not "I'd get rid of that" or "Have someone look at that" but Don't even touch it. So we put the green loveseat in front of it and left it that way -- which is an entirely valid way of running a household, and don't pretend that you don't have your own green loveseat in front of an outlet, somewhere in your life, maybe even just a metaphorical green loveseat in front of a metaphorical outlet-- until Stormy took out her anger or something on the couch.

So we had to do something, and that something was Get a new couch. Which is how I ended up taking a trip to the furniture store that I don't entirely trust, yesterday, pre-armed with a blank check, a budget, and my iPod tuned to "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" as the first song because that song kind of feels like shopping for furniture, you know?

It didn't help, by the way. I went in and there was a salesman, who I'll call Bob because that's what he told me to call him. Bob said something I couldn't hear because I was listening to my iPod, which was in my hand, with earplugs and cords and the whole nine yards and all. He also waved, so I waved back and said "Hi," assuming that Bob had said hi. Then he said something else, making me stop and in a very dramatic way take my earplugs out and say "Excuse me?" and he said "Anything I can help you with?" and I explained that I was just looking around.

He must have been able to tell that I was serious about buying, though, because he stuck with me, following me at about 30 feet. Maybe he could smell the blank check. I threw him off the scent by heading to the only department of a furniture store I ever really feel at home in, the Clearance Area. Bob didn't go in; salespeople hate when you head for Clearance.

But I had to head for there, because while I can afford to buy furniture that's already put together, I can't afford to buy furniture that's already put together and is furniture that other people might conceivably like; I have to buy the Clearance stuff that's either been returned or was a floor model or is so awful or whatever that nobody wanted it at full price, so now it's marked down to my range.

Plus, if I buy full price furniture, I'm afraid to ever let people, including me, use it, because it's so expensive that I don't want to wreck it. Our $400 coffee table now sits in an out-of-the-way corner of the family room, covered by a protective blanket that keeps anyone from guessing what kind of furniture it really is. It could be an orange crate under there. We have a $400 blanket-covered orange crate that I won't let anyone put a glass on, even with a coaster, because coasters sweat, too.

I ranged through the clearance, while Bob waited off by the furniture they hope you'll buy, and checked out the various couches that were marked down. I was not interested in style, color, material, size, or any of the usual criteria by which people gauge furniture. I was only looking for something to cover the outlet, and, also, I was replacing a 20-year-old green loveseat that smelled like a litter box; really, anything I picked out was a step up.

Style also didn't matter because while I'm now the newest member of the level of society that buys pre-assembled furniture, I'm still a member of the level of society that has to use wood screws to hold their grandfather clock to the wall so the Babies! don't tip it over, the level of society that has at least half their house filled with furniture they've had since college or which is a hand-me-down. The level of society, in other words, whose furniture does not have a "theme" or "style" unless "the theme is that all of our furniture is in our house and we use it and also there's a lot of cookie crumbs on it" counts as a style.

Our family room, for example, is made up of these stylistic elements: an orangish-pink couch that we got from an aunt for $100 and which everyone hates because the back cushions are too fluffy and the middle springs are saggy, a tan reclining rocker with wooden arms that Grandma picked up at garage sale, a sage-colored overstuffed chair and hassock Sweetie and I bought with our wedding money, the blanket-covered coffee table, a television, 100,000,000 DVDs, and a series of plastic fences that separate the Babies! from the TV. Also, there are cat toys and a large red rug.

It was going to be difficult to find a new couch that matched that, and I wasn't even going to try, but then I saw it: Frankencouch. It was perfect -- and by 'perfect' I mean it was the cheapest couch there.

But it was also perfect because it actually matched our house, because Frankencouch looked as though it was made up of parts from three or four other couches, put together haphazardly in as slapdash manner as possible. You know how sometimes you just see someone and fall instantly in... well, not love, because that's for people, but, like? That's what happened to me. It's almost like I heard music when I looked at the couch. (Which I did; I still had my iPod on, set to the playlist of songs that I call "upbeat" because they make me feel happy.) Haphazard? Slapdash? This couch was like a kindred spirit. It looked like something I could have built.

I motioned Bob over and said "How much for delivery?" He told me and I said "I'll take it."

"You will?" he asked, looking at me as though he was waiting for someone to tell him he was on television and this was all a big gag. I said I would, we rang it up, and I went home, the proud parent of not only five kids and three cats, but Frankencouch, too.

We've already made the room all ready for it, throwing out the green loveseat and bolting a bookshelf to the wall in front of the outlets temporarily. Just like the big shots do.

PS: I promise a picture of Frankencouch will be posted as soon as I can get one.